The Snowflake

Oh, sure — I can keep a secret. I can hammer my mouth shut for hours, days, weeks, or years, if necessary. I’m tough!

But, you know, some secrets are easier to keep than others.

“I’m pregnant!” our daughter announced at Christmas dinner.

She might as well have lit a pipe bomb. Forget dignity; her father and I went into a loud and deep emotional swoon.

A baby!


We’re going to be grandparents before we’re complete geriatric cases!

We can stop hinting about grandkids!

We can tell all our fr —

“Of course, you can’t tell anyone till my second trimester,” our daughter said. “We want to announce it first,” she added, nodding at her husband, Bennett. (If I ever saw a guy bursting with paternal enthusiasm, it’s Bennett. According to our daughter, he’s already itching to buy some kind of special microphone so he can read to the kid in utero.)


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But the second trimester! That was weeks and weeks away. I got woozy just thinking about the people I couldn’t tell — my sister, Betsy, Donna, my neighbors, my yoga class, my pilates class, my hairdresser Snodene, passers-by, my dentist, total strangers. I might as well give up my whole social world and become a mime.

I looked at my daughter and son-in-law, who seemed to be very firm about this whole early pregnancy omerta business. Oh, brother. For some reason, they also appeared to view me as being the leakiest vessel at the table. Like my husband and son didn’t go around spilling the beans on all kinds of things practically all the time.

Typical. Women always get the blame. I guess my daughter and Bennett had forgotten how heroically I’d kept the secret when Bennett was about to propose and I’d hardly told anyone for days.

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“So — what do you all want to be called?” our daughter asked us.

Our first decision as almost grandparents! My husband looked blank. He said he didn’t know. He’d have to think about it.

“What about you, Mom?” our daughter asked.

“I want to be Coco,” I said.

Well, for some reason, this set off a firestorm of amazement at the table. Coco? Really? Why Coco?

“You sound like you’ve been thinking about this a long time,” my husband said.

Of course I’ve been thinking about it a long time,” I snapped. “This is about my identity as a grandmother.”

It occurred to me they’d all expected me to pick out some appropriately dowdy, self-sacrificing moniker for this very important transition in my life. Well, forget that. For once in my life, I was going for the zip, the glamour, the glitz.

Prepare yourself, baby. You and Coco have a rendezvous in only a few months.


P.S. Thirty-three years ago, the sonograms of our daughter in utero looked like a Rorschach test for potential felons. My husband and I pretended we could recognize the head, but it looked indistinguishable from the bottom — white blurs against a black background.

These days, the tiniest fetus is ready for Instagram. Our grandchild’s first photo traveled thousands of miles to find us in Finnish Lapland. You could see the head perfectly, along with another long, straight body part that I thought was a leg, but my husband felt sure was a penis.

That stark white image against a black background — the first evidence my own dear child is having a child of her own — moved me in a way I could never really explain. I stared at it as I sat near a fire in a distant land of snow and ice and darkness. He or she looked like a perfect little snowflake, someone I would have recognized anywhere.

(Copyright 2015 by Ruth Pennebaker)


16 comments… add one
  • Oh Ruth. How lovely this is. I couldn’t keep the secret of my own pregnancies, I don’t know how I would do it for a grandchild. And Coco is simply perfect. One of my Facebook friends is called Gogo by her grandson which makes me smile. I totally see you as a Coco. I think youd husband should be Puff, so you can be Coco Puff together.

  • Hi, Coco. You really gave me a good laugh this morning, so thank you. Being a grandmother is just about the best thing that can happen to a woman. I am becoming an old hat at it, with my fourth grandchild just born last week during the blizzard. Consider yourself fortunate: I wasn’t given a choice by my son on moniker. He decided I would be “Grandma” to his kids, so when my daughter gave birth, I decided not to make things confusing for the grandkids and to remain “Grandma.”

  • Wow! What great news! I love Coco.

  • Coco is a great name for a grandmother. We ended up as Ga (me) and Bop (my husband) by default. That is what our oldest granddaughter called us. The names have stuck. Keeping a secret like that would have made me pop. Congratulations to all, and enjoy every moment.

  • Holly Rigby Link

    Oh these kids…I can warn oops, “share” that their “rules” will only get worse. The older the first time parents…the less fly by the seat of the pants they are. We became grandparents at 65 and our daughter was 38. When I despaired of having any grands…friends told me oh you’ll have them…you just won’t know who they are…ha ha ha…awful! Well, that unpredictable baby will throw a crimp in their carefully orchestrated plans…so sit back and enjoy the ride, Coco! Our now 2 year old granddaughter is hilarious…and giving her parents a run for their money.
    I always said We wanted to be called The colonel and Her Majesty, ha! ..morphed into Nana and Gramps…but Ava calls us Neenah and Gampths! and we are thrilled! Best time of your life! Congratulations!

  • Dewdaddy Link

    I love the idea of Coco Puff! Jamie MUST be Puff! My spouse wanted to be Nanna, but the oldest biological granddaughter, Collins Grace, started calling her Neena after several months of calling her Nanna. So Nanna accepted Neena and moved on. After more than a year of Neena, Collins’ mother (my daughter) was asking Collins about everyone’s given name. “What is Mommy’s name?” “Shelley.” “What is Daddy’s name?” “Trey.” “What is Neena’s name?” “Nanna.”

  • Congratulations! Truly a special time. Love Coco. Our neighbor chose Gigi as her “grandmother” name. Fits her perfectly as she not some stodgy old grandmother by any means.

  • Meg Link

    I am pleased that she announced “I am pregnant.” — “We are pregnant” grates on all my nerves!

  • Jenny Link

    Congratulations! Coco is perfect, and I like Coco and Puff or Puffs. Wish I’d thought of something more “me” than Gramma Jen.

  • bonehead Link

    Congratulations Coco! This is why I read your blog, thanks!

  • Sheryl Link

    I’m so thrilled for you, Ruth …er, I mean Coco. You’re gonna be a wonderful grandma!!

  • Robbie Link

    How exciting, and I love the idea of your being called Coco – it just fits! What I learned with my ten grandchildren is that the first grandchild names so stick with it.

  • Barbara Ruth Link

    Am I the only one who cried as well as laughed? I loved every bit of your reflection on this momentous event (which Robbie passed on to me), though I think Teal told Rachel who is thrilled for her. I picked “Bibi” to avoid dowdy, too, and in the hope Jack might learn to say my name first. Now the sound of that name is the absolute sweetest sound ever. So, so happy for ya’ll!

  • This is beautiful. I’ve only known your daughter for a few months but know she is special. I hope to know her for many years to come and after reading this I know where much of her awesome-ness comes from. Excited for your whole family, Coco.

  • Oh how exciting! I think Coco is a perfect name for you. And yay for your daughter letting you decide. So often grandparents are probably saddled with ridiculous names and have no idea where they came from.

  • merr Link

    Congrats to you!

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