Grandmother’s heart offers images of love

By Regina Villiers. Originally published September 5, 2001 in The Suburban Life, added April 15, 2014.

Christopher and Katy Villers, two redheads who live in Homerville, Ga., are the reasons columnist Regina Villers will celebrate Grandparents Day Sept. 9.

Christopher and Katy Villers, two redheads who live in Homerville, Ga., are the reasons columnist Regina Villers will celebrate Grandparents Day Sept. 9.


Becoming a grandparent was never one of my dreams and was not on my “to do” list, but guess who will celebrate Grandparents Day Sept. 9?

I dreaded becoming a grandma.  I’d never be old enough.  I wouldn’t know how.  I explained this to my two sons.  They seemed to listen, but then the oldest, Kevin, made me the grandmother of Christopher, without even consulting me.  He needn’t have hurried.  He’d only been married four years.

I took little notice until Christopher was 6 weeks old.  They lived 16 hours away, as the Mitsubishi van flew.  Then they brought him here.  When my son put him in my arms that day, I looked at the redheaded kid and knew in an instant that he was mine.  He has been mine ever since.

Circumstances were against our becoming close.  In addition to all the miles between us, both parents had careers.  They live on a huge blueberry farm requiring constant work, and my son also has a business.  He can barely eke out one vacation per year, and I am deeply entrenched in my life here.  A week here for them and a couple of weeks there for me each year seems to be all we can manage.  Despite the obstacles, Christopher and I developed a bond so close as to be inexplicable.  I have no idea how or why it happened.

Much of the credit goes to my daughter-in-law, an imaginative sprite from the Deep South, with an accent as thick as southern sorghum.  I wouldn’t love her more if she were my daughter by birth.  By the time Christopher could gurgle, she’d put the phone to his ear.  “Talk to grandma,” she’d croon.  “It’s your Yankee Grandma.” (This to distinguish me from his southern grandma who lives there and sees him every day.)

So, I became “Yankee Grandma,” but not in the context of “damn Yankees.”  It’s a term of enduring endearment.  I remain his loving and beloved “Yankee Grandma” to this day.

Since I never intended to be one, I had no idea of how to be a grandparent.  I just did it my way.  All I did was play with the kid.  I entered his world and grew along with him.  As he grows, the games change, but the love does not.  We have played thousands of games of “Old Maid,” from the time he could talk.  He always wins.  He also wins “Stair Ball, “ a game he invented.  He wins at darts too.  We went through the “Star Wars” era and played his version of “Star Wars,” scouring the fields of the farm to flush out the enemy.  He makes up our own games.  Now, we play “Rainbow Six,” roaming the fields in our matching camouflage outfits.  We’re inseparable.  Wherever one of us is, there goes the other.

Our most special thing together is climbing “our” tree, a red maple in his yard with limbs made for sitting.  Every year, as he grows, we go higher.  We sing songs in a tape recorder up there.  We’ve read books up there.  We’ve talked about everything from lichen to death, when my brother died.  We tell jokes.  We’ve discussed heartbreak and friends who move away.  We can see the wind up there.  Starting at the horizon, it comes toward us, ruffling the tops of the blueberry trees in the fields, until we feel it in our faces, high in our tree.

Christopher thinks I live in Utopia.  Every visit here, he wants to stay in Madeira forever.  He thinks I have the best neighbors in the world.  We walk the neighborhood every day.  He talks to them and knows most by first name – Doug, Alice, Fran, Lisa, Mrs. Mier, Mary Ann, Mr. Filaseta, Amy, and Mrs. Miller.  The all know him.  He loves every nook and cranny in my house and yard.  It’s his house and yard.  The upstairs is his “clubhouse.”  We hope, someday, his mom will allow him to come here by himself.  He thinks he’ll have to be “52 years old” before she will.

History sometimes repeats itself, and barely three years ago Katy was born.  Again, I’d expressed no wish for a second grandchild, but the same bond started.  Stretched on her stomach across my tall son’s shoulder, every smiling, he red hair gleaming, she was a feminine replica of her brother.

I am also Katy’s “Yankee Grandma.”  We talk on the phone. She sings to me.  She counts, sometimes in Spanish.  She tells me about their puppies.  The bond grows.  Another rope swing will have to go up in my backyard.

They were just here for eight perfect days, so fun-filled that we hardly ate or slept.  But too soon, they were gone, leaving me, until my visit there at Christmas, with only a heart full images:  The joy on Christopher’s face that first moment he arrived.  Katy perched atop my desk chair, typing on my typewriter.  Listening ‘to a Beatles” CD with Christopher up in his clubhouse.  Katy singing “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” to a starfish at the zoo, quiet companionship with Christopher on our walks.  Listening to him and Doug swap tall snake tales on Doug’s deck.  Fearless athletic Katy climbing to the top of the big kid’s play equipment at Sellman Park, repeating her mantra. “I can do it. I can. By myself.”

Katy dancing in wild abandon to music on the TV and then bowing until her head touched the floor.  Christopher skateboarding in the driveway, Katy on her hands and knees following the progress of a bug.  “Look! Isn’t he cute?” she said, touching him gently.

We swung. We skated.  Katy got her first skates.  We played hopscotch.  They decorated the driveway with chalk.  On the last afternoon, we lay on our backs, side by side, on the grass, looking up at the clouds through the trees, thinking bittersweet thoughts, knowing it was about to end.  Then they each planted flower seeds, their own little gardens, in the backyard.

The next morning, they left, ripping out my heart.  As I walked down the chalk-bedecked driveway, I saw chalked there, in Christopher’s handwriting, “Chris (heart) Y.G.” (Yankee Grandma).

“Y.G. (heart) Chris” too, And Katy, They’ve made my heart grow many sizes and taught me more about love than I ever dreamed I could learn.