By Michele Thomas

When I was a little girl, my grandmother, who had begun her struggle with Alzheimer's, came to stay with us frequently. She would ask me to take a walk with her and we'd go to the Catholic Church nearby. Nona would light a votive candle in memory of my grandfather, her husband of forty years. On our way home, she'd reach in her worn black leather purse and hand me a gift wrapped in tissue paper. Usually it was a hankie or a fifty-cent piece. Her gifts were like treasures and I loved them all, even the dozens of hankies.

When I went to my grandmother's house she'd be busy in her kitchen or on the rooftop of her garage where the clothesline was, hanging her laundry out to dry. Sometimes she'd be in her garden picking spinach or parsley. She'd never quit her chores to visit, but would show me how to do whatever it was she was doing as though I would someday need to bake my own bread, wash my own clothes, or grow vegetables and herbs.

This holiday season I realized something I had not really thought about before, that I am living between the time of having children and having grandchildren. I don't know if there's a name for this time, but it is certainly a hiatus, and there's no telling how long it will last.

My sons are grown men now. How do I know? They don't bring home laundry when they come to visit. And they never come alone. My married son brings his wife and my twins each have a special woman in their lives. Our family has doubled in size in the last couple of years and the nest that is usually empty sometimes overflows.

My holiday dcor this year is adult contemporary. I have garlands made of glass and delicate snowflake ornaments. On my tables are candles and potpourri. Not a single train set, Lego pirate ship or video game is in sight. I lived in fear of children choking on tiny pieces of plastic or tripping over Transformers for a long time. Now I can put out the most fragile or potentially-dangerous-to-a-child decorations without a second thought.

Last year I gave my sons their childhood ornaments and this year their trees are home to Dan Marino action figures, miniature Falcons helmets and a gaggle of Oregon Ducks. I passed on to them the trinkets they unpacked in anticipation and put on our tree year after year, and then I bought new ones for myself.

Odds are grandchildren, and the changes that will come with them, are not far off. I know what to expect by observing my friends. Their guest rooms now include a crib, their SUVs sport child seats, and in the corner of the dining room is a high chair.

I will be honored to be a child's grandmother. I will take them on walks. I will read to them and we'll dig in the garden. I'll teach them to bake and I'll share stories about their daddy and their uncles and about my father and mother and my grandmother. I will hold them, love them, protect them and childproof my house.

But for now, I'm enjoying my glass ornaments and burning candles. Time will change everything. It always does. Time has a way of turning little girls into mothers and mothers into grandmothers in the blink of an eye.

As yet another year comes to a close, my wish to you and your family is that the memories you make together bring you a lifetime of joy.

Reach Michele Thomas, The Daily Triplicate's publisher, at, 464-2141, or stop by 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays.