Antique Childhood

Call Me Cupcake

I think every child needs someone in their life who thinks they are the cat’s pajamas — someone who, unlike their parents, is not obligated to love them.

I think God made grandparents for just this reason. I grew up in an Italian neighborhood where Nana or Papa lived nearby and were always around to dote effusively on their grandkids. This became my ideal of what grandparents should be like.

My own grandma, my only living grandparent, lived less than a mile away, yet we seldom saw her. When we did, her eyes did not sparkle and her face did not light up in the way the Italian grandma’s did for their grandchildren. There were no hugs or even feigned interest on her part. It was clear to me from an early age, that she saw me as a nuisance, a gnat, a bother. I spent the majority of my growing up years trying to win her friendship and wondering what it was about me that she found so un-loveable.

As an adult, I’ve come to realize that it was her own inability to love and not mine to be loved. I think I know why she was the way she was, but it didn’t change things for me. She lived independently into her mid-90s neither giving nor finding joy in her children or grandchildren. And that is life’s ultimate tragedy – to live so long with so little joy.

Nonetheless, God did not leave me wanting.

There are plenty of things about which to criticize the Catholics, but Godparents is not one of them. It’s one of the best ideas they’ve come up with which kind of makes up for Lent. The couple that my parents chose as my Godparents lived right across the street. It is my belief that that decision was providential, mapped out in the heavens before I was even born.

With no children of their own, John and Rose lavished the full force of unrequited parenthood upon me and I gladly and gratefully soaked it up. They took me on camping and fishing trips, to Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve, they bought me the Chrissy doll I wanted so badly for Christmas that my own parents couldn’t afford, they taught me how to set a table, how to scramble eggs, how to pick out oranges at the store and so much more. I had my own room in their house and I stayed there often. They couldn’t have loved me more if I were their own. They called me Cupcake.

I remember many times getting out of my bed at their house early in the morning and creeping past their room on my way to the kitchen and seeing my Godmother down on her knees, with her rosary, praying beside her bed. I didn’t know at the time how many of those prayers were for me. Once when I visited her in the nursing home, she told me how she prayed for me when I was little and I flashed upon her kneeling beside her bed. She told me that when I was very small and very sick, that she and John were so worried that they would lose me and her eyes filled with tears, even after all these years. And it was then, at that moment, that I finally understood something of how deeply I was loved by this woman.

Rose and John are both gone, many years now, but they left me with a treasure trove of memories and stories to see me through my life. The imprimatur of their love for me is forever upon my heart – a love bound not by genetics but by something that has no description. They never let me forget that they thought I was the cat’s pajamas. They loved me and they didn’t have to. And in the shaping of my life, it has made all the difference.

32 thoughts on “Call Me Cupcake

  1. That was so beautiful. And, it is so true that often we have no idea how much someone loves us. How sweet that many of those prayers were for you. Precious lady. I pray my children have someone in their lives like that. . .

  2. So beautifully told, I can almost see them now (in Heaven ) following your life, being so proud of you and your charming son! Oh how they must love him! It is a wonderful reminder to us all how the people we invite into our lives effect our children. Oh and I love that they called you cupcake….

  3. To echo everyone else, a beautiful story. I remember once in my adolescence finding it possible to believe in the love of God because of how dearly a woman in church loved me. If she could love me no matter what, then God could, too.

  4. Very beautiful. (And you’re going to make me get out a dictionary! I gather that “imprimatur” means something along the lines of “imprint”, but now I just have to know the full definition…)

  5. Wow… whatever was happening in your life to make you think about them and decide to post about them, I’m glad for it. That was beautiful and wonderful.

  6. This was great…we have neighbors who we consider family that have no children who think my kids are the cats pajamas…..Madison just walks into their home she has her own chair at the table…no bedroom….but she has her own snacks and sodas….they have treated as family since whe was 18 months old….and she is forever greatful for them…..she would tell everyone this.
    Great post…

  7. Speaking as a proud Godparent (who goes to a baptist church). I could not agree with you more, I wish the Baptists did Godparents. But I glad accept my role to my neice and nephew =))

  8. Okay, this kinda makes me want to be Catholic, at least in the godparent application. Even at 35, I would love to have someone who cared for me that way. Like you, I missed out on the loving grandparent boat, and I always wished that I had that kind of affection.

