The “Grandparent Experience”

Growing up, I never had grandparents. My mother and father lived far away from their parents, and my brothers and I were never really exposed to them. My paternal grandmother died three years before I was born so I never met her, and my paternal grandfather lived in Nova Scotia so I never saw him except for the occasional quick visit and impromptu photo op to prove he existed. My maternal grandparents lived in Colombia which is a six hour plane ride away. My maternal grandfather passed when I was just over a year old, and my maternal grandmother barely knows me. She only speaks Spanish, so there is a language barrier, and she can no longer travel so we never see her anymore.

It’s a shame that my grandparents were never a large part of my life. Thankfully I had pseudo grandparents who stepped in – my aunt P and uncle G. Together they gave me what I like to call “the grandparent experience.” Holidays? We went to their house even though it was a seven hour drive away. We were there for Thanksgiving, Christmas, a few Easter’s, summer vacation and more.

I have so many fond memories staying in my aunt and uncle’s home. I used to go through this old walk in closet in their basement filled with toys and books from the 60s and 70s. Come to think of it, maybe that’s where my interest in items of the past stemmed from. We used to enjoy baking with my aunt, and every year on Christmas my brothers and I looked for the Christmas tin filled with bark (chocolate pieces with whole almonds, amazing) and begged for a piece. We went for walks down by Lake Huron, and breathed in the somewhat salty smell of the lake as the waves crashed against the rocky beach.

Then we grew up. Suddenly it became more difficult to go down there and visit our family. My brothers and I had lives, jobs, relationships, school that we needed to focus on. Our visits to my aunt and uncles grew less and less, mainly due to the distance. The memories were still there but the experiences were beginning to fade. I began to grow sad, and took my parents there twice to try and relive the magic of my “grandparents.” I took my daughter down there to visit them and things were not the same. They had sold their large home, and moved into a small place which threw all the remaining memories I had through a loop. It wasn’t the same experiences that I wanted to share with my daughter, even though I was thrilled to see them again.

I told my husband when we were looking for a home that I wanted to give my children “the grandparent experience.” The real deal. We debated moving to western Canada, we eventually settled near our hometown. I wanted my children to know my parents and my in laws and grow up with them. I wanted them to form their own traditions and exciting memories that they can tell their own children one day. I want to give them the grandparent experience in childhood that I never had. I want them to be close with their grandparents and make memories with them. My daughter is two and a half, and she loves spending time with both nana and grandma, and she is so lucky to have both of them so close in her life. They’re her support and she loves seeing them on a weekly basis.

Together they’re creating their own traditions, and soon my youngest brother and his wife are welcoming a child of their own, which means my children will get to experience the “cousin experience” in conjunction with the “grandparent experience.” I am so excited to watch their childhood explode with memories, experiences and stories that they’ll be proud to share for years to come.

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