By Elizabeth Hemmerdinger

I took my granddaughter, 5 weeks short of 5 years, to Central Park yesterday afternoon.  She’s the one who gave me my nickname.   “Rocks, Grambo!  Can I climb them?”

I checked the soles of her shiny Mary Janes.  Yes, indeed, rubber soles.  Do you remember that the man in the shoe store used to score your new shoes with the tip of his house key? Still they stayed slippery and you could sort of shush along the sidewalk for days until the leather soles gained “natural” traction.  But these days, Mary Janes are ready from the outset.  Love that.    And so off she went.

Up and down the rocks, proudest when she could make it to the bottom, merely crouching for balance, without using her hands at all.  “I’m a princess and I’m up here all alone. Would you like to come up, too?” she asked.   Favoring the pinched nerve in by back over the impulse to be beside her, I answered, “I’m just a lowly subject in your kingdom and don’t deserve to be way up there with you, oh, beautiful princess.”

“Okay, I’m not a princess, anymore.”  She spread her arms wide and twirled and curtseyed.  “I’m Belle and you’re…” well, it all doesn’t matter, really, what we were shouting back and forth to each other, she a good twenty feet above me, silhouetted against a drizzly sky.  For there was this dear little child delighting in her conquest of nature and the ramblings of her own imagination.

And what did I see?  Good Lord!  Myself, at just her age.  Of the five grandchildren, I see myself most in this one.  Certainly, I don’t love her any more than the others, I love them all deeply and individually.  And yet, to visit myself, also a tireless rockclimber, using Manhattan’s granite to loft me into familiar and unknown worlds, was to travel back almost 60 years and to feel myself in that moment, just that age, just that agile.

It was a gift of time travel that I wish on all of you, particularly as we celebrate the new birth of our site.  Successful aging brings sophistication, the ability to consider several things at once, to compare and contrast ideas and emotions.  But I did so enjoy getting back in touch with the little girl with straight auburn hair and bangs..    The moment might have gone on forever, but that I finally managed a whispered shout, “Grambo’s got to go… to the bathroom.”    “Me, too,” admitted Minime, and scampered back into my arms and the ordinary day.

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