I had lunch recently with what my husband calls “the over the hill gang”. I don’t think of that phrase quite the same way he does. These are the ladies who taught on south hill, in the school my children attended and where my two grand daughters now attend, the school where I was a parent volunteer and then a teacher’s aid. These are ladies I would join for TGIF breakfast together before heading off to our respective schools when I became a teacher. These are the ladies who met for lunch every Friday in the summer. Some of them were parents of kids the same ages as mine. Some have have died.
These women are part of the “oreo” generation. I have heard the term called the sandwich generation, but I prefer the thought of oreos: chocolate on the top, chocolate on the bottom, and the sweet stuff in the middle.
Oreos are consumed in different ways by different people. Take the whole cookie and munch into it. Or twist off the top and lick the sweet middle and then, do you eat the top next, or the bottom that still has sweet stuff on it but has been licked? I take the cookie as a whole.
I have always thought of myself as the top of the oreo. I am here, I have provided a lid for the sweet stuff under me, protection you might say for when the lid is removed. and some day I will be twisted off and gone.
My analogy doesn’t really work too well, when I state that the sweet stuff will become the lid to protect the next layer, or generation, but who cares.
My daughters and son are the middle, the sweet stuff. Their children, my grand children are the bottom layer, the layer that is protected by the sweet stuff and guarded by the top layer.
Enough of oreo cookies. I think back to the days when I was on the bottom, one of only two grand-daughters on my father’s side. Granny ruled the roost in the summer when we were on Cape Cod. I often felt I could do nothing right. One of my memories of Granny was when she told me I wasn’t brushing my teeth. Never mind that grandparents are not in charge of grandchildren brushing teeth, but apparently Granny thought she was. So I went into the bathroom every morning and ran my toothbrush under the water.
She still told me I hadn’t brushed my teeth so I sprinkled tooth paste around the sink. It never occurred to me she had other ways of knowing. I paid for it, of course, many Saturday mornings in the winter, at the dentist office where my teeth were drilled and filled without Novocaine. Thanks Granny.
I finally reached the sweet stuff, being a parent of her great-grandchildren. Granny would type letters to the whole family: onion skin paper separated by carbon paper and on a typewriter. Does anyone recall those today? I always got the bottom copy. I know my parents got a copy and have assumed Granny’s three daughters got the others. I think mine was the fifth layer and quite fuzzy. Sometimes I had to hold the paper up to a mirror to read when the carbon was put in backwards. Often it included answers to someone’s question so I would have to guess what the question was.
After I was married and the children began to arrive, I found I liked this idea so I wrote letters as well, several copies with carbon paper. I wrote of all the things my children were doing. It was a time to brag about them to some people who cared. As a result, Granny had whole new outlook and I was doing everything right. What a turn around. She was the top layer and I was the sweet stuff.
I have the letters I wrote to my folks stashed away in a box. My mother saved them all. Some day I will haul them out and see what they say. I stopped the carbon letter writing when we moved west and Granny died. After that it was just single letters to my mother, and I think they did not come often enough to her; we were so far away and I have often regretted not writing more often.
So now I am the top layer, and having learned something from Granny, I try to let the grandchildren know that they are wonderful. It is not my job to tell them to brush their teeth. Their mothers and dads are the sweet stuff, and how wonderful they all are. On the bottom are those delicious chocolate grandchildren , some sweet stuff still sticking to them who will one day become the sweet stuff and I will brag and gloat about my great-grandchildren til I fly off to live on a cloud and check up on them now and then.
Of course there is the bitter-sweet side of the chocolate cookie. My lunch with the over the hill gang was filled with the woes of sick spouses, concerns about our old age. For the sweet middles, they are torn between their children and their futures and their elderly parents and what lies ahead. The cookies on the bottom have a future to plan. In some cases they are too young yet to be concerned about that, but the older ones have choices of careers or families to consider.
Don’t lick off all the sweet stuff. Let them all have some happy times as they grow up. They will be the sweet stuff someday.