Column: What babies and grandmas share

  • (Kris Hampton photograph) Kris Hampton photograph

  • Micki Colbeck. Copyright (c) Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to

For the Valley News
Published: 9/25/2021 10:10:06 PM
Modified: 9/25/2021 10:10:07 PM

Pearl S. Buck’s The Good Earth is a powerful book about the importance of staying connected to the land. During hard times, the old grandma slept with the baby so they could both stay warm. After a week on the shore with my toddler granddaughter, I am realizing the wisdom of this, for elders and babies share more than just the need to be warm at night.

My daughter’s 1-year-old, Molly, and I, besides walking a little wobbly at times and needing to be extra thoughtful on the stairs, spend large chunks of time (we have no actual clocks in our makeup, so we are never sure how much time) squatting before a pile of stones or seashells, arranging them while rambling on in singsong cadence, a language we seem to share. Molly doesn’t mind not being understood. I am a little more sensitive when I realize that my excitement at trying to explain something about geomorphology isn’t very interesting to my adult listeners, who keep drifting away.

We both find looking at birds to be most joyful, as we point up into the sky and make squawking, crowing and chirping sounds. We will stand before a blueberry bush and cram as many berries into our mouths as possible, sometimes even forgoing our hands, mouthing directly onto the bush. On the topic of eating, we both tend to spill food down the front. She’s just a baby. I have no excuse.

We both sway our bodies like disco dancers as we sing Itsy Bitsy Spider and Teddy Bears Picnic, and we will drum on anything to find a beat. Getting my guitar out of its case elicits joy in at least one family member. The beauty of the morning finds us pointing at the sunrise, saying, “Oh wow!” Life itself is so interesting that we go from one fascinating thing to another, sometimes leaving behind little piles of unfinished projects. We also get very tired at night, and somewhat crabby, and love curling up in bed after a warm bath. Cuddling is one of the most important activities of the day.

Úrsula, the ancient grandmother in Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude, had become so small that her grandchildren carried her around when re-enacting the Nativity. Recalling this scene to Kristov, my now teenage grandson, I asked him if he would carry me around one day. “Grandma,” he said, “I am going to put you in my backpack facing out and bicycle around the village so you can see.”

“Ah, good.” I said. “Thank you.”

Micki Colbeck, of Strafford, is an artist and a conservation biologist. Write to her at

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