Wednesday, 7 January 2015

Poems for and of Rebecca and Callum 2014                                                                  

It is his name for her.

He had been in his grandparents’ house for a few days,

When he changed from his signal sound, ‘dat!’ 

To speaking as he did at home, a few words, nouns, 

‘truck’ for all the truck-like toys,  

‘apple’ for the apples from grandmum’s tree. 

‘Dad-dad’ for granddad, who also likes trucks and cars.

“Apple” he announced each morning, pointing 

to the apples, eating one immediately for breakfast.

He knows he cannot keep up with his sister’s 

myriad words, sentences,

so he finds his own spaces, examines a toy,  

what is it, how does it work?

Like his parents and Grandad, 

his Grandmother examines the toys too, 

he can bring her a broken one, 

and she will put it together again, 

she knows their names and how they work.

“Muh-Muh?!” he said, anxiously looking around,

for a moment he had lost his foundation, his Muh-Muh.

Grandmum carried him to find his mom

He looked up at her, said thoughtfully,


As if identifying her for certain, stating trust.

“Yes, Callum, I am Grandmuh-muh, 

and I love you too.”

They continued on, finally comfortable, 

And found Muh-muh.

Janet E Smith     Written September, 2014

Rebecca, almost three years old,
Outdoor time at day-care

A teacher sits, supervising

The playground, from one edge.

Weather report had said, ‘like spring’

So, thin jacket, no gloves.

The children looked happy and good,

All seemed more warmly dressed.

Then one little girl stopped and stood

In the playground, watched teacher.

Rebecca ran across this map

Stood right in front of teacher,

“Would you like me to sit on your lap,

To help you to warm to up?”

“Oh, that would be lovely!”

There they sat, teacher’s cold arm 

Around Rebecca, whose small

Mittened hands attempt to warm

teacher’s shivering fingers.

Children rode tricycles, climbed, ran.

The buzzer finally called.

“Thank you, Rebecca, I am warm,”

Everyone walked indoors.

Janet E Smith                     January, 2014

Callum, Seven Months Old

 I have a big sister.

She’s very amazing.

She can talk and walk,

And even can sing.

I watch her all day

And if she is not here,

I look for her, call,

Why IS she not near?

When she returns, she always

Comes close and gives me a hug,

We smile and I watch her

Somersault on the rug.

I finally can sit,

That is something at least.

I’m learning to crawl,

But, I’d much rather feast.

I finally can sit,

And that’s so much better,

When I can crawl,

I’ll just go and get her.

For now it’s all right,

When I need her she finds me.

I’ll chew on this toy

Which really is tasty.

This toy is interesting, 

What can it be?

It’s bright, and it’s soft,

And it is looking at me.

Oh, there is my Mum,

Coming down the stair,

Sweetheart, that’s a mirror toy,

And that’s you in there.

Janet E Smith          January, 2014

A Three Year Old’s Observation


you have lines on your face!

What did you say?

You have lines on your face! (Worried, pointing to some.)

Those are wrinkles. It is because I am old.


When your Mom and Dad are old, after you have grown up,

They will have wrinkles, lines, too.

And when, a long, long time from now,

You will be old, and maybe, you will be someone’s grandmum,

You will have wrinkles.

Oh, okay.

The question answered,

We returned to playing with playdough

Making shapes, and spaghetti strings.

Janet E Smith
November 2013

Monday, 19 August 2013

Rebecca, 2013


“Grandmum, We don’t eat these eggs,”

These are real eggs, from the re-frig-er-a-tor,

Not toy eggs.

Mum dips one into the pink water.

Grandmum lifts an egg, now blue from a cup, 

How could a white egg become blue or pink or yellow?

Mum cooked them on the stove, but they are not hot now,

So we can touch them. 

I want to eat them – they are right here, in our hands.

But, we cannot.

Grandmum and Grandad might not know.

“We don’t eat these eggs”, 

reminding myself, and them.

Grandmum now has a red egg, I an orange.

I put stickers on mine.

