August 15, 2013

Vocabulary Lesson

By Marcia Kaiser

Our granddaughter Winnie was born on a lovely summer Saturday, and the moment was immersed in tears and relief and joy, and words. Rather quickly I realized that the descriptors I needed didn’t exist. I needed a lexicon of appropriate words to describe a variety of observations, experiences, and emotions that being a grandparent demands.

So I’m putting it out there – the inadequacy of our language at the time one becomes a grandparent can be remedied if we all try. You know the transitional state you might find yourself in between the time your daughter gives birth, and the relief you feel, and the time you realize that there is someone else to concentrate on – your grandchild? There is no word for that transitional time from mother to mother/grandmother. I needed that word.

There was no adequate word to describe Winnie’s face as I first saw it. A newborn’s face deserves its own adjective.

Parental exhaustion – those words do not begin to cover the bone weary, sleep-deprived condition of new parents at this emotional, overwhelming time. Need a word.

Mother love perseverance demands its own descriptor. I watched my daughter love, feed, and nurture her daughter moments, hours and days after Winnie’s birth, when she herself was regaining strength and dealing with the days after delivery. What might seem impossible on an ordinary day or week becomes the norm for new mothers, and watching my daughter embrace her baby with love, patience, and intelligent response to every need and cry put me at a loss for words.

There’s a dearth of words for father love as well. As I watched my son-in-law’s face during the hours of labor, I could see how much he felt her discomfort, and it was empathy and love and concern rolled into a word that does not exist. Now, when Alex holds Winnie in his arms, their eyes lock and he soothes her in a gentle yet fiercely parental way, and I imagine she feels safe and loved. This love needs a word. And for the love and care he extends to his wife and daughter, I am more than grateful. Need a word.

Two words, however, are just perfect the way they are, and I am delighted that granddaughter and grandparent now describe Winnie and me.

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Marcia Kaiser

About Marcia Kaiser

Marcia Kaiser was raised on the north shore of Long Island, New York, where she and her family lived for her first nine years in an apartment above her grandparents’ stores. Her grandmother was always a part of her family. Marcia received her degree in education from Boston University in 1971 and her Masters Degree in education from C.W. Post College in 1975. She has been an elementary school teacher for over thirty years and is currently a library teacher in a public school in New Jersey.