I realized recently that my grandson James is as old as I was when I began remembering my life.
When I was five years old, we moved to Pampa, Texas. I remember the stone house, the ponies we rode, the sound of the locusts, the vast open sky, and the soft fur of the rabbits that my sister and I kept in cages in the backyard. I remember not wanting to move back to Massachusetts in the middle of first grade. In Pampa, I was the only kid in my class who had ever seen an ocean.
Over a slice of pizza yesterday at a place on Huron Street, James talked about kindergarten. He pretty much likes it. Some of the girls have formed a club that he can’t join. He and my daughter wave discreetly at each other in the hallway on the days when her teaching job brings her to his school. His Grampa (me) had arrived at the pizza joint on a bicycle, wearing a blue helmet and a glow-in-the-dark yellow jacket. Will James remember any of this in 50 years? Perhaps. This possibility makes me especially mindful when I’m with him.
I remember my two grandfathers with great fondness and appreciation. My Dad’s father taught English at M.I.T. I remember him as reserved, kind, quiet, and musical. I knew he loved books, because there was a ton of them at their home on a hill in Sudbury, Mass. I have a few of his books here in my studio in Cambridge, Mass. When Grampa Edgerly finished a book, or perhaps when he bought it, he wrote his name and the year on a corner of the flyleaf. So my volume of Keats’s Complete Poetical Works and Letters has his signature from 1930, twenty years before I was born. My mother’s father owned and operated a sand and gravel business in Sudbury. I remember riding in his big dump truck and sitting in the cab of his clattering steam shovel. Grampa Stiles was a mischievous, playful, wiry-haired man who played poker and pulled quarters out of my ears. I am named after both of these men, and grateful that I can remember them.
My grandson is not a kid to be messed with. I see him making his way in the world with bold imagination and strong will. He was in motion the entire hour my daughter and I sat on a stone at the playground and visited. He journeyed to London at one point, first checking with us to find out whether you have to go through security when you travel by ocean liner. I said I didn’t think so, and then he was off, mixing reality with fantasy in a promising way.
Soon after James was born, I reserved an Internet domain name for him on GoDaddy. Assuming there will still be blogs 50 years from now, I like to imagine his future ruminations as a man of 61. What will he remember? That he was surrounded by love, I hope. And a grandfather who always seemed to be amazed and captivated by everything he did.