“Look at this,” whispers one of my 10-year-old granddaughters. She holds out a stack of silver bangles for her twin sister to admire. “You can wear them all on one arm or divide it over both.”
They take turns trying on the bangles and making them jingle-jangle. I watch them from my bedroom doorway, holding both my breath and my admonishing comments. There’s nothing these two — or any of my other granddaughters, for that matter — enjoy more than browsing through my jewelry box.
One time the 3-year-old wore every chunky bracelet I own, covering wrist to shoulder. She could barely hold up her arm, but she spent a happy hour admiring herself every time she passed her reflection in a mirror or window. On another occasion I discovered a trinket of no value hanging from the slender neck of we-will-not-mention-names, who claimed amnesia as an alibi when confronted.
Which is why I call my darlings the Bling-Bling Girls.
From the bangles, the twins move on to other bracelets, then to earrings and necklaces, to all those beads and baubles I’ve managed to collect over the decades. The gaudier the item, the more they seem to like it. They are not interested in millimeters or carats. What counts is how it winks and shines.
I clear my throat to announce my presence. “Checking out your inheritance?”
Caught red-handed, they stumble into one another. Remorse, however, lasts but two heartbeats, and one of them asks, “Which do you like best?”
And though I keep the valuable cargo elsewhere, I tell them: “Pearls, ladies, pearls. You can’t go wrong with a good set. Remember that.”
Those are my words of wisdom for the day, but by no means are they my last. I take my grandmother’s role to heart. As an abuela it is my duty — and pleasure — to share my hard-earned sagacity, and this is best done when we’re just hanging around and chilling out, when conversation is easy, judgment is reserved, and personality quirks are encouraged in all their fabulous glory.
As my friends enter the realm of grandparenthood — a kingdom both scary and miraculous — I like to tell them how a new title confers a very special set of responsibilities. Imparting wisdom, yes, of course; that’s part of the job description, for we have the bumps and bruises of several decades of living, not to mention the privilege of hindsight.
But that wisdom, I’ve learned, is precious only when textured with memories. When you get to a certain point in life (sooner for some, later for others), you begin to think about how you want to be remembered by the people you love.
Because I spent so much of youth and middle age trying to earn a living, I long feared that my children’s most vivid image of their mother would be the back of her head, what they first saw when they entered my office. That, and the clacking of my nails against the keyboard. I want it to be different with my grandchildren, however. I want them to feel unencumbered by the expectations of a hurried society and the million you-can’t restrictions so necessary to parenting.
I want my house to be a haven and a palace.
I want my ear to be the recipient of secrets, both silly and serious.
I want my shoulder to be the most comfortable place to cry.
I want my kitchen to be the room where wild dreams take flight.
So I’m only half-kidding when I ask the girls if they’re checking out their inheritance when they rummage through my jewelry box. What I’m really thinking, hoping, praying is that each and every ornament carries a special abuela memory.