We have a new grandbaby in our family! Lucky number 7. Number 8, counting one great-grandson; but Anthony Jr has his own special category! Bixby comes 14 years after the last grandchild so he will be sort of a “stand alone” grandchild for our family. Much in the same way his mom was, being born 12 years after her youngest brother. Both of her brothers were gone from home by the time she was in first grade. She came to us at a different time in our lives.
When her brothers Larry and John were small, my siblings and I were very young ourselves, most of us still in our teens. The boys grew up in a rowdy rambunctious family, full of numerous cousins their age and grandparents and great-grandparents and aunts and uncles and great-aunts and great-uncles. Every holiday was a family gathering, overflowing with family and friends who congregated at our parents’ house. Makeshift tables were set up all over the house. One year my mom even took her bed down to set up a table in her bedroom.
Kids were everywhere. We are a large family. Someone always had a baby in their lap as they ate. Babies were passed around the table, giving the moms a chance to eat with both hands and to drink iced tea that did not have baby slobber in it! Older cousins took the younger ones under their wing, pushing them in cardboard boxes around and around the circle of the living room, dining room, and kitchen in my mom’s house. My dad headed outside after we ate, trailed by a crowd of grandkids, all making noise at the top of their lungs. My sisters and I stayed inside to clean up a restaurant-size kitchen mess, glad to have the time to ourselves without a little hand pulling on our shirt wanting something. Even if we had to do dishes to get that reprieve.
It was truly a village raising a kid, back before that became the overused phrase of the day.
But it is a changed family world that Bixby enters. On my daughter’s side of the family, things have changed a lot. My parents are gone, as are her great-grandparents. Sarah has only one grandmother now and she lives a couple of states away. Sarah lives in a different town than either of her brothers. Some of Bixby’s cousins are grown, and his oldest cousin Anthony has a young son of his own. Family dynamics have changed and it is hard to get the whole family together. Extra-curricular activities take up most of the free time of the school-age grandkids. Disagreements about politics and opinions seem to matter more than they did when my siblings and I were young parents. Or most likely we needed each other more and had so many problems we stayed away from those things. Our little cabin is several hours drive from most of the family and should everyone come to visit at the same time, we don’t all have a place to sleep and have to overflow into motel rooms. All these things conspire against having the big family gatherings we used to have.
But before I drift off into what Bixby won’t have, I want to say what he will have. He comes to us when our lives are more settled. His Pampaw is still working but his Mamaw (that’s me!) is retired. We have a place in the Hill Country that we refer to as “the ranch” even though by West Texas standards, that is laughable. But, hey, by Hollywood standards, it is a ranch, being the same size as Tom Selleck’s “ranch”. My son-in-law has already promised me that we can have Bix to ourselves for a week every summer. And I intend to make a ranch hand of him. He may not want to be; he may grow up to be a city boy at heart and love concrete and loud noises, but I have hopes for him!
I look into his sweet little face and I wonder if he will like the ranch. Will he want to know how to be an organic farmer like his Pampaw? Will he get up every morning anxious to go feed Gus and Woodrow? Will he learn to watch the sky for rain and to wait for that first north wind each fall? Will he like going to the feed store and will he want to know what type feed and hay to buy? Will he watch the whitetail fawns appear each summer and understand that the bucks lose their antlers each year and they grow back covered with velvet? Will he love the wild Rio Grande turkeys that are my favorites? Will he like helping me with stone and carpenter projects? Will he learn the difference between a mesquite and a live oak and a cedar elm? Will he know that the mesquites in the hills often grow along a ridge of caliche and if you need caliche for your driveway, this is the place to look for it? Will he want Pampaw to teach him to hunt and how to process a deer he has harvested? Will he understand his part in providing for the wildlife with water and supplemental feed? Will he learn the different footprints they all make and will he be able to tell what animal was here by looking at their poop? Will he learn to talk to the ravens and that the buzzards will come to the yard when you throw bacon grease out? Will he understand that you have to manage the land and do your part to preserve it? Will he see the need for rainwater harvesting? Will he understand that we don’t own the land, it owns us?
Will he love to breathe in the smell of caliche and cedar? And will he come to need this smell like he needs food and water, just to stay alive? Just like his Mamaw does.
Some earlier ranch hands: grandson Zac ready to go hunting and grandson Jeremy helps burn brush.