W. W. G.

September 2, 2011 | My Jottings

(From the archives…)

We’ve had a tradition in our family for almost two years now, and it has a name. We call it W. W. G., which stands for Wednesdays With Grandma.

Each Wednesday, I pick up seven year-old Clara and six year-old Elijah after school and bring them back to our house. Ever the germphobe, I first have them wash the gajillion elementary school micro-organisms from their hands when they come in the back door, then they have a snack at the kitchen table and tell me about their day. Typical snacks at Grandpa and Grandma’s house are: mozzarella cheese sticks, a handful of peanuts mixed with raisins, raw almonds and Carr’s whole wheat “cookie crackers,” bananas and baby carrots, or Greek gods honey yogurt. I also give them each a glass of water and a Flintstone’s vitamin. Elijah chooses orange and Clara grape.

Then they both settle in to their favorite things to do here. Elijah usually heads for the Legos and starts putting together swords, robots and Star Wars light sabers. Clara might take out a book that she’s read five times already but still enjoys. Last week it was Ellen Tebbits by Beverly Cleary. Elijah will sometimes take out a large illustrated version of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, lay on his stomach on the den carpet and slowly page through the drawings he’s seen a hundred times. Last time he pointed out the fox in the woods that he thought was a spy for the dark side, and the faces in some of the Narnian forest trees. Sometimes they both open the Grandchildren Drawer in the kitchen to take out their art supplies, and Elijah draws comics and Clara an illustrated game or journal. Once in a while they play checkers or Battleship while PBS kids TV is on. They like Curious George and Arthur.

After about an hour it’s time for Clara to change into her leotard and tights, and I drive her to dance class. Elijah stays with Grandpa and they have man time. Clara takes a backpack with her pink ballet shoes and her black tap shoes, and when I drop her off inside the studio, I then collect four year-old Vivienne, who is in the class right before Clara’s. I drive Vivienne home to her house, and remind her that when she is six it will be time for her to join W. W. G.  Then I return home and put the finishing touches on dinner.

Michael and I set the table and get everything ready. On Wednesday we have seven people at the table for dinner so we add a chair. Then I head out again, this time to pick Clara up from her dance lesson. She and I listen to a G.T. and the Halo Express CD in the van on the short ride home, and it brings a joy to my heart that I can’t describe, hearing her pure little voice singing many scripture passages set to music. “Grandma, maybe I should test you on the verses sometime soon, and help you with the ones you forgot!” she said recently, and I told her I thought that was a fantastic idea.

When we get home I serve everyone dinner and we eat together. Clara and Elijah always remind us to pray before we dig in, and everyone in our household enjoys the company of the little ones. They help us to laugh and chat about fun things while we enjoy eat one of my crockpot creations and a green salad.

Clara and Elijah are usually the first ones to finish eating (it doesn’t take long to eat two lettuce leaves and a tablespoon of chicken and rice casserole), and they know it’s time to pick up the toys and get ready for church. I take them to our church’s Wednesday night services, where something for every age is offered. It’s usually packed. Clara attends the little girls’ Prims class, and Elijah goes to Royal Rangers. They both love it. I sign them in and then go upstairs for prayer and worship, where I’m thankful for the darkened sanctuary and the music that leads me away from thoughts of things that weigh on my heart, and instead nudges me to thoughts of my God and His love and delivering power and willingness to help us as we walk out our puny lives. I take a purse-full of Kleenex and use it all up.

By the time church is over it’s already past the kids’ bedtime, but I figure W. W. G. is so special it’s okay if they miss an hour or two of sleep once a week. We leave church and as we drive home Clara and Elijah tell me about Royal Rangers and Prims and what they learned. And what candy they ate. When we arrive home they trot upstairs to get ready for a bath while I tend to things I need to do for those we care for in our home.

Upstairs when the huge tub is filled and ready, Clara and Elijah take a short bath and play with the small bin of toys I keep in our linen closet – there’s a tail-less brontosaurus named Bronto, a lime green tugboat, a plastic pirate, some large jacks, and a funnel, among other things. I put in a teeny bit of LOC from Amway (my favorite product by that company) and turn on the jets, and soon the bubbles are puffing up to their shoulders. They make hairstyles, beards, and bubble cakes while I read aloud to them. Right now we’re reading Stormy, Misty’s Foal by Marguerite Henry. Soon I wash their hair, drain the tub and go turn on the electric baseboard heater in our bedroom. I put two pairs of clean underwear and four socks on the top of the heater so after they dry off from their bath, they’ll put on something really toasty. They never fail to smile and remark about this. “Grandma, my socks are so warm on my feet!”

