I wasn’t aware of it as a child. I thought that reading about princesses and then becoming one – complete with a lacy pink gown, hat, gloves, and shoes from mother’s secret closet – was an activity available to all children, everywhere. Or that all children had a sandbox where Dr. Seuss’s zany animals took on a life of their own.
When I grew up and became a mother myself, I realized the precious gift my mother had given me – and was bestowing upon her grandchildren.
You see, my children’s upbringing wasn’t typical. My husband and I are missionaries. When our children were very young, we began doing usual missionary things, such as travelling, schooling, visiting churches, raising financial support, more travelling. Not the easiest life for a child. However, there was always a place of familiarity they could depend on, a place not only filled with adventure but love as well. That place was my mother’s magical kingdom.
On many occasions, after endless driving, our children would strain out the window with anticipation as we turned off the highway into the little town of Borden, Saskatchewan. There, on the edge of town, was my parents’ large house waiting like a long-lost friend.
Our three would bound out of the car, too excited to know what to do first after the initial hugs: wrestle the dog in the soft grass, chomp a carrot from the garden, push the swing to its limit, eat a freshly made cinnamon bun, or jump on grandma’s lap for a story. She gave my children the freedom to be kids, as she lavished them with their favourite foods, activities, and books. It was her gift and it was beautiful.
In all our years of coming and going, only once did my mother voice her sadness at perhaps years of separation from her grandchildren because of our work overseas. Only once. And then she gave her full support, believing in us and what God had called us to do. In all our years of coming and going, I didn’t realize her sacrifice or feel her pain.
That is, until two years ago, when I had a granddaughter of my own.
There is no explanation for the attachment between grandmother and grandchild. All I know is the miles that separate me from my granddaughter make me sad – my heart is missing a piece.
So now I understand the pain my mother felt when I took her grandchildren away; yet, there was no bitterness. My mother’s love didn’t change. She welcomed my children to her magical kingdom each and every time they returned. Each time she made them feel like two princesses and a prince. Each time she gave love without reservation.
Thank you, Mom, for your giving heart passed down from generation to generation. And thank you for building and giving us your magical kingdom.
Connie Inglis grew up in the Borden (Sask.) MB Church and is the daughter of Reuben and Elizabeth Derksen. She and her husband Doug have served with Wycliffe Bible Translators in Southeast Asia for 20 years.