My oldest grandson is home from college for a bit. We had lunch this week at a local place that we always go to together; it’s sort of become a tradition. It was one of his favorite late night haunts when he was in high school (one of the very few places that is open 24 hours!) and if I was popping in there myself I always had to do the quick eye-rove around to make sure he wasn’t there with his buddies, or even worse, his girlfriend. Nothing would be more embarrassing, I would imagine, than having your Grandmother show up where you are late on a Friday or Saturday night.
Being the very first grandchild of my eight, he’s had the responsibility to set the tone for the rest. He was the one who gave me my “Grandma” name: Amma. When he first started to speak, he just couldn’t get that whole “G” thing so his maternal grandmother and I became Ammas. At the time, my hair was very dark so I became Amma With the Black Hair and the other was Amma with the Blonde Hair.Now we both have light hair but he doesn’t really need to distinguish one of us from the other so often. Hers is natural. Mine is courtesy of my friend, Elfa.
He also has the distinction of being the very tallest member of our entire family. He’s about 6′ 3″ tall. When I go to hug him he has to stoop down and I can barely reach his cheek to plant a kiss. More often than not I wind up getting his shirt collar because even on my toes that’s as far as I can reach. I am always careful to not leave lipstick. His lovely girlfriend would probably not appreciate that!
One of the highlights of my entire life was taking him to Italy for his 16th birthday. We went during the summer after he was off from school and it was his first visit to anywhere in Europe. He is extraordinarily intelligent (no, really…not just because he’s my grandson. He took about a million IB courses in high school) and he was always asking me questions. I’ve been to Italy a fair number of times and know the country pretty well…but he would ask things I just couldn’t answer. If you’ve been to Rome, you know that you will find a post-war building next to something from the Renaissance next to a column from 64 B.C. He always wanted to know what some building was. After awhile I didn’t want to appear stupid and continue to say “I don’t know!” so I just started to make stuff up. He is too smart. He caught me on more than one occasion and then I had to confess.
He was the one who came up with the idea of doing the Angels and Demons tour where a guide takes you to all the places featured in Dan Brown’s best-seller. This was probably my fifth or sixth trip to Bella Italia and I actually went to places I’d never seen. It was enormous fun!
I introduced him to Chianti (my bad; there’s no drinking age in Italy, as you no doubt know.) We went to Sienna but couldn’t find St. Catherine’s head. We went to San Gimignano and I lost my camera but he found it . Poor guy; we had to share a room and he got up one morning and said to me “Amma, I woke up in the middle of the night and thought there were people revving motorcycles outside…and then I realized it was you, snoring.” We ate bad pizza (which is all but impossible in Italy) in a tourist trap near St. Peter’s because we were too hungry to venture any further and just bit the bullet…or, I guess, the pizza. We didn’t wait on line long to go to the Vatican Museum which I think may have impressed him and I discovered that he had a love of sculpture, which I never knew. He climbed to the very top cupola of both St. Peter’s and the Duomo in Florence, while I waited on a bench outside each church with my recently repaired meniscus, admittedly nervous because I didn’t like having him out of my sight. He took great pictures from up there and met some interesting people. I was so proud of him, every single moment we were there.
I have an expression I frequently use: “You make my heart big.” I must say that on that trip, he made my heart absolutely huge.
He said to me once, when he was all of about three years old, as we were about to play a game on what was then my new computer (which I confess, even as a pre-schooler, he knew more about than I did!) “Amma, you are more funner than anybody!”
I think that was one of the most beautiful things that anyone has ever said to me. Those few words are treasured in my heart forever. Is it any wonder that they are called “GRANDchildren?”