a special feature from S.Barry*, parent extraordinaire

I can remember Friday evenings in my house just as clear as day; it was the end of the school week, which usually meant a sweet visit from my grandmother. ‘Nana’ as I would call her, would come up from the Bronx to stay for the weekend. My afterschool football, baseball, or game of the season would be over and most of my friends would go home, eat vegetables that did not come out of a can (that’s another story), and sit around the dinner table doing whatever it was that other families did. But, I was lurking out my bedroom window, waiting for my dad’s blue station wagon to pull up after his detour from work to bring my mother’s mother or Nana to our home in suburban New York. After all, it was Friday.

As the station wagon rolled in and parked in front of the house, I salivated, making a mad dash out of my bedroom, down the hall, and stood at the top of the stairs in order to get a clear view of the front door. Before the door was halfway open, I could be heard throughout Northern New Rochelle excitedly exclaiming,  “Nana, WHAT DID YOU BRING ME?”

I loved my Nana, not just for reading Robert Louis Stevenson and Edgar Allan Poe to me at bedtime. No, I loved her visits much more deeply for the one thing she brought that would mess me up for the rest of my life – Sweets! Each week it was something else: a bag of hard candy, the cookies with the black and white frosting on top, or best of all, the candy buttons.

For most of my early years I associated the arrival of my grandmother with a sweet treat or to put it in adolescent terms, “love”. This worked for a few years until my parents finally put a halt on the candy. Mind you, this action took way too long because I looked like a defensive lineman for a professional football team.

According to “the sources”, the desired weight for a seven-year-old member of “generation stout” should be around 50 pounds. Add an extra ten to that because I was very tall for my age. You can understand my shame and pain when I was at summer camp and came in at an astounding 101 pounds. The other kids did make fun of me, but due to my size and strength, I could usually stop it by picking out some skinny kid and sitting on him until he cried “Twinkie!”

So fast forward, now as an adult, I am not a nutritionist. I am short, muscular and carry around a few more pounds than I should most of the time, but nothing compared to the weight my grandmother imprinted on my growing ‘sugar-coated’ youth. I have spent my entire life fighting the large fat cells implanted through my grandmother’s love. I have had to learn a new lifestyle, contrary to what my body was ingrained to accept as normal.

My parents played a part in this as well, but those stories are for another time. What I am suggesting to you newer grandparents out there is pay attention to how you become “special” in your grandchild’s eyes. Maybe that candy or cookie can be a treat — but not all the time, and not every single Friday.

*S. Barry, a writer/producer, lives with his wife in Charleston and enjoys a ‘blended family’ from both sides. As a footnote, Barry is still enjoying a special treat once in a while, and doesn’t get picked on anymore!