I had the amazing privilege of knowing three of my great-grandparents.
I knew my maternal grandmother's mother and both of my maternal grandfather's parents. I had enough experiences with each of them that I have vivid and powerful memories of them to this day. I can't see strawberry wafer cookies without thinking of my Grandma Howard, who picked them out of the box for me when I was coming. And every time I smell pipe tobacco, I remember my Grandpa Howard.
My Mamau died when I was very young and my memories of her are strange and don't mesh with what history tells me must be true. Just the same, I remember her, her smile and her kindness.
Most of the people I've known in my life have never known a great-grandparent. I can't think of a single solitary person who, like me, can remember as many as three. I even know quite a few with no memories of their grandparents.
My girls are very lucky in that they know my grandparents very well. My grandfather, who they call GrandPapaw and I call Granddaddy, adores them. He will happily just sit and list their good traits, while completely ignoring the bad. He gives them whatever they want that he can provide - mostly chocolate and ice cream. Each of them has spent her fair share of time cuddled in his lap.
My Grandmommie is less of a kid person. But even she is always delighted to see them, loves to read to them and tell them stories and spends as much time with them as she can.She patiently listens as they prattle on with seemingly never-ending and pointless stories. I remember her doing the same for me. She tries to find kid shows on TV for them and offers them her precious lap desk for coloring.
Their time together is fleeting. I know this, by simple mathematics. I fully expect my grandparents to turn out to be immortal, but only because in my heart I am not much older than Brynna. But I know, intellectually, that one day they will be to my girls what my Mamau and Grandma and Grandpa Howard are to me: a collection of jumbled memories and stories.
I cannot express how sad that makes me. That one day Brynna won't remember the watery green shade of my grandmother's eyes or be able to recall the scritchy flannel of my Grandpa's winter shirt/jacket. Or that Maren may not be able to remember them at all.
I truly consider every moment that I can give my girls with their great-grandparents to be gift. Hopefully, there will be many, many more moments. So many that this all seems silly one day.
But one day, I truly hope that my children will be able to tell their children stories of Grandmommie and Granddaddy. Even if it's just how loud the television gets and how there's always rocky road ice cream and oatmeal cookies. They are a piece of history, a piece of our family identity that I won't ever be able to create for them. The stories they tell are more powerful from their lips, even the ones I can recite almost verbatim.