My oldest granddaughter will be twelve tomorrow. As she teeters on the edge of her teen years, I am filled with nostalgia for a childhood that went by too quickly. She was a beautiful baby, chosen as the prettiest baby of the week at the hospital where she was born, the kind of child that people in malls and groceries stop to admire (that always made her mom nervous!). So many memories--a wonderful picture of her sound asleep on her Aunt Jordan's chest while a cat stalked that creature who had taken its sleeping place, a solemn picture of her staring at me (I must have been telling her my name was Juju). As a toddler, she had an unusual sense of presence and was mostly sunshine and light, with sparkling eyes. But boy oh boy could she pitch a diva-like fit.
For almost four years, she was the only grandchild, adored by this grandmother and a rowdy bunch of aunts and uncles. I used to wonder how she'd adjust when others came along. The first was her sister, Edie--Maddie was mostly protective, only occasionally angry. Now she has five younger cousins, and she soon took over as the lead caretaker. She was always so good with the infants and at a young age was efficiently giving bottles, diapering, and putting to bed whoever happened to be here--and that included a bedtime story. All I had to do was kiss them goodnight. These days Edie assists but they both mother the little ones, watch out for them, lead them in games, and love on them.
Today Maddie is a tween, playing games on her iPhone one minute and nose buried in a book the next.She has a long To Be Read list. She's read some pretty sophisticated things but also loves the Wimpy Kids books. She has her BFF or Bestie, as she calls Rachel, and the two are inseparable, and she has a huge crush on Justin Bieber and can talk about him in excruciating detail. Maddie delights in getting good grades (though her posts on FB say "ugh, school again," and such), and participates in everything from basketball to choir and the school play. I have gone to ballet recitals, volleyball games, and school plays. Once, in first grade, I was a visiting author at her school: a substiute teacher introduced me by saying, 'Maddie's grandmother is here because she has wrote some books." Ouch! Maddie took over the class, and I barely got a word in edgewise. Maddie went through a cooking phase, which I loved--I still remember asking her to spread a potato cassereole evenly in the dish and looking over to see her pounding it with a wooden spoon! I don't think she cooks as much these days, but she knows the basics and she'll make a good cook someday.
She isn't--yet--a sulky teenager and retains her sweet disposition and her closeness to her family, though as her father explained to me, "She doesn't hang with us as much these days." Still I hope she'll continue to love our family gatherings and be close to her own wonderful family.
She's a girl to make a grandmother proud, and I love her dearly. So happy birthday, Maddie-Moo, from your Juju.