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The game of thrones, the reciprocity of love and first borns

In Game of Thrones, Queen Cersei Lannister, in lamenting the death of her horrid son admits that in spite of being shocked by his actions, he was her first, and that the first is special. And so it is true: in boyfriends, houses, children and grandchildren. The newness of the situation marks the event, and perhaps because we are not inured, hardened or already wise, we redefine a fresh relationship that may map or define the others that follow. Reading this, do you pause to recall your first kiss, your awareness of an original, unique or seminal moment now permanently lodged in your brain?

We adore our grandchildren, but the first is well, the first. I remember hearing tales of Elaine and Lassie, the first girl grandchild on my mother’s side and on my father’s, wondrous Jon, not John, but Jon Howard, given that middle name should his surname, Levine, reveal his religion and need be substituted with one that would not cause him discrimination: so the story went.

Our grandson is named, at least in English for Joe Carter; his secret Hebrew name is for my father, of blessed memory, as they say. My son who was dragged to every art gallery and church in Europe wound up enamored, actually over the moon, crazy in love with baseball. Even as a small boy, he knew statistics, stories, facts and fictions about every player in every league, disappointing his mother who cared little for the sweating, swearing, spitting, hitting and running of men in uniforms. It was 1993 World Series and in the best of seven, the Toronto Blue Jays played the Philadelphia Phillies. Joe Carter, with Toronto ahead three games to two in the Series hit a game-winning three-run home run in the bottom of the ninth inning of Game 6, to cement the series, only the second Series concluded by such a home run. Jordan was awestruck. And so with the monumental birth of his first, the child was named for his father’s hero.

I think sports must be in some men’s genes, though thankfully my father was only interested in watching golf, and occasionally we got out our small family to bowl at Bathurst Bowlerama, my mother handing him the balls. For the most part, his passion lay in the problemsolving of electronic matters, which would produce the brightest and purest sound. He once remarked that he was amazed he could love his grandchildren so. On Friday nights, my elder daughter would perch on his shoulders as he read her “Walter Wolf”, he, usually chortling. Which was rare. I never ceased to be surprised at his overwhelming love for my children and how like a sudden rainstorm it had surprised him so.

And although we love all of our first grandchildren desperately , there is something about the first. Yet, it is unlikely you stayed with your very first love interest forever, although he or she is more clearly defined in your head. For me, the memory is encapsulated in the smells of sweet rain on heavily laden lilac trees at Cornell University where I went to visit my first boyfriend. And deep in my consciousness is the swarthy boy Joey Mariano, my square dance partner from Grade 4 at West Prep’s blonde –floored gym. Yet my heart of hearts unconditionally belongs to my husband.

Sometimes Carter kindly tolerates us as he zooms off in his own head, isolating himself from the facts he finds useless that I offer. Or he politely attempts to dismiss or ignore my explanations to the text that interfere with our reading a chapter book. Even this week during a sleepover when we explored the vicissitudes of a long-legged mouse who was visiting Dam Square in Amsterdam, I wanted to share information I found pertinent to the telling of the tale.

Of course, I did not reveal that in the 70’s I visited that notorious pot- drenched locale for all zoned –out hippies and the rest of us wannabes. I chose to enlighten him about the tulips in the flower market in the story, a gift to Canada from the Netherlands in 1946; and the shape, originally from Turkey and Persia that connotes a turban… With endurance, he quietly repeated, “ Dinda, ( the name he calls me), Just read!” I had wanted to explain about Anne Frank, too, but figured that story should wait until he is not awoken at 3 am with scary thoughts.

When he unexpectedly takes my hand or cuddles close when we play scrabble on the Ipad, I am seized by a whirl of emotions. Yet just as easily, in a room full of people, he will ignore my presence completely; or openly announce that his other grandparents have much better toys. We are dashed to the rocks, second best.

When I was growing up, my mother in particular wanted everything to be equal between my sister and myself ; thus, we were both given Hebrew and piano lessons, our will portions exactly the same. But as a parent myself, I came to realize that the distribution cannot and perhaps should not be exactly 50-50. For example, I had no musical talent and my sibling exceled so really there was no reason for lessons for me. Did my sister enjoy ballet as much as I did? Maybe. What Howard and I tried to do: meet the children’s specific needs as we perceived them. At times although appearing unfair, we waited for occasions to arise to offer encouragement and support of a special talent or a specific need. So many paths taken or not. At the time, we did our best, but as people say, “ Hindsight is 100%”!

Child-rearing is tricky business and there are so many factors that intervene. The simple nurture versus nature is not clear cut at all. Just yesterday on receiving an anniversary photo, I was stunned to see a resemblance to my father in my cousin’s son, something about the jaw. And today, apparently one’s gene can morph in response to the environment, called epigenics, I believe. So that a mother carrying a donor egg in her womb will wash that child in her own cells and the child will inherit some of her characteristics.

It’s easier in books because the people are fictional creations, built of course from real people, but the author can mold, distort and play with the impact of events. Just yesterday a friend at lunch mentioned that a former student from Northern, Clare Cameron, had written a book “The Bear ” that described the catastrophe that befell the children after the attack. I thought immediately of ” Canada “by Richard Ford, the children caught in the drama of their parents’ actions; and then also” Room “by Emma Donoghue, the horror of growing up and being forcibly confined in a tiny room. Although all events were based on believable stories that have occurred, the author has the freedom to delve into their literary heads, scoop out and arrange her/his own reactions to the unfortunate and terrible plights. The literary license not only permits but encourages this: the telling of truth is oftentimes more shattering than fiction- as in Anne Frank’s death from typhoid several weeks before Bergen-Belson concentration camp was liberated. More and more of Anne’s life has been revealed after her father’s death as he did not want some of her most personal thoughts from her journal publicly exposed, her fame exploited.

But like many of my discourses that have found a new track upon which to travel, my topic originally concerned first borns, who are supposed to excel over their sibs because of parental attention, first borns who tweak and break your hearts because you do not know what to expect, first borns because they are afterall, first.

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