I didn't expect to love my grandchildren.
I guess that's a shocking admission for a woman, but it's the simple truth. My experience with small children, not having had any of my own, was limited and, frankly, not very positive. Before they can talk and tell you what they need, little kids are downright frightening. And once they are verbal, they are exhausting. Not to mention germ-carrying, loud and frequently obnoxious. In fact, if they weren't so cute, no one in their right minds would put up with them for a minute! Oh, there are exceptions, even for me - my Fairy Godchildren, and nieces, nephews, a selected few others - but, all in all, I can take or leave small children.
And babies - don't even get me started.
My Beloved was married once before, to a lovely woman who gave him two beautiful daughters. When I came into their lives, thankfully, they were both teenagers. They were remarkably accepting of my foibles and we have grown fond of one another over the years. When the elder daughter decided to procreate, however, I have to admit that my thoughts were not very gracious, "Oh, jeez!" I thought, "I suppose I'll be expected to make a fuss over the baby." Whiny, wasn't I, and not very nice?
I even resented being asked what name I would like the child to call me, stalling for months while the baby grew inside her mother and saying I hadn't thought much about it when asked. Grandma? Ugh. Granny? Worse! Lucky for me, the baby's father came up with the perfect name - Pamma - my own name but subtly suggesting my new role.
Little did I know that that child would wrap up my heart in a big, red bow. I can't say how that happened - I was half afraid of her when she was an infant (babies are scary) and wary of her as she grew, but one day I just looked at her with love and have never looked back. I guess it doesn't hurt that she is absolutely adorable, smart as a whip, and has a great sense of humor. And that she runs to greet me with a big hug and a moist kiss whenever she sees me - no prompting from her mother is needed.
She also likes to eat - my favorite example is the time when we were all eating in an Asian fusion restaurant and she turned to me, aged three, and said, with her best ladylike restaurant manners, "Pamma, may I please have some more tea-smoked duck?" How many three year olds do you know who have ever agreed to taste tea-smoked duck, much less relished it?
She is five, now. She was here over Thanksgiving and we spent some time at her aunt's house. She was a little restless even after our long walk around the block, so My Beloved gave her a little bowl and asked her to pick up all the windfallen lemons under the tree in the back garden. She hurried away, thrilled to have a mission. She brought me all those lemons as a spontaneous gift, with a hug that brought tears to my eyes. Yeah, I'm a sucker for her, no question about it.
So, yesterday, when I decided to bake an apple croustade, I wanted to use one of her lemons. They are really more like limons, half lemon and half lime. I had five Fuji apples and, because they are so sweet, I added some lemon juice and a lemon's worth of zest to jazz them up a little. I added nutmeg and cinnamon, pretty standard stuff, and chunked the apples rather than sliced so they'd retain more texture. I have a big jar of maple sugar, so I used that in place of white sugar, just enough so the result was only mildly sweet but intriguingly maple-y and lemony, too.
The crust was my favorite - Star Dough - that had thawed in the fridge overnight. If you haven't tried Star Dough, you are missing a treat. It's flaky and perfect every time with zero effort. Folded up the sides, pinched any holes closed, sprinkled a little coarse sugar on the top side of the dough, and dotted the filling with butter. The whole thing took less time to make than my oven took to preheat to 425. About 40 minutes later, we had pie.
I wish my granddaughter had been here to help us eat it - I have an idea she'd have loved that - but perhaps I will make one with her next time she visits. She'd get a big kick out of the preparation and the baking and, most of all, showing off the results.
And now there is a gorgeous little boy, too. And that's not just a fond grandmother talking - he really is. Really!