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Lucky Grandma Ann

By Pia Harden

I left my family when I was fifteen years old. I was born and raised in a very wealthy, but neglectful and dysfunctional family in Sweden. The message from my mother to me since I was three until now at 40 years of age has been reject, neglect and forget.

What I did have though was a fantastic grandma, even if she couldn’t fix her own daughter into being a good mother. My grandma loved me, even if I didn’t live with her or even close to her. When I went to visit her, my strongest memories of our relationship was that I could put my head down onto her lap. While she spoke to me with kind words, she stroked my hair gently and I felt safe.

When my first daughter Camilla was born around four years ago I was extremely happy. I was overjoyed to finally have started my own family and be able to be a mother to Camilla in a way that I never had. At the same time I felt a deep sadness. So, for awhile I tried to repair my relationship with my mother and give her an opportunity to be a grand-ma, but my mother only liked it for a little while. She sent Camilla a pair of shoes and a couple of cards, but she never visited us and slowly she withdrew her position until it was back to no contact at all.

I felt I had to protect my daughter from the same neglect and rejection I had been through, so I decided to let her go. My husband’s mother is a wonderful grandma yet we only see her twice a year. Besides that, we have no immediate family in NY.

It bothered me a lot that Camilla wouldn’t have a relationship with another woman that would love her and teach her things that I couldn’t. Another older female that she could go to, talk to, play with, and have as a role model on more of a daily basis.

My heart hurt when I saw other mother’s mothers come to the neighborhood to take care of their grand children and I had many sleepless nights over it. I asked myself, “How can I raise my daughter the best way? What do I have to offer her besides my and my husband’s unconditional love? Yes of course, that is a lot, and for many people, maybe that is all a child needs. But for me I had heard how the Japanese people come together in their villages when somebody has a child, and the village takes care of everything in the first few months of the babies’ life so mother and child could bond. Then those people remain helping to raise the child throughout the years.

The answer came to me - I was on a mission to create my village for my child.

At 96 years of age, my own grandma died in Sweden. I couldn’t go to her funeral because she died close to the due date of my second daughter Olivia. Two years prior I had been home. Again, my head was in her lap when she told me that she didn’t’ t think she could be there anymore for my next visit. She stroked my hair and told me that she was bored, she could hardly see anymore and she wanted to move on, just as her friends and husband had done years before.

My grandma had had this conversation with me before and I had begged her to hold on, I wanted her to meet my unborn child. At that time she did hold on, and she met Camilla when she was six months old. This time around I didn’t’ t want to fight her, so I told her how much she meant to me and that I understood. We kissed and hugged and said our goodbyes. Two years later I got the call, she had passed on in her sleep.

At that time I had already come a long way to creating “my village” for Camilla and also now, Olivia. I had two beautiful Godmothers and Godfathers for them. I also have great friends with children that we see on a regular basis and last but not least, I had found the grandma for my daughters.

Before our children, my husband introduced me to the mother of a friend of his. Ann was her name. We had gone to pick something up in her house and as soon as I took a step into her house in Brooklyn, I loved her “vibe”. Ann had a Feng Shui artist there to get her house in balance and I could certainly feel it. We “hit it off” immediately and kept chatting about energy and subjects that we both related to.

We kept in touch over the years, and she would come to visit now and again. Sometimes she came with her grown up son, that wasn’t so interested in having children. We used to order in Chinese food and have a good time.

When Camilla arrived, Ann came to visit and she took to Camilla in such an amazing way. So months after having gone through my own angst and finally arriving to the conclusion of building my village, the answer was right in my face, “Ann, Ann, Ann I must ask Ann”. I said to myself.

Quickly I asked my husband who approved and so I called her. Nervously, and emotionally I asked her if she wanted to be the “honorary grandma” to Camilla. I explained to her that “I didn’t think blood relations is as important as who is creating a true loving relationship to her,” as my eyes were tearing, and my heart was beating waiting for her answer. The answer came really quickly as a big “Yes!” She said, “I am honored and thrilled and absolutely flattered.”

That was about four years ago and grandma Ann is now grandma to Camilla and Olivia, I now skip saying honorary, unless I have to explain to people the story as they would expect my mother to be Swedish or Bobby’s mother to be African-American. Certainly our mothers do not look like a beautiful Jewish woman from Brooklyn.

I love the way grandma Ann loves my girls. She visits regularly and we go to her house for dinner. When she can’t come to visit, Ann sends them pretty postcards with stickers and notes about how much she enjoys them. She lies on the floor in their room cuddled up with them and reads them stories. She laughs with them, hugs them, brags over them like a true grandma - and that is what she is, a true honest loving grandma.

Camilla in return will make Grandma Ann post-cards, and tells me she needs to call her from time to time. When it is time for grandma Ann to come visit, Camilla drops everything she is doing and hangs onto her the whole time.

If there is anything I have accomplished in my life that I am most proud of (besides giving birth to my two wonderful girls), it is this thing of love between Grandma Ann and Camilla and Olivia. Building a path for three beautiful souls to have this very important relationship feels very good. I cannot express enough my gratitude to grandma Ann for being who she is and the way she loves my girls.

On Wednesday of this week, Grandma Ann came over and ordered in Chinese food with Camilla and Olivia. I told her that I had been asked to write about her and the girls. I said I would call my little article, “Grandma Ann”. “No,” she said, “Lucky Grandma Ann”, call the article “Lucky Grandma Ann”. And so it is.

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