I gently cradled my grandson Dodd Mitchell Darin in my arms, trying to rock him to sleep. I began to sing a lullaby I used to sing to Sandy. But Dodd was having none of it--wide awake, he looked up at me with those enormous brown eyes and gave me the same enchanting crooked grin his father has made so famous. Then the baby cocked his head as if to say: "Gee whiz, Grandma, I can't fall asleep unless you sing on key!"
I'll admit I'm no vocal competition for my son-in-law. After all, when a baby's been crooned to by Bobby Darin, it's not an easy act to follow! I turned on his tiny transistor radio, shaped like a baseball. As soon as Dodd heard the music, he blissfully closed his eyes and soon was fast asleep. I laid him carefully in his crib, and just stared down at him.
I can't put into words how I felt, knowing this adorable chubby little boy was actually my grandson. All through Sandy's pregnancy, I kept thinking to myself: I see it happening, yet I still don't believe it. Even today, it's sometimes hard to believe. Maybe because everything happened so fast--Sandy's engagement, marriage and baby in just a little over a year.
Looking back, I have to admit that I was a little apprehensive about Sandy's marriage. Like all mothers, especially those of 18-year-old brides, I had a lot of questions. Would she be happy? Was she rushing into it too soon? Was she sure of how she felt? But then this anxiety gradually gave way to a kind of peace, of confidence. I thought about Bobby--all his wonderful qualities--and how much I liked him, and I was content.
When Sandy got married, I kept the house she and I had lived in because I wanted my own place. Jokingly I told her, "I'll keep it so when you have an argument, you can stay here until it's all over--or Bobby can stay here when he gets mad at you!"
Naturally, my house has never been used for that purpose. Oh, they've had their share of arguments, like all couples do when they're trying to adjust, but never about anything serious. Like the time Bobby called Sandy at my house to tell her he'd be a little late getting home that night. Sandy's face tightened, and I heard her say, "Good-by Bob!" I made no comment, but I knew when Sandy said Bob like that, she was going to do a little pouting. And I know how Sandy can pout! But when Bobby arrived a half hour later, you'd never know anything had happened.
I think it's amazing the way Bobby has learned so quickly how to handle Sandy and her whims. He knows how to ignore her impulsiveness, her sudden changes of mood. I once told him, "You've done better with her in the short time you've been married than I was able to do in eighteen years!"
Bobby loves to baby her, and seems to get a lot of fun out of her naivete. You see, Bobby is a very mature person for only 25. It's this very maturity and strength that Sandy loves in him. She likes the way Bobby guides her and wants her to lean on him.
Marriage has matured Sandy, too. I've never seen her so happy. She's come out of her shell and taken a new interest in people. She takes pride in doing things she knows will make Bobby happy, and keeping her household running as smoothly and efficiently as possible.
I was at their home one day when Sandy was planning her weekly menu and giving instructions to the cook. It seemed so strange hearing Sandy say the same things I must have said when I was first married. I said to myself, "This can't be Sandy doing this--not my baby!" Then I realized that Sandy wasn't a baby any more.
The news about her own baby came as a big surprise. Sandy called me one afternoon and after a pause she said, "Mother... I ... I..." And then nothing. I asked, "What is it, Sandy?" Still no answer. Finally Bobby got on the phone. "Mariuch (it's Mary in Italian, he always calls me this)," he said, sounding terribly happy. "Your baby is going to have a baby. She can't tell you. She's scared."
For a while, I couldn't believe that Sandy was really going to have a baby. I guess most mothers feel that way when their daughters present them with the news... and Sandy was so young. But then I thought about being a grandmother...and I liked that.
I remembered being at a friend's home, and hearing the children address their grandmother by a strange name.
It occurred to me that children seldom use the term "grandmother" any more. It's been replaced by pet names. Then I felt a new kind of pride. I felt it was something special to be able to be a grandmother while I was still young. Also, Sandy's baby makes it a five generation family--which is quite a distinction.
As if reading my thoughts, a few days later Sandy asked me, "What do you want the baby to call you, Mother?"
"Grandmother!" I exclaimed. "What else?"
After Sandy adjusted to the fact that she was going to be a mother, I noticed a big change in her. It was as if one day she was a little girl, and overnight became a woman. As she told me, "For the first time in my life, I'm not thinking of myself."
She developed a terrific curiosity about everything pertaining to the baby. X-rays were of great importance to her, and she called her doctor constantly to ask all kinds of questions. She had to know why she was taking certain pills and what they would do for her. And she began to pump me about the experiences I had while I was carrying her, and I honestly couldn't remember. Sandy couldn't understand this and finally asked, "Are you sure you really had me, Mother?"
I hope you won't mind my seeming lack of modesty, but I cannot help being filled with pride at the way Sandy has taken to motherhood. She's fantastic. During her pregnancy, friends suggested she study a variety of baby books. But Sandy just shook her head and smiled, "When my son comes (she was positive it would be a boy), I'll know how to care for him--I just feel it," Sure enough, when Dodd arrived, last December 16th, Sandy left the hospital after only four days and immediately slipped into her role of Mother without a single hitch. As a matter of fact, although they had already engaged a nurse, Sandy decided she wanted to take complete charge of the baby for the first week he was home.
"Mom," she told me seriously, "I want Dodd to know that he left the hospital in the arms of his mother. I want my son to know that I gave him his first bath and held his first bottle. I want my boy to remember that the first time he cried at night it was I who leaned over his crib and comforted him..."
Watching Sandra as she spoke those words, I felt a lump in my throat and fought to hold back the tears. There was no use telling Sandy that a brand new baby couldn't know or remember such things--she felt he could--this was all that mattered.
I don't know exactly how to explain it. Sandra was just obviously born to be a mother. She never panics. She's consistently calm and cool. When Dodd cries, she does not automatically rush to pick him up. She uses common sense, discipline.
I was at her home one morning, and I would have given anything for a camera to have recorded the scene. She came walking into the living room dressed in dungarees and a tee shirt. Her hair was pulled back and she wore no makeup. She was carrying Dodd, who is such a large baby that his feet sort of dangled over the sides of Sandy's arms. I took one glance and roared. She looked like a 12-year-old hanging on to some neighbor's child. But minutes later, when she gently scooped up tiny spoonsful of mashed bananas and fed her son, you could tell she alone was the mother.
Yes, Sandy is Dodd's mother--and one of my best friends. There has been a definite change in our relationship lately. You see, for so many years I was not only Sandra's mother but her friend and pal as well. We were always together when she was growing up. Now that Sandy is grown up, we are still friends and pals but in an adult way. Sometimes we sound like two lady friends, especially when we are discussing Dodd. Sandra will ask, as though she were speaking of a third person, "Did you do this or that for your baby?" And I'll think back and try and re-enact what I did or didn't do. Most times, though, when Sandy asks me about what I did with "my baby," I say I don't remember. It's safer. Things have changed since I was a teen-age mother.
As far as how it feels to be a grandmother--well, to be honest, I'm so thrilled I wouldn't have it any other way. When I think back over this last year, it is really miraculous. My daughter is a wife, a woman, a mother and I'm a grandma. I couldn't be more happy or grateful for all the wonderful ways in which I've been blessed!
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