Conversation overheard two days before Thanksgiving:
First woman [who lives in Florida and has come north to see grownkids/grandkids}. "I flew into New York City to see Jacob [grandson] in a recital but the rest of the time I just ran errands for everyone--picking stuff up here, taking someone there. Now I'm here [Washington, D.C.] to see my son and his family and all I'm doing is running errands."
Second woman [who lives in Washington as do her grown children and Grands]: "I know what you mean. If my kids asked me to run out into the street and stop traffic, I'd do it."
Neither one's tone suggested they were complaining. To the contrary, there was a little bit of preening, an edge of braggadocio.
Truth be told, I wasn't an idle eavesdropper to this conversation. These were two acquaintances chatting away--as I pulled on my coat and gathered my belongings. I was on my way to the airport, to catch a plane to join my grown son and his family for the holiday. Paterfamilias and I were heading there, as usual, two days before the family festivities. The theory: not only would we miss the worst of congested Thanksgiving travel, but all the work of preparing the turkey feast wouldn't fall on my daughter-in-laws shoulders. We would be there in time to help with, yes, errands.
What is it about errands for our grown kids and their family: Are we hoping to make life easier or more pleasant for them--save them a few steps here and there. Are we proving our value. Or just giving ourselves a pat on the back for being so supportive and wonderful.
And why do we chit-chatter on about the errand running. Do we do it to tell each other how useful we are to our children, to make ourselves feel needed, to let our friends and acquaintances know how busy and successful our children are--and how we are helping make that possible.
Or are we just talking about doing something our parents did for us: Seeing a need and filling it. A family tradition--for the holidays and beyond.