Grandmum writes “Rebecca” in sparkles on the pink,

And we put the eggs in our Easter baskets,

Smile and clasp our hands, at the sight, 

Jump up and down,

forgetting  for a moment, that

We don’t eat these eggs.

Janet E Smith  Written April, 2013

August 20, 2013
     On the weekend, during Facetime* with our grandchildren, three year old Rebecca 'read' the stories to us, in several of her books. She used to say to her mom, "I will read, and you say the words", that meant that Rebecca turned the pages and showed us the pictures, no doubt while thinking about the story on each page, and her mom read the story aloud. Yesterday, Rebecca could recite much of each story and was helped by her mom when she forgot the words. It was great fun to be the watchers and listeners and to know that she likes to read us her stories. Sometimes, of course, we read stories and sing songs to her and now to her baby brother who likes songs. Did I say, it is wonderful to be a grandparent and to be a small part of the lives of these very delightful children as they begin to live their lives? Well, it is a great love.
* Facetime is a method of video telephoning, using computers. Thus, we see and speak with our family far away, and they see and speak with us. For old me, it is very strange, but for them, it is part of life that your grandparents disappear into the computer this way, but you can still talk with them and even play with them, by each playing the same thing at either end of the computer connection. Rebecca's and my favourite is still play dough.

Also, on this same conversation, occasionally Rebecca would sidle over just enough to cover up her brother's view of us and ours of him. This happened when we were singing a song to both of them or if we were speaking to him in particular. It is not easy to have a new brother, even though she loves him very much. Her grandparents are her grandparents, and for now a difficult part of her life is to share us with him.

Friday, 1 March 2013

New Grandson

This is a joyous day! A healthy new grandson, and his mother is also healthy, having experienced a short labour and non-problematic delivery; that is as important as the baby's health to this grandmother, as the mother is my daughter (would be the same for a daughter-in-law).

Well, what do you do with a birthday of March 1, 2013 - that is 3/1/13 or 1/3/13 - the numbers do not seem based on goodness, so he and his family will have much to overcome throughout his life. He was also born on the day after the Catholic pope stepped down from his position, leaving the church without a pope until the next is elected by the Cardinals. This worries me. For all who pray, please pray for my grandson.
I must sound like a foolish old woman, and if that is who I am I stand by my concerns, as I want my grandson to know and live a life of love and kindness, and intelligence, to have these within himself, and to trust others, to have insights of that which is holy, to be kind and compassionate.

