When AJ and I decided to move to Phoenix, we were in our early 20s. We had been dating for three months, I was graduating from the University of Iowa and I wanted to move to Los Angeles for no real reason other than that I wanted to escape the Iowa winters. He said “how about Phoenix?” one night after we had both worked a shift at the restaurant where we met. I agreed. And then ordered another Newcastle. Clearly the future children we were going to have didn’t play a factor in that decision because we WERE children. I’m completely glossing over the fact that we had only been dating for three months. It made sense at the time. It makes more sense now. Oh, what our poor parents must have thought. (PS – it worked out.)
When we got pregnant with our first child, it finally hit us that we were so far away from family. Both AJ and I grew up in the same community as our grandparents, so we had some guilt about not giving our children the same upbringing we had. We considered moving back to the Midwest, but realized that we’d built a good life for ourselves down here. We both love our careers and knew that we’d be hard-pressed to find the same opportunities back home in our chosen fields. We had a support system and network of friends in Phoenix. That, and my parents bought a condo in Scottsdale the week after Avery was born, so that kind of sealed the deal that we’d just stay.
The month Avery was born I started sharing photos on Snapfish. When we got pregnant with Nolan, we also started sharing videos on Dropshots. Our family has been with us, virtually, for every moment. They’ve seen everything from when Avery and Nolan met for the first time, first steps, birthdays and Christmas mornings. We don’t get back to Iowa vey frequently – maybe once a year, but our diligence in sharing our lives has kept everyone connected. No one appreciated this more than my grandmother.
Tomorrow is the last day of September so I’ll be sending out the next album – I send them out every three months. And it’s the first one she won’t see. This weighs on me.
When we went back to Iowa this summer to celebrate her life, many of her friends told me that grandma was always showing off her latest batch of photos. I heard stories of how she would immediately print out the entire Snapfish album and lay all the pictures on the kitchen table, inspecting each one with the utmost concentration. She’d regale that Avery’s thumbs looked just like her thumbs (I never saw it – but I loved that she did), or how certain looks Avery would give the camera provided glimpses as to what she would look like as a teenager. My grandmother was a bright light. Life was a stage and she was the star. She loved performing and singing in church and even had a scholarship to attend Julliard but turned it down because she was starting her own family. Grandma looked at Avery as if she was the little sparkplug that she’d been waiting for all these years. I’ve always been close with my grandmother, but the fact that she was so enamored with my daughter bonded us in a way that was extremely special. She saw herself in Avery and I loved that.
One of the last times grandma and I spoke was after she saw a video of Avery singing Happy Birthday to my sister. She called to tell Avery how amazing it was and how proud she was of her. It was just Happy Birthday, but it may as well have been the Star Spangled Banner at the Super Bowl.
I’m proud of how we’ve been able to share our children with our family even though we’ve chosen to live in another part of the country. It takes effort to compile these albums, but the reward is so worth the work.
As Avery says, “Gma is in the clouds playing with baby Jesus,” (I know, right? She knows how to knock them out of the park) but I’ll be thinking about her tomorrow as we share this most recent chapter of our life with our family and friends.