While many of my friends couldn’t wait to become grandparents… I was shaking my head saying, “not me”! I told myself “I’m not ready to be a grandparent…I’m too young to take on THAT name!” Well, not any more. All it took was the birth of my first grandchild to prove me wrong. Not only was I ready, I realized it was transformative on many levels.
I received new lenses through which to see the wonder, joy and energy a grandchild brings to the world. I received a sense of eternal youthfulness every time I interact with them and best of all I received a new name. Jewish texts offer several compelling examples when people took on a new name, which by the way only occurred when a significant life event took place. Jacob wrestles with God and becomes Israel, Abram creates a new covenant with God and becomes Avraham, Sarai moves from being barren to becoming a “princesses to all humanity” (B’reishit Rabbah 47:1) taking on the new name of Sarah and I became a grandmother and added the new name of Mimi.
Unlike those who were given their new name, I chose mine. I was the one who gave considerable thought to how I wanted to be called as I added a new role to my life. To me, any version of “Grandmother” sounded too old for me. So no Gramma, Grammy or Gammi. While I loved the name “Nani,” my own mother, now great-grandmother, was already using that name. I wanted a young, youthful sounding name and one that a grandchild could say easily. It worked! Before I knew it Nolan knew me and referred to me as Mimi.
Along with taking on a new name comes a change to one’s status and responsibility. This was now my new truth. My status expanded from woman, wife, mother to include grandmother. This new status came with new responsibilities too! I knew that the relationship I had hoped to build with my grandchildren would be one requiring intentional thought, purpose and patience because I knew there was a big problem….I didn’t live anywhere near that first grandchild or the two more that followed. There is no “Mimi, come over for dinner,” or “Mimi, come watch me ride my bike,” or “Mimi, I’m sick today, can you come over and give me a hug,” or “Mimi, want to come over for a play date?”
How was I going to fulfill my responsibilities that come with my new name? How can I be the best grand-parent I can be when I am a three-hour plane ride away? I am known for never walking away from a challenge and I was not going to give up now. So, with the advances of technology and lots of ingenuity I have been able to create moments that matter with Mimi from far away…such as breakfast time with Mimi, reading time with Mimi, being Mimi’s partner for our puppet show, tracking Papa and Mimi’s world travels on his own place-mat and learning where he might want to visit, or even a sing-a-long with Mimi as I play the guitar! The opportunities are endless and he’s only 3 1/2 years old. This dear grandson has helped his Mimi create special moments of connection that will also benefit my other grandsons. As they grow, so too must my creativity.
When we are together, depending on where that might be, I think of at least two things that I can experience with them as their “first” like flying a kite, or building an entire neighborhood out of large boxes in their basement called “Nolan’s Place” or learning how to ride a bike with training wheels (indoors in December no less). These moments are precious, priceless and have sticking powers of memory.
The challenge always arises when leaving. Saying goodbye is tough on the heart. Knowing how to take those special in-person moments and build upon them a solid foundation of love, laughter, purpose, meaning and deep connection with grandchildren is not easy, especially when there are three month gaps between visits.
I’ve learned it takes quite a bit of creativity to be a long-distant Mimi however, I have also learned that it can be done! It IS being done and it is the most rewarding role I’ve ever been given the privileged to experience.
I am proud of my new name, the status it holds and responsibilities that the name Mimi carries with it. I will never take it for granted. I smile with joy each time my grandson says or even yells “MIMI!,” to which I respond, I am here…always.
With love for all three of Mimi’s “boys”…Nolan, Brandon and Weston!