World Citizen / Global Granny

Having a great time at the Block Island Peace Project, and doing online research, I discover that my self appointed name of world citizen is in fact already something that is possible. I am going to get myself a World Passport – from the World Service Authority which is validated by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and is reported to have sometimes worked for exit and entry to various countries. Click here to read the rationale: You too can be a World Citizen- in fact, you are one already, you just have not got your passport yet.

Although I believe the UDHR is one of the best documents ever produced [better even than the US constitution and that one is pretty good too] I am of course not convinced that  the World Passport will be a very useful acquisition, even though Einstein apparently said it was a great idea. And even though these great documents are regrettably too often ignored rather than heeded. Getting the passport seems to be mainly rich celebrities feeling progressive, and thus supporting the over 10 million stateless people in the world today. UNCHR says the number of displaced people and refugees has never been greater. It is in fact shocking, so the use of the World Passport is really that if I get one, it enables someone stateless to get at least something that says who they are. [I hope. It is worth it for that alone, as not being very rich, I have to work out what charities to support with my tiny donations.]

One thing leads to another and I remembered that in 2009 – that was 9 years ago – I wrote a poem about being a global granny. 2009 was the one and only time my grandchildren happened to be in the same place – it was their grandfather’s 70th birthday celebration. So, here is the poem, and the photo of Rory, Fiona, Ali, Louis and Ruby, the Crawford cousins – together. The chinese branch have since commuted between China and New Zealand, as readers of this blog know. This year they have finally left China and are settled in Palmerston North… I think…

21st Century Global Grandmother

Once upon a time
one could arrange
a marriage
for good or ill.
Make some choice
of future in-law family.
At least
introduce some girls
known to one
to one’s sons.
No more.

Hoist by one’s own encouragement
of independence,
celebration of diversity,
to live life to the full.
Sons make their own choices
and thereby
it seems
expectations and reality diverge

Twenty-first century grannyhood
is strange.
Third son has not given me the title.
I wait to hear if he ever will.
Second, age fifteen, went to America.
Not then, but there,
he found his independent glorious girl
and founded his dynasty.
Disney focussed
ferociously vocal
upfront, in your face,
all three american:
My beautiful granddaughters
Teach me assertiveness.

My first born travelled east,
teaching English as a foreign language.
Fell in love with China
and all things chinese
including Xin Yan,
bright swallow bird
offering her admiration
engaging his happiness,
and less predictably,
producing non-identical twins
my grandsons.

The unintentional consequence
being, unlike in America,
my vocal capacity
for in-law communication
faster than lettuce in a hotpot.
Defeated under an onslaught of difficulties
learning chinese
later in life.

Xin yan and my son
both speak good chinglish
and my chinese is better
than the other grandparents’
non-existent english
but nevertheless my voice
is a trigger for laughter
undermining already shaky
diction and well-meant advice.
And sometimes, regrettably,
a trigger for tears
as I mind what happens too much.

I also suspect
non-verbal communication
in defence of a daughter
who should now belong
to her husband’s family,
but being western, that family
Me, myself, alone in China,
neglected to claim
the expected authority.
Which is confusing.
Though unexpectedly
I am the most important
granny, the Father’s mother.
My helpful co-granny
is only mother’s mother
A lesser role.
This reversal of american experience
upset learned grannyhood.

In america mother’s mother
is offered a natural due.
Father’s mother respected
though vote of confidence.
has to be earned.
Helpfully, I remembered my mother
our occasional clashes,
and how much I came to love
the thoughtful regard of my own mother-in-law
the other granny to my
crash course mothering.
The rule is let them learn somehow
without much bothering.
Except that twins defy the rules
while everyone learns.

To have both sons and twins
wins the lottery of parenthood
in China.
Present and future fortune,
Immediate elevation of all grandparents
to very superior status.
Mixed parentage apparently doubles the luck
Strangers point to my pushchair.
I learn to understand chinese,
unwhispered awestruck voices,
nainai hun xue shuang bao tai
“that’s her, the western granny,
grandmother of the mixed blood twins”.

Some dilemmas of grandparenthood
are shared in either place
though stretched even more by the
chinese branch
deciding to move to New Zealand
which is even further away.
How long to stay,
how much to help,
Let them find their own way.
Balance with one’s own life
Feel the distance daily.

I am a travelling granny.
Always separated from someone,
family or friend.
I decide on separations
made regularly and often
in child sized remembrance.
The bewilderment of language
and culture shocks
both sides of the world
are transcended by excited welcome.
Armswinging hugs from
already bilingual boys
who know which granny they are talking to
and girls old enough to email
when I am not there
and come to my place for sleepovers
when I am.

Twenty first century
global grandparenting
brings newness every day.
Experience beyond imagining
joins age, grey aches and pains,
joy, gratitude, good fortune.
As long as I can, I will be:
A global grandmother.



They have all grown up, the girls more likely to be playing soccer instead of Disney. I found some more recent photos. Wish they might be together again one day. Until then, I travel, the families have work and school, too many commitments.


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