What’s a grandmother for, if not to encourage the next generations to carry on traditions?
That, and spoiling the grandbabies.
I combine both whenever possible.
When I share treats like M&Ms with my grandgirls, I pretend to be teaching them colors as we sort them into little piles: reds, browns, oranges, yellows, greens, blues. But really, I am teaching them to do the same thing I did when I was a little girl, which is to eat my least-favorite colors first and save my favorite for last.
We didn’t have blue M&Ms when I was a kid, but we did have two shades of brown – light brown and dark brown. Red was always eaten first, though, and it still is.
It’s not that I don’t like red. I just remember that day in kindergarten when I was given the dream job of passing out the crayons. These were the big, thick, heavy crayons that you give to kids who are likely to snap and break the ordinary, skinny-sized ones. Anyway, I was handing out crayons – each kid got one – and everyone said, “I want the red! I want the red! Give me the red!”
I remember thinking to myself that if red had so many friends, it didn’t need me, and from that day on, red became my least-favorite color.
But M&Ms are an everyday treat. For Valentine’s Day, there’s something special: Conversation Hearts.
These are also sorted by color, but there’s an element of practicality here. Unlike with M&Ms, conversation hearts don’t all taste the same. Personally, I like the whites and pinks best. I don’t care for the greens or yellows, and the oranges are the worst of all.
But they also have to be sub-sorted in an even more important category: by message.
Some of the imprinted messages are too blurry to read, or are so off-center only the edge of the words is visible. These go in the dud pile, to be eaten first, traded or given to the dog.
The most highly valued hearts are those in a favorite color, with clear and clean printing, and whose message is something worthwhile.
“Sweet Heart” is always a prize. “Hug,” “Be True,” “Oh Boy,” “Dear Heart” and “Cutie Pie” are also winners.
It had been many years since I’d opened one of those little cardboard boxes and poured a rainbow of succinct love letters into the palm of my hand, but I had the bright idea of introducing my granddaughters to the fun of discovering and trading miniature messages.
What was this? “Tweet Me”? “As If”? “Be My Icon”? “LOL”?
It was confectionary blasphemy.
I’m glad my granddaughters are too young to read. This little game had gone sadly awry.
Instead, I just held out my hand and let them pick whichever ones they wanted. There didn’t seem to be any pattern to their selections; not by message, not even by color. It was just whichever one their chubby little fingers closed in on.
So much for tradition.
Well, there was still something I could pass along from one generation to the next.
I leaned over and kissed these sweet, innocent little ones, and whispered my own heartfelt conversation: “Love You.”