I wish I had my camera yesterday when little Lani and I were on the beach, and saw two kite boarders skipping over the surf, flying between the cove and Pyramid Island in the strong wind. One of them, my neighbor James, who has a South African accent, came zooming right up to us on the shore, dumped the big sail, and stepped onto the beach in his wetsuit and harness, holding the slick board, and said hello.
It was a 007 moment -- I half expected him to peel off the suit and reveal a dinner jacket. After a little chat, he hopped back into the water, hooked up his board and said goodbye, waving to Lani, who blew him a kiss before he sailed off.
But I didn't have a camera, or a cell phone. I'm not carrying too many devices around this child (my camera is the exception, but even then, not all the time and quick snaps only -- when she's not looking, I hope), because I think it's better to talk to her, or sing, or to be silent together, looking at the ants on a log or hearing the whish of a raven's wings. Even when we walk in the stroller and she naps.
A grandmother should be, as my friend Beth says, present. I'm doing my best to heed Emily Dickinson's advice and make sure we "dwell in possibility." I do this when I'm with all of the grandchildren, because I am able now. I have earned this luxury, and I know that these days together won't last forever.
Not all mothers live to be grandmothers, and I'm not a busy parent anymore. I have done that -- so now I can spend some days on baby time, when we never, ever, have to hurry. The days roll out slower that way. It's a long time from breakfast to bedtime.
Of course, this is easy to say at dawn. (And easier to do when the visit is a few hours, or even a day -- but not a week or a month.) You should have seen me melt down last night about 10. I was more like Eloise's nurse, "Tired, tired, tired." The miracle is, when Lani woke at 3 a.m. it was so nice to rock her back to sleep, heart to heart in the dark like that.
Here's something I read this week I've been thinking about a lot: There is no such thing as a baby -- there's always a baby and someone. Babies don't exist without our care. I think God designed them that way to teach us how to love each other and the world around us.
Haines writer Heather Lende is finishing her third book of essays, "Finding the Good." This post originally appeared on her blog. It has been reprinted with permission.