While they’re putting on their jammies, I prepare the pallet on the floor of our bedroom they like to sleep on. We have room in other bedrooms, but they prefer the pallet. I lay down a large blanket, doubled. I put two pillows down, one on each end, so they sleep foot to foot. Once they’re dressed they put on their slippers and we go back downstairs for a snack (because they usually don’t eat a lot of dinner due to the fact it had lettuce or tomatoes or wrinkle-your-nose “sauce” in it). They might have half a peanut butter sandwich, or a cheese stick with a handful of almonds. Then they brush their teeth at the kitchen sink, and give Grandpa a hug and a kiss goodnight.

Back upstairs, Clara and Elijah choose a book from the children’s bookcases in our dressing room, and they settle in for the night on their pallets. I turn on some soft classical music. I make a big show of covering them first with “the applesauce blanket,” which is a pale yellow Vellux blanket they like. Then I cover them with a down-filled comforter and they smile as it settles down on them. They know they have about ten to fifteen minutes to look through their books. Elijah often chooses a children’s Bible with unique illustrations, and Clara last chose The Seven Silly Eaters.

When they start to get sleepy, which is in no time at all, they set their books aside and we recount the things we’ve done together that day. None of it is that momentous, but we recite aloud what we did anyway. It’s a way to try to hold on to the preciousness of ordinary things done with these children I adore, and they seem to grasp why we do it.

Sometimes I tell them what I think they might be when they grow up. Elijah, who is an amazing puzzle worker and Lego builder, hears from his grandma that he will be a problem solver when he is older. I take him on my lap and quietly tell him that God might use him to build up, either buildings or people, that he might be called to help others solve things they’re struggling with, to help make sense out of puzzling and difficult situations. He looks at me tenderly as I try to bless him with my feeble words, and he seems to be taking it all in like a sponge. Then he looks into my eyes and quietly says, “I don’t like your breath.”

I tell Clara that perhaps she will write and/or draw someday and people will want to read her thoughts and ideas. I tell her that she is so patient and loving with her little sisters and is such a fine example to them. I tell her that when she’s older, Elijah and Vivienne and Audrey will recall what a wonderful big sister they’ve had, and that the way she treats them now will pave the way for loving and beautiful relationships when they’re all grown up with families of their own. I tell Clara that God will use her to bring peace and joy into peoples’ lives, and that she’s already doing that, even though she may not fully understand what I mean.

Then I might sing a song or two to them. They like “Jesus Wants You For a Sunbeam” and “The Life of the Voyageur” and “Victory in Jesus.” When Clara was three she often requested the latter song by saying, “Gwamma, will you sing ‘Bic-ta-wee in Jesus?’ ”

I then pray briefly and ask God to give them deep sleep, good dreams, and for Him to keep His hands steady upon them their whole lives, to keep them close to Him and loving Him with their whole hearts. They might not know all that this entails, and I might not know it either, but God does. I’m so thankful He can read our hearts when our words fail.

Within minutes they’re fast asleep, and I slip back downstairs to take care of tasks still calling my name. I clean the kitchen, visit with others as I get medications ready, talk with them about what the next day might hold for them, ask them about what they’d like to do for the coming weekend, etc. My dear husband might rub my feet and scratch the grooves left in my ankles from my SmartWool socks, which is a little bit of heaven for me. Before we both head upstairs for the night, I make sure everyone in the house is fine and tucked in or has everything they need. I lock the doors, turn out the lights, turn down the furnace.

Each Thursday morning when we get up there’s a lot to do. I lay out clothes for Clara and Elijah, quietly wake them up and tell them I’ll see them downstairs when they’re dressed. Then I go down, still in my exceedingly attractive red plaid flannel nightgown, to turn up the heat, begin making lunches, setting out medications, making each person a different breakfast, feeding the dogs and making sure they go out, and more. I might even throw in a load of laundry right away. Clara and Elijah always come down with sleepy smiles on their faces. They like to have Maple Pecan Crunch cereal for breakfast, and I always put a small handful of fresh pecans on top.

Once they’re dressed in their school clothes, we turn on the television for a few minutes while I do Clara’s hair, which is very long. Mostly I put it in a French braid. They brush their teeth again, I give them each a small snack to take to school with them, and they make sure they have their backpacks before they put on their coats, gloves and shoes.

Clara and Elijah usually take the bus, but on W. W. G. I drive them the six blocks to their school. In the few minutes it takes, I remind them that it won’t be long before the next Wednesday With Grandma, and that I’ll be thinking of them and praying for them every single day. When we pull up in front of the school with many buses, cars, crossing guards and children bustling around, I hop out to slide open the van door for a last hug.

“I love you! Jesus is with you today!” I whisper in Clara’s ear and in Elijah’s ear as I kiss them goodbye and watch them both run off to the front door of the big brick building.

I drive the six blocks home, wiping tears and blowing my nose and praying for all seven of my grandchildren, not just for the two that are old enough and near enough to have W. W. G.

Wednesdays With Grandma.

Who knew a day in the middle of the week could mean so much?

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