    I feel so blessed that I have a couple of people in my children’s lives who love them like that AND a set of grandparents who love them as if they were the cat’s meow… I mean pajama.

    Thanks for sharing this beautiful memory with us, AM. It is inspiring and challenging, making me want to love my kids, as well as other children, so that they know that they are loved and valued so much more than the world lets on.

  9. That is so sweet! I wish I’d had grandparents like that. I’m glad my children have doting grandparents, I just wish they lived closer.

  10. What a wonderful post. You are right, having someone love you that much when they don’t have to is such an influence on your life. I wish more children had that oppportunity.

  11. That is very sweet that Rose and John loved you so dearly.

    My own grandmother was the same way with me! She lived about an hour away and when I was 15, decided no more grandkids to any of the holiday celebrations. So on Christmas Eve, every year after that, my parents would leave me at home and go off to her house. I am an only child too, which made it worse. My mom, who likes just about everyone, still can’t stand her mother-in-law.

    What a shame.

  12. Awww, that made me get all teary! I was blessed with one set of Grandparents who just really got it! They have always taken care of me and done so much for us.
    Thank you for sharing that story with us!!

  13. I’ve always been intrigued with the idea of God-parents. The childless couple I grew up across the street from had two God children around my age and I always marveled at the special relationship they had. You were very blessed to have Roseand John in your life.

  14. This a wonderful post, but what jumped out to me most was the mention of the Chrissy doll. I’ll never forget the Christmas my cousin and I got matching Chrissy dolls. My mother made several lovely matching outfits for the two dolls. We must be close to the same age! I think my sister got Chrissy’s little sister Velvet that same year.

  15. I had that kind of Godmother myself (plus an aunt & uncle who thought I walked on water). My memories of them–and my childhood–are treasures to me.

    Unfortunately my children have grandparents much like your grandmother. They live 5 miles from us, and we see them on holidays. Sometimes not even then.

    How I wish my own parents were still alive to give them the memories to look back on that they so deserve.

  16. “How great is the love the Father has lavished upon us that we should be called children of his. . .”

    He doesn’t HAVE to love us. But He does.

    And His love was made manifest not only through his Son, but through the love of Rose and John for a child not biologically bound to them–a child that has gone into the world to share their love with all of us. Thank you for your story.

  17. This is so moving. I am an Italian grandmother who dearly loves her grandchildren. It is so sad that your grandmother missed out on so much pure joy. I think it goes to show that it isn’t really important that we be related by blood. It is the way our hearts connect that really matters. Our daughter is adopted – and she is the joy of my heart.
    Thank you for such a beautiful post.

  18. That is so amazing!
    I had much the same “relationship” with the only grandparent that I ever knew growing up and it was only as an adult that I began to realize the circumstances of her life that had turned her into such a hardened…..mean woman. It is very sad.
    God also provided others along the way as He did for you in your Godparents.
    He is so amazing!

  19. It’s so sad that your grandmother couldn’t find joy like you said, but so happy that you had John and Rose. What awesome people. You are absolutely right when you say Godparents are a great idea. It’s heartwarming to know that there are people in this world like your Godparents and that your parents recognized this.

  20. Wow…my kids live so far from their grandparents…I wish they had people like John and Rose in their lives. That was beautiful. Thanks for sharing it.

  21. Oh! This piece was extraordinary to read, this splendid and perfect description of the sort of love good adults should have for children. I sighed deep and long when I finished, put my hand to my heart and bent forward, closing my eyes. Yes, this is how it should be.

    Thank you for moving me so deeply. Thank you for making me feel this way.

  22. This post was so beautiful. I grew up in a similar situation… my only grandparent nearby was a grandmother who couldn’t really love me. I wish I had been lucky enough to have Godparents like you did. Thankfully, I had parents who loved me. My daughters love my parents the way your son loves your parents, and it is so beautiful to be a part of that. So lucky.

  23. I know this is an old post for you, but it is inspiring for those of us who are godparents. Some children come into our lives and God just compels you to take extra care of them– you become a godparent as a calling. That’s what has happened to me. I am going to take special care to give these kids special memories like you had. Thank you.

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