Saturday, 22 December 2012


     About 5 years ago, my daughter and son-in-law spoke of this new (to me) possibility for communicating from far away, using your computer as both a phone and a camera, so a phone call could be viewed while speaking. It was and is called Skype, though now there is also Facetime, which gives a clearer picture, but my own computer is not advanced enough for it.
     My daughter and son-in-law told my husband and I, how it was that their friends were using Skype for their children to speak with their grandparents. I was sure I would not want to do that if I had grandchildren, that it was too impersonal and contrived.
     Two years later, our daughter phoned us and asked us to turn on our computers to the email page, as there was an important email for us. We knew this must be something momentous, but as I had long since decided we would not be grandparents, I did not expect what we saw. There on the screen was an ultrasound of a very small baby in the womb. "You are going to have a baby!" One of the happiest moments of my life occurred not in person, but from a great distance and through the technology of a computer. It did leave a feeling of loneliness and wishing she was near, knowing that others were near to her, that her sharing with me was among the last and not done in person, where we could hug, and speak with one another, and I could see her responses, how she was doing. But, I hope I did not say that, I hope I simply showed the excitement and wonder I also felt, and happiness for her and for her husband, all of which I felt.
     Our son-in-law had been preparing us for this, and later Skype conversations.
     Since the baby was born, we have been travelling to visit 3 times a year at their home, hopefully often enough that we can be meaningful in our relationships with our daughter, granddaughter and son-in-law as a new family, and most especially, to develop relationships with our granddaughter. Between these times, our daughter makes certain that we are able to Skype once per week. These Skype visits began at about 1/2 hour per visit, and have grown to an hour, as we play at each end of the computer connection, our granddaughter in her home, and we in ours here in Edmonton. We may play with playdough, lego, or sing nursery rhyme songs, read stories from a book we have in both homes. She may ask to see the snow here in winter when there is none yet where she lives, so we take the computer to the window and talk about shovelling the snow, about the bunny that lives in the backyard, how the snow looks like a hat on some of the bushes. We talk of her friends, outings and 'play dates' with them, birthday parties. 
     Our Skype weekly talks are invaluable to maintaining and developing our relationship with our granddaughter. Yet, after a while, we are all lonesome for a visit, and especially our granddaughter. It is difficult to keep the reality of your grandparents when they cannot really play with you. One day, while Skyping, she went into her play tent to play hide-and-seek with us. I said, "I want to come into your tent", as I would have done had I been there, and before I could qualify that, she replied, "You can't, you're in the computer!" She was a little over 2 years old. There was a little frustration in her voice, but she was also being very understanding with her grandmother, who appeared to have forgotten that she was "in the computer" and could not really play with her.
     When our granddaughter was around a year of age, and Skyping had begun, she would occassionally look behind the computer to find us. When we were not there, she would put her face right near the computer to determine if she could see into the room where we appeared to be. After not finding us, she (as children do) just went about her playing and conversation with us, knowing this was some kind of grown-up thing that she did not understand yet. Again, though, there seemed to be a little frustration that this problem could not be solved.
     Children want to understand their lives, their questions and explorings have real and serious meanings, including about trust and love. Most of us as adults can remember learning important understandings from an early age and throughout our childhood. We live in an age of toys and games for children, yet these are only useful if they effectively connect a child to real life. Our granddaughter prefers real activities like cooking, weeding the garden, sweeping the floor, using a computer, because these are the stuff of their lives, they actually accomplish important parts of life. She takes on a real excitement when she is able to help her mom or dad cook or weed the garden; she feels more important than usual, more like them. So, whether she is 'helping' her parents, her grandparents, or herself, when she knows this is real, it is more meaningful to her than playing with toys, however much she enjoys that too. Toys that enable real role playing of life, or being creative, are more often chosen and are played with longer, because they mean something to which she can relate. So, when we talk on Skype, it is an important talk, as parents and grandparents know. An example is always mentioning, now that she is going to have a baby brother, something about being a big sister, about babies and especially baby brothers. Songs chosen to sing might be either fun or lullabies, depending upon what time of day, what else might have occurred, and how she is feeling (sleepy, exhausted from a busy day, or energetic because it is morning).

     So, we do grandparent both in person when we can, and through Skype every week. I would never have believed that I would "Skype", or that it would be so important to all of us. This does not compare to living in the same city, but we make what we can of it, so she, hopefully, knows that there are two people here who love her very much and are here for her as much as we can be. We do know of grandparents who are not as much a part of their grandchildren's lives even when living close by, so living nearby does not automatically mean a good relationship with your grandchildren; you have to really relate with them, take time to understand them, to show them you care, to be as helpful to your own child, the parents of your grandchildren, as you can, regardless of whatever good or not so good background you share from when they were children. And yes, I do feel that I am a pon of the technological world more than I want to be, but it is for now, the price to relate with my grandchild and my daughter.

