Commentary: Meaningful relationships with grandparents are formed through traditions

“The gal’s loaded,” my gramma said as I laid down ace after ace with suppressed glee.

She was staying at our house for Christmas, and I was little enough that I could not hold my cards in my hand and arrange them at the same time. I would turn around, lay them all down on the floor, sort them and pick them up again.

“Play on, McDuff,” she said to my little brother.

He dealt a card to start the round of Pinochle, a card game similar to Bridge.

Playing Pinochle was just one of the many traditions my siblings and I lived out with our grandmother each year when she made the 10-hour drive from Connecticut to visit us during the week of Christmas. Through those experiences, I learned that creating Christmas traditions with grandparents is an opportunity for grandchildren to form meaningful relationships with them.

In this day and age, the gap between grandparents and grandchildren can loom larger than ever. As technology turns society over at a frantic pace, generational differences become more acute. Today’s children speak in memes and hashtags; Grandma does not know how to use a computer mouse. (More than you could imagine is involved in teaching online Spider Solitaire to the elderly.)

Establishing points of contact, then, becomes increasingly difficult, but increasingly important if they are to form any kind of relationship at all. When grandparents directly relate to their grandchildren, it sends the message that the kids are seen, understood and considered valuable.

Together, my gramma and my mom cultivated many of these points of contact through gifts, games and food.

Each visit we would drive down to a little corner store that sold intricate glass and glitter Christmas ornaments. My siblings and I would wander around the store for as long as it took to select an ornament that caught our fancy, and my gramma would buy it for us to put on our tree.

In addition to Pinochle, she would play Trouble with us. I remember her thumb bending as she pressed down the popper that would roll the dice in the center of the board.

As a recurring family holiday that lends itself to tradition, Christmas is the perfect time to make and carry out traditions like these.

Today, I remember my gramma’s Christmas with warmth because she spoke my childish language, earning the status of “favorite gramma.”

And to this day, whenever I see aces in my Pinochle hand, I feel the leftover thrill of shocking my gramma into saying that familiar phrase, “The gal’s loaded.”

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