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Sharon Randall: A double celebration

By Sharon Randall

We celebrate some birthdays with a bounce house. Others we observe quietly in our heart. But every birthday of a loved one is a joyful occasion, especially when we celebrate two at once.

My oldest grandchild, who just turned 8, was born on my mother’s birthday. She died long before Randy lit up my life.

The fact that they share a birthday is no surprise. I think my mother probably arranged it with God. She wanted what we all want: To be remembered. So she pulled a few strings and sent me a divine reminder.

I wish you could see him.

Red hair is not uncommon in our family, but Randy takes red to a whole new level, with the same sheep’s wool curls that he inherited from his dad.

One great thing about a red wooly head is that it is easy to spot in a bounce house. That was my self-appointed nana duty at Randy’s party: To keep track of him; his brother, Wiley, who’s 5; their sister, Eleanor, who is 3; and their cousin, Henry, who’s almost 7.

Their parents, my daughter-in-law’s parents and my husband, bless them, were all keeping watch over them, too. But my mother taught me, by her example, that grandmothers have a special calling to watch and worry and pray.

We get years of practice with our children. By the time grandkids come along, we are pros.

I’m better at worrying than watching, and I tend to pray last, not first, as I should. I am not a perfect nana. But I try.

Let me just say this. Bounce house parties are a nana’s worst nightmare. Picture a lovely, grassy park with several thousand children (my estimate, give or take) running wild like herds of stampeding cattle from the pizza table to the bounce house to the climbing structure/slide/death trap.

I have only two eyes, dulled by years of being glued to my kids. Eyeballing four grandbabes is like juggling live chickens. You don’t expect to catch them. You just pray nobody gets hurt.

Meanwhile, I kept hearing my mother pound on the door of my sanity, crying, “Wiley will fall off that slide! Henry is swinging too high on that swing! Elle is at the bottom of the pile in the bounce house! And Randy is nowhere in sight! Can’t you do something?”

Finally, I pressed my hands to my ears, closed my eyes and whispered, “Happy birthday, Mama. Thanks for being here.”

Suddenly, I felt two sweaty arms wrap around my middle. I opened my eyes and looked down at a mop of red curls. “I love you, Nana!” said the birthday boy. “I love you, too!”I said, laughing.

“Are you having fun?” He grinned a big “yes!” and took off with his buddies.

Elle ran up to show me her rainbow butterfly face paint.

“Nana!” Henry called from the swing. “Come push me higher!”

And at the top of the slide, somewhere in the stratosphere, Wiley scanned the crowd, found my eyes, smiled, waved and slid like greased lightning to Earth.

All safe and accounted for.

An hour later, we were packing up pizza boxes when I felt a tug on my pants leg. I looked down and saw a boy about 4 years old.

“Are you a grannie?” he said. I stopped to think. “Well, yes,” I said, “I am.”

“Can you get me that b’oon?”

He pointed to the sky where a pale green balloon had broken free from a pack of others and was making a run for heaven. I knelt down to take the boy’s face in my hands.

“I’d get it for you if I could,” I said. “But it’s off on a grand adventure.”

We watched it sail out of sight. Then the boy looked up at me. “Thank you, Grannie,” he said, and ran off to find his mom.

We all have children and grandchildren who need us to watch over them, whether they sleep in our arms, or in our streets, or just tug on our heart at a birthday party.

I hope my mother liked her balloon.

Sharon Randall can be reached at P.O. Box 416, Pacific Grove, CA 93950 or www.sharonrandall.com.

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