The Second Time Around

The Huey family, July 24, 2021

THE SECOND TIME AROUND

Children are a gift from the Lord; they are a real blessing.  —Psalm 127:3 TEV

“I don’t baby-sit,” one woman I know stated. “I grandmother.”

With five grandchildren (not counting the four newest ones we welcomed into the family in 2018), ranging from 22 years old to 14, I’ve gotten to “grandmother” quite often. 

Rearing children is different the second time around. I’m more patient. Maybe it’s because I have the best of both worlds—I can have my house the way I want, and I can enjoy the kids. Whenever they got too noisy for my nerves, I just sent them home. 

I couldn’t do that with my own children. We were stuck with each other—for better or worse, and often it was “worst.” Not that my children were all that bad. But they were kids, and I was unprepared for this thing called parenting. I had my delusions, thanks to June Cleaver and Donna Reed and all those ’50s television shows depicting smiling housewives who wore dresses and pearl necklaces to vacuum a clean floor.

But I wised up the second time around. I learned that time goes by quickly, and children don’t stay little for long. Tiny fingerprints on television screens fade away all too soon. 

When my daughter came for Christmas one year with her two-year-old son, I left Alex’s fingerprints on the furniture for months after they left. When my daughter was little, I tackled such signatures with furniture polish daily.

The second time around I learned that water-based markers come out of light-colored carpeting. And that it’s a good idea to keep old bath towels on hand for when five-year-old Brent washed the dishes. Water dries, but criticism stains a soul. 

I learned it was fun to sit on the floor with Deagen and build a garage with wooden blocks, even if I struggled to get up because my back and legs were locked in place. I learned that my do-list would wait while I sat on the swing in the front yard on a summer afternoon with two-year-old Madison, sharing a bowl of raspberry Jell-O topped with lots of extra creamy Cool Whip. And to keep sugar-free gum on hand because her first words when she came were, “Ma-maw, gum?”

I learned that my smile, hug, and kiss when they visited in the middle of one of my projects told them that they were wanted and were more important than whatever it was I was doing.

I learned to treasure their spirit of independence and to find a way to let them “help” me, even if I had to do it all over when they left. It was never time wasted if they learned something. 

I learned that rocking three-month old Kyle and inhaling his sweet-baby smell beat air fresheners hands down. That two children could fit on my lap, and I could read two stories at the same time. I learned that the sparkle of excitement and sheer joy in a child’s eyes is more valuable than the biggest diamond in the world. 

A hundred years from now, no one will remember—or care about—what kind of house I lived in, what kind of clothes I wore, or what kind of vehicle I drove. But the world may be better because I was important in the life of a child. 

Thank you, Lord, for my precious grandchildren! Amen.

 Read and reflect on Psalm 127.

 NOTE: My grandchildren are now 22, 20, 19, 17, and 14. 

From God, Me, & a Cup of Tea: 101 devotional readings to savor during your time with God © 2017 Michele Huey. All rights reserved.

Baba’s House

Kaiser_wilhelm_2.jpg (744×528)
The Kaiser Willhelm II, the ship on which my grandmother came to America in 1910. The ship departed from Bremen, Germany, on April 26, 1910, and arrived in New York on May 4, 1910.

 

God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. – Psalm 46:1 NIV

Baba’s house is long gone, torn down because word was, after she’d moved to the nursing home, it became a crack house. I don’t know for sure. But half a century hasn’t erased the cherished memories of the times I spent in the small duplex she rented across the street from my own home.

A rare snapshot of my grandmother, whom we called “Baba”

Baba’s house was my refuge—from a mother who frequently let her temper get the best of her, from two older siblings with whom I didn’t always get along, from feelings that I’d never measure up, from missing my father whose job required extended stays away from home, from a loneliness that often was too much for an awkward young girl to bear. Baba wasn’t a counselor—I doubt if she ever got past grade school.

At the age of 20, she left her home in what is now Slovakia to find a better life in America. She never talked about her past—indeed, she rarely spoke at all. She mostly listened—and fed me. I could never visit Baba without getting something to eat, even if all she could offer was buttered crackers.

I didn’t go for the food, though—the physical food, that is. I went because that was one place where no one compared me to my sister, where no one found fault with what I did, where I could vent and know someone heard not only my words, but my heart.

But you know how it is with life—you grow up, leave home, get an education, launch a career, start a family, and the next thing you know you’re a baba yourself. And everyone who’d gone before you has, well, gone before you.

Where do I go to find a refuge from a world that is even more troubled and perplexing as it was when I was growing up? A world in which I still feel awkward?

In 1940 songwriter James (J.B.) Coates penned one of my favorite gospel songs after he’d asked a dying neighbor where he’d spend eternity. “Where could I go but to the Lord?” the man answered.

Going to the Lord doesn’t refer only to the afterlife, though. It also helps us to get through this side of eternity.

Perhaps that’s where Baba found her strength to face life in a new country where she didn’t even know the language, to raise nine children after her husband died, to overcome her own demons.

Life’s relationships change. People we love die, move away, or are busy with their own lives. One day we find ourselves alone—and not only in the physical sense. I’ve learned, though, that I’m never really alone. I have God’s Word and His presence, for He promised that He’ll never leave me or forsake me (Hebrews 13:5), that He’ll be with be always, even to the end (Matthew 28:20).

So when “my soul needs manna from above”—and it does quite often these days—“where do I go but to the Lord?” For me, there really is no other place to go.

 When I feel overwhelmed by the world around me, remind me that You, Lord, are my “Baba’s house.” Amen.

Read and reflect on Psalm 46.

The page in the ship’s manifest that has my grandmother’s name on line 13: “Bortnik, Anna F 20y M Hungary Lenarts, Hungary” According to additional immigration information, she was 5’2”, had fair complexion, green eyes, and blonde hair. She was to meet her brother Johann Bortnik of Passaic, NJ.

© 2019 Michele Huey. All rights reserved.