Thursday, 20 December 2012

Distance is still the most difficult part of my relationship with my grandaughter and her parents. All visits are a major action, and cannot occur for too long (all adults get 'testy', our home is left with no one there and everything else in our lives is on hold) or too often. Thus maintaining relevancy to our grandchild is not easy. Skype conversations still occur every week, but when a child communicates with her grandparents as computer images set on the table or the floor in front of her, after a while they are just not really a part of her life, and how can she remember all the ways they played, walked, ate, laughed and talked together when there? She must surely lose faith in them a little, do they really love her if they leave for such long periods, and actually live so far away?
     After visits, there is a time of grief, when suddenly all the playing and hugs stop and the grandparents cannot be willed back, until they and her parents decide when they can come again, and she knows it will be another long long time before she will see them in person, again. For a small child, 3 or 4 months is a long, long time.
    What is actually strange about our time, is the seeming normality of people moving hundreds and thousands of miles form their home neighbourhoods, for work, to 'be free', to explore, to get away from their families or other difficult situations, to go to the right school or job, etc. This is the mantra of our time, and we have all benefitted greatly in some ways from it. We spend, then, so much time with people who know only our present selves, not the larger picture of who we are, how we came to be us today. But, we do not count the losses of this, or if we do, we then bury that as something we cannot afford to see very clearly in order to be a part of the distance-is-good world. The best violins ever made were made in a small town, in a casual workshop behind a home, where the maker did not ever travel very far. But those circumstances can lead to severe problems of isolation too, if the isolated community does not get to know themselves, learn how to work together. Today it is easier to leave, to start again, to believe a different job will be better, a different school will be smarter, a different set of friends or 'family' will be more understanding. Sometimes it works. Sometimes problems are carried forward, and the deeper knowing of one another has been temporarily lost and may not occur again for a long time. The truth is that only your parents and childhood extended family and friends know how you came to be who you are today. The question is, is that important? It may be less important than preventing a worsening of problems that were intractable.
     I guess this last paragraph is not about my grand daughter so much as how we came to be so far away, and why it is considered normal to be so. I know grandparents whose grand children are close by, and who actually almost sneer at me and others whose children are far away, as though they are special because their children who could have moved away did not; thus, the parents/grandparents are better people for this. I do feel badly, I am vulnerable to the messages. When I visit, I can only be the best Mum and Grandmum I can be, however imperfect we all are.

Sunday, 18 November 2012


     Here it is, November, I began this is August, certain that I would be writing regularly, and all I have included are a few poems.
     I have found it more difficult than I hoped, to write about being a grandmother. To do so brings our private lives to the public, without grandchildren being able to give their consent for that, as anything I write, is about them as much as about myself. It is also difficult to write about the middle generation, my daughter and her husband, as they are not in a writing project, so this would be a one-sided view of their experience.   I began with great enthusiasm and happiness, then, nothing. I find myself unable to write more, so publicly, as being a grandmother is a group of relationships, about love and trust, including with everyone, my daughter, her husband, and my husband the grandad, as well as with Rebecca and (already before he is born) her brother. I know people write about their relationships and deal with the consequences of how others interpret what has been written, and that is often the stuff of writing, but it seems to me it is an invitation to misunderstandings with no real way to fairly give respect to each person's understanding of the truth of themselves and others.
I considered requesting that my daughter edit everything I write before I publish it here, but that puts an enormous strain on her, and is still not a fair way to respect her in this blog, so I will not.
     Thus, today's post is about uncertainty and finding a way to write.

Thursday, 30 August 2012

Poems for my grandaughter.

A Three Year Old's Observation


you have lines on your face!

What did you say?

You have lines on your face! (Worried, pointing to some.)

Those are wrinkles. It is because I am old.


When your Mom and Dad are old, after you have grown up,

They will have wrinkles, lines, too.

And when, a long, long time from now,

You will be old, and maybe, you will be someone’s grandmum,

You will have wrinkles.

Oh, okay.

The question answered,

We returned to playing with playdough

Making shapes, and spaghetti strings.

Janet E Smith

November 2013

“We Don’t Eat These Eggs”

“We don’t eat these eggs,”

These are real eggs, from the re-frig-er-a-tor,

Not toy eggs.

Mum dips one into the pink water.

Grandmum lifts an egg, now blue from a cup,

How could a white egg become blue or pink or yellow?

Mum cooked them on the stove, but they are not hot now,

So we can touch them.

I want to eat them – they are right here, in our hands.

But, we cannot.

Grandmum and Grandad might not know.

“We don’t eat these eggs”,

reminding myself, and them.

Grandmum now has a red egg, I an orange.

I put stickers on mine.

Grandmum writes “Rebecca” in sparkles on the pink,

And we put the eggs in our Easter baskets,

Smile and clasp our hands, at the sight,

Jump up and down,

Suddenly realizing why

We don’t eat these eggs.

