The first colour, and the only one so far that my toddler identifies, is blue. Except, she calls it 'boo', with a stress on 'b'. Boo is the colour of her bath tub, a Lego block, and of her first birthday dress. Colours play an important role in the initial learning milestones of children, and some of these might stick around as snapshots of memories. If memories were meant to be colour-coded, these would be my ‘primary colour’ memories, I realise.
Red: The colour of the bathroom wall, once upon a time, in my ancestral house. The image of a three-year-old me standing atop a faded red-coloured slab in a red-walled bathroom, joyfully bathing with my half-clad grandmother, occasionally wondering why my body looked much different from hers, is one of my strongest memories ever.
'Boo': The colour of a mini cycle seat perched on the crossbar of my grandpa’s regal Raleigh cycle. This was my vantage point to view the world, as he took me on cycling trips around the village, to the market, and to the lavender-shaded lily pond where we would halt and he would wade through the pond to get me lilies. Grandpa is no more, but the pond still has lilies, and the cycle (sans the mini seat) lives on as my father’s priced possession in a bedroom in our new home.
Green: The colour of the ice candy, or rather melted ice candy on a plate, that grandma would save up for me when I was back from my afternoon siesta.
As we grow up, memories take on myriad shades and hues. But what tags along with us are the primary ones, and interestingly mine are all tied to my childhood, and grandparents. I grew up with my paternal grandparents till I was five, after which I went abroad with my parents. The connect, however, was never broken. Calls, handwritten letters, and long summer vacations, kept the bond alive. My childhood is punctuated by many more such colourful memories, like vibrant postcard images.
While flipping through old photographs last month, a fleeting thought occurred to me. What would be my daughter’s best memories with her grandparents? Will they have a place in her ‘primary colour’ memories, like me? Were we giving her that space for such fond memories to be created?
Like most nuclear families today, we stay away from both sets of parents, and my daughter is not used to having grandparents around—a loss. The thought hit me, and it hit me harder when I realised grandparents won’t be around forever. With parents having crazy working schedules and targets to meet, children could miss out on the intimate care and pampering—something grandparents can give in plenty. They are also windows to a bygone era—interesting stories of family history, gossip bits, and even secrets of our legendary goof-ups before we became 'perfect' parents. Grannies and grandpas, retirees from the scene of active parenting, come with a different perspective of the world. It’s true, old age is second childhood, and having children along only adds to the fun for both of them.
In the age of WhatsApp and video calls, catching up is never really a task. You might just need to train your parents to use a smartphone! But nothing matches spending time together and making memories. My daughter would never feel the warmth of her grandpa’s magnanimous hug, taste her grandma’s cutlets, or enjoy undivided attention of her 90-year-old great grandmother, if we always relied on technology to catch up. Taking a few days off from our busy schedules to spend time with parents and allowing children to be grandchildren is one of the best gifts we can give them. Call, visit, say cheese, create albums.
After my grandmother's death a few years ago, a 22-year-old me found letters and handmade greetings cards from me, safely tucked away in a corner in her wooden trunk. When a friend recently told me how she still treasures letters from her grandfather, including the last one he wrote to her before his death, it tugged at my heartstrings. Handwritten letters are a true signature of love because someone sat down to pen it for you, and has let thoughts flow. While a message or a call would suffice, my daughter should enjoy the pleasure of sitting down to write a letter, waiting for a reply and receiving it. This would be my go-to technique to help her strike an interesting bond with her grandparents, and create memories.
It is a parent’s responsibility to help our children create memories, until they move away to make their own. Had it not been for my parents who stressed on the importance of grandparents in my life, my childhood memories would have had just the monochrome shades of the apartment in which I sat alone when my parents went off to work. Thank god for grandparents. Let us not deny our children the pleasures of being a grandchild.