We diaper and burp them, cuddle and cherish them. As they grow, we marvel at their nursery school paintings and pretend we don’t recognize them beneath their Darth Vader or Cinderella costume. That’s being a grandparent. 

This generational interlude also relieves me of the 24/7 angst their parents suffer about grades, manners and teenage sass. I don’t have to worry about my Grands — I just enjoy.

Last Saturday I discovered another role: Grandma Groupie. Ten-year-old Maddie was playing in an afternoon basketball tournament in Danvers, Massachusetts. That same night, high school freshman Max would be tooting his sax in the New England Scholastic Band Association competition being held in Billerica, Massachusetts. Double kill!


The drive to the Danvers Indoor Sports Arena took an hour. The noisy massive vestibule was crowded with kids dribbling basketballs and the pervasive, unmistakable aroma of human sweat.  


The Lady Spartans took to the court wearing scooped red singlets and slinky shorts that fell below their knees, a la Lebron James.  Maddie being 5’-5”, the tallest on the team, plays center, always with enthusiasm and grit, sometimes with the agility of a St. Bernard puppy. 


“Arms up!” yell her parents. “Great rebound,” shouts the coach. These fifth grade girls hurl bricks at the rim, sometimes the ball drops, often not, but this traveling team never fails to hustle up and down the court, ponytails bobbing.

They crushed their first opponents — 28 to 18. The second game? Not so easy. During the warmup, one mom said, “Look, the other team is wearing knee pads, this could get rough.” And, “That girl has a mouth guard, this looks bad.” Indeed, the Lady Spartans got creamed— 18 to 2 — but never stopped giggling and smiling, undefeated in their joy.  

Off to the band competition in Billerica, 45 minutes to the northwest.

By the time we arrived at the middle school field, it was dark and 47 degrees. We stopped at the concession stand to grab burgers and hot chocolate, then settled onto metal seats, wrapping ourselves in blankets. Fifteen bands were competing that evening, and the Portsmouth (N.H.) High School marching band was about to take the field.


It’s truly impressive to see 138 kids in matching uniforms holding shiny instruments stride double-file onto the field as the drum section plays a steady pulsing beat. 

The drum major mounted a 15-foot-high platform, raised his arms and the band broke into Aaron Copland’s “Appalachian Spring.” They filed to the left, then to the right, then forward, then backward, amazingly in sync. I watched Max with pride and a lump in my throat.


It was a good night for Portsmouth High. Max’s band came in first overall, plus first in music, percussion and color guard. He was ecstatic!

This was a long day for the kids. And this scenario gets repeated weekend after weekend for young families. In my view, there are too many evening meals forsaken for soccer and band practices, too many weekends spent at faraway fields instead of going apple picking or riding bikes around the neighborhood. Playing a sport or an instrument these days is a major commitment for kids — AND their parents.

But for the groupie grandma? Nothing but net.