Janet E Smith  Written, April 1 to 11, 2013

Waiting, when you are two years, 3 months, old.

Always busy, moving about, exploring.

This morning – sitting on the couch,

Quiet, looking straight ahead.

“What are you doing?” asks Mum.

“I am waiting for Grandmum and Grandad”.

What is it to wait?

Like sitting down to concentrate

On how to chew gum for the first time,

What it feels like to keep chewing and to not swallow.

The “Oops” of forgetting and down it went.

When you chew it,

Gum does not disintegrate like food.

How odd to spit it out again, that does not seem quite right.

If you swallow it, does it stick to the side of your stomach

and stay there?

Mum said we have to wait for grandparents to visit.

How do you wait?  It might help to concentrate,

Maybe time will pass faster and then,

maybe they will suddenly arrive at the door.

What IS two months? I understand it is not today or tomorrow

Or even Saturday when Mum and Dad are home from work.

What do I do about missing them?

Mom explains that waiting still happens while we are busy

Playing with friends, eating, and sleeping,

That each day brings their visit a little closer,

Will be one less day to wait.

Far away, Grandmum and Grandad also wait.

Janet E. Smith                             August 20, 2012

Rebecca at Two

A wagon can be pulled; and you can put a doll in it,

Or blocks. A doll could sleep or look around.

You can pour tea into cups; or onto the table.

You can drink the tea in cups, or from the table

Or watch it spread, and drip to the floor.

You can watch the cat next door; or watch wide-eyed

When Grandad pets the cat.

This moves Grandad further into the realm

Of amazing people.

You can find Mum or Dad and

Thus find security.

You can tell things to Grandmum; who used to be Ama.

As Grandmum, she still gives very good hugs.

Janet E. Smith                             April, 2012             

Rebecca at twenty months

“Ama, Andad! Phone! Computer!”

Her Mom dials the phone, finds Skype on the computer

And as we say “Hello”, we hear in the background,

“Ama! Andad!” and soon we all see one another on the computer.

A little girl jumps up and down, smiling.

Her Mom says it is nice to phone us; we are always

happy to talk with this little girl and she with us.

I secretly think her mom is as happy to talk with us, too.

We learn that the moon is in the sky,

She is all eyes about the bunny in our yard.

When she hears Andad’s banjo,

She is all ears, and asks for songs.

We sing a few nursery rhymes,

Then pretend kisses, and hear a very shy,

“I love you, Ama”, “I love you, Andad”.

“We love you, Rebecca. We love you, Rebecca’s Mom,

and thanks for this”.

We all return to our regular day.

Janet E. Smith                           January 20, 2012

Baby Story

You have a voice

As deep and strong as Grandad’s

But you do not sing “Twinkle, Twinkle” like Dad or whistle it like Grandad.

You do not sing the cheerful songs of Mom or the lullabies of Grandmum.

You sit until I tap and your voice vibrates right through my arm.

You, no head, arms, legs, yet almost as large as me.

Here I sit, beside you.

 You have not moved, only spoken, drum.

I think you are alive with such a voice as yours.

I worry that you might hurt me.

Two months later

Why you are much smaller than I!

And you never speak unless I tap you,

You are just a toy!

Yet, I leave my hand upon your skin and I feel vibrations

Like Mommy’s voice when my ear is next to her.

Janet E. Smith                                                                                 January, 2011

Almost Born            

You feel

as you stretch

Your arms and legs

In your Mommy cocoon.

You hear

your Mum’s heartbeat

Her voice in lullaby to you,

Then saying, worrying, laughing,

Even crying.

You hear

through the wall, the clanking

Sounds of kitchen,

Noise of television, traffic

Discussions of Mum and Dad, their friends.

You love

your Mum,  who holds you close

Who helps you, as you enter with trust and wonder,

Into this world.

Who are you ?

You with a will and a love

So strong, ready to begin

To speak

 with all of us?

Janet E. Smith,                                   April , 2010