Assuming this country survives the plague of the current president, I believe it will be in much better shape in the hands of the next generation. I am not talking about Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and the Parkland Kids, I am talking about my grandchildren and their peers.
As I watch my daughters, their GenX friends and their iGen children taking the stage, I have hope that what we are currently witnessing is the last paroxysm of retro-Boomer racism, sexism, ignorance and fear before the United States of America finally begins to live up to its true potential.
Over Thanksgiving, Carolyn and I were blessed to have all six grandchildren here celebrating family in a happy chaos of cousins. Wild as they can be, I trust my grandchildren with our future. They can’t do any worse than we Boomers have done.
The wonderful thing about children and grandchildren is that they remind you that we are all individuals. We can be influenced, but we come into this world already wired to be who we are.
Jackson, 8, the firstborn, is wary and watchful. Whip smart and skillful, he possesses the patience to build elaborate Lego constructions that would have me in fits in no time. As the primogenitor of my generation in the family, I identify with his sense of responsibility and his skepticism. I love the way he watches things he doesn’t quite understand with a sidelong glance, sizing the situation up before he decides whether to endorse it or not. He loves wizards, myths and archery.
Alda, 7, is a beautiful child, at once elegant and goofy. She is very crafty and very earnest. She is both a worrier and a doer. She throws herself into projects ranging from drawing and cutouts to pasting and crocheting. Thanksgiving Day she made herself a pilgrim bonnet to wear for dinner. What I appreciate about her temperament is the hair-trigger sense of injustice, which I’d like to think she gets from me.
Islay, 6, is creative, individualistic, ironic and inventive. She is the flower child of the six, deeply thoughtful, yet free spirited, an old soul. She invents words regularly, calling me, for example, Grampotamus. I have a penchant for pulling the kids’ legs and telling them whoppers. Islay dubbed this “sparfing.”
Henry, 5, is all boy. He possesses a natural grace and athleticism combined with a delicate sensibility. He can roughhouse with the best of them, but his feelings are easily hurt. The would-be jock in me delights at how effortlessly he picks up on a sport, from baseball and football to lacrosse and soccer. Coupled with his prowess and power, however, is a sense of fair play. He and Jackson will become the kind of new men America needs.
Luna, 4, is a lovely, quiet, gentle little girl. She, more than the others, is a mystery to me. Luna and her sister Islay each possess qualities that are combined in their mother. She is very happy amusing herself or standing off to one side observing the fray. At the pre-Thanksgiving sleepover, for example, five of the grandchildren declared war on Grampy, attacking me with pillows as I wrestled them on the bed and tossed them into a pile of blankets and sleeping bags on the floor. Luna would have none of it, uncomfortable even with the mock violence of a make-believe war.
Hazel, 3, is a pistol. She is the cutest little thing you’ve ever seen and the most mischievous. Stocky, brown-eyed and possessed of a raspy little growl of a voice, she is our avocado baby. Solid as a little bear now, she early on failed to fill out and gain weight until her mother started feeding her avocados. Curious and inquisitive, Hazel is the grandchild we have to keep an eye on lest we find her trying on a dozen colors of nail polish. She seems to know she can get away with anything because she is so darned cute.
As my memories of my own grandparents are bound up with little things like the Coca-Colas and Popsicles Nana Beem always had in the fridge and the jokes she kept in the buffet drawer, I make sure to supply our grandchildren with such emotional objective correlatives as packs of Chobani yogurt, shelves lined with storybooks they will listen to endlessly, and a basement playroom stocked with tubs of wooden blocks, Beanie Babies, Barbie dolls, Legos and Playmobile people.
The only thing I ask, as my grandfather asked of me, is that they not play on top of the pool table. Otherwise, the world is theirs. I’m just here to facilitate, spoil them, and then get out of the way.
Freelance journalist Edgar Allen Beem lives in Brunswick. The Universal Notebook is his personal, weekly look at the world around him