This morning I am at the grocery store with my younger daughter (a lovely three-year-old, who for the sake of bloggish anonymity I'll call Peanut). The lady behind the deli counter gives Peanut a slice of cheese, and she says "THANK YOU" loudly, as I've taught her to do so that the deli person can hear her. Deli Lady says how adorable she is, and I say thank you very much, yes, she does a good job at the store. So far, so good. Then Deli Lady says, "she's your granddaughter?"
Well. *That's* never happened before.
(Those who haven't met me will have to take my word for it that 1) I don't have but one gray hair; 2) I'm a generally youthful 40 -- not an "oh my God, you can't be 40" 40, but youthful; 3) on this particular morning I looked neither much better nor much worse than usual.)
Back to the deli. "No," I say, "she's my daughter." (I say it in italics, just like that.) Now everyone's laughing and the deli person is saying I'm sorry, I'm sorry! and would I like anything else? "No, that's quite enough actually," say I, and Peanut and I make for the nearest aisle, where I am surprised to find myself in tears.
Why? Well, the obvious thing is I didn't think I looked old enough to be anyone's grandmother. I don't mind looking my age, but damnit, my age ain't grandmotherly yet, and being mistaken for one made me feel bad.
But I also had a primal and fierce reaction to being thought not to be Peanut's mother: She is MY Peanut. I carried her, I nourished her, I pushed her out, and she's MINE. I get to be proud of her in a way nobody else does. I know, we don't own our children, and all that. But something instinctive and powerful all but bowled me over, right there between the granola and the apple juice.
I have quickly backed off taking it personally. For all I know, everyone in Deli Lady's toothless family is a grandmother by the time they're 40. And I look how I look, for better or worse.
But, is she my granddaughter?! Good grief.