"I'm going to Grandma's house. I'll be back in time for dinner," my 11-year-old daughter chimes as she rushes out the door. Grandma's house is right next door. It is a haven for Channy, the only girl in a houseful of boys.
At Grandma's house, Channy can pick which television shows to watch, a battle she never wins in our living room. She can pet the cat, persona non gratis, in our allergy-prone home. And she can eat snacks of gefilte fish and macaroons, delicacies her brothers snub.
But Grandma is not really Channy's grandmother. She is our neighbor, Mrs. Goren, who embraced our children as her own when we moved here 14 years ago. In fact, Channy has no living grandparents.
My heart aches for my children at this loss. I feel it keenly when no elderly relatives attend their concerts, recitals, ball games or awards ceremonies. I am touched by the exhuberant praise and pride I observe in my friends' parents at these special events. I remember the hole that having no grandparents made in my own life.
Growing up, I missed the family dinners and weekly gatherings so common in other homes. No grandmothers could relate stories of my parents as children. Nor could they take pride in my accomplishments or console me in my failures.
To fill the void I began a tradition my daughter is now repeating—adoption. I never met my pseudo-grandmother and grandfather. Unlike Channy who chose wisely, my imaginary grandfolks were singer, Pearl Bailey; French chanteur, Maurice Chevalier; and theatre legends, Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontaine.