Many grandparents play a significant role in the lives of their grandchildren, some even raising them.
Growing up as the oldest of over 20 grandchildren on my mom's side of the family, some of my most treasured memories were spent at my grandparents playing with aunts, uncles, and cousins and visiting with my grandparents. My parents provided me with an amazing life, yet there was always a calmness, a peace at grandma and grandpa's that was slightly different from home. I wrote this short-story in 2006 during a writing seminar for educators. It is a small glimpse into how all four of my grandparents made me feel.
Within seconds of my Dad pulling into the driveway at my grandparents you would hear “Mom, Dad I’m going in!” Not giving them time to respond, I would slam the car door behind me and bolt to the side entrance of my grandparents home. Reaching quickly for the knob ---- Creeeak – another knob to turn. SHHMACK! The screen door shut behind me as I rushed in, as I rushed in, leaving the door wide open. “Mmmm!” The smell of Grandma’s baking and cooking overwhelmed me, always baking bread or kolaches, always cooking chicken soup or baked wild game. Always MASHED POTATOES!
Hugging grandma in the kitchen my first question was usually, “Where’s Grandpa?”
“He’s in the field. He’ll be coming for lunch around noon. Do you want to peel potatoes for me?”
“Yes!” Without hesitation I would open the silverware drawer, always the second drawer to the left of the sink, and grab the peeler. Very little at Grandma’s changes, no matter how long since my last visit.
“Where are the potatoes?” I question, quickly scanning the kitchen for a bag.
“They are in the hall. Grandpa picked them fresh this morning.” Running to the hall, impatiently waiting for my family to finish walking through the entrance to greet Grandma each one delighting in her hugs. I quickly begin to grab the potatoes.
“Jennifer, we are feeding 11 today. Count 1 potato per person.” Grandma always reminded me of her rule, just enough for everyone to be content.
Depositing the potatoes on the table, I would grab a tin pie pan for the scraps and begin peeling. It always seemed to take me forever to finish. Grandma would cut and cook the potatoes while I set the table. Once the potatoes finished cooking then I would mash them just before we sat down at the table. We would wait for everyone to arrive home from the field. Then pray, eat, visit briefly in the living room and then head back to work.
Working like clock-work every day we knew what the morning ritual held. Always delighting more in the afternoon of endless possibilities. We would help grandma clear the table and wash the dishes. Then we could be found playing with makeup in Aunt Sharon’s room, reading a Reader’s Digest on Grandpa and Grandma’s bed, pretending to be teachers using the student desks in Uncle Allen’s room, playing cops and robbers and locking each other in prison behind the bars on Uncle Bruno’s headboard or exploring the world in the books on the shelf in Uncle David’s room. Some days we could be found in the living room…
“Get about six chairs from the kitchen and put them in the living room.” I would say.
“Put them between the couch and chairs?” my cousin would say.
“Yep. What colors do you want?” I shouted, racing down the hall towards Grandma and Grandpa’s bedroom stopping short of the entrance.
“Hold on! We’re coming! We want to look with you first.” At this point there were usually four to six of us ranging from twelve to four years old. Quickly one of us would turn the knob on the hall closet door and WHOOSH! We would all grab hold of a corner and pull together as color upon color flowed from the closet into a heap on the floor.
“Wait! Wait! Slow down!” Aunt Sharon, our voice of reason, would gently demand. Only seven years older than me, she loved to guide us in our adventures.
“What are you going to do with all of this?” She calmly questioned.
“Build a tent?”
“Have a wedding!”
“Go on a boat ride!”
“Okay, okay! Let me help you. We don’t need to create quite this big of a mess.”
This was the way it always began. Soon sheets of flowers would be transformed into a wedding aisle or flower garden. Sheets of all colors would soon become boats or tents. And white… White was the precious color reserved for our wedding gowns, our gowns that signified a transformation we had yet to understand.
“Grandma, you got any clothespins or rubber bands?”
“Look in the front closet or over by the washer… there may be some there.” One of us would run to the front of the house. Searching...
“Joseph, hold up that end. Okay, that’s good. Clip it there. Now, come over here and grab this corner.”
“When are we going to make a boat?”
“Hold on a minute. We have to finish the tent first.”
“All right, but I want to build my boat right after this.”
We would work together creating the tent and the boat. Then the girls would eagerly race to the end of the hall to get ready for their wedding, their manifestation.
“I want to be the bride.”
“You were the bride last time.”
“Hey, why don’t we all be brides?”
“Yeah, let’s do it!”
Most days a bride and groom with a bridal party would walk down the aisle, but there were days, like today when three beautiful brides would gracefully emerge.
“I want the white sheet.”
“Ooh! I want the lacey tablecloth. Won’t that be beautiful?”
“I want the white one with the red roses.”
Wildly, we went to work! Aunt Sharon usually guiding our efforts. Quickly wrapping the sheets around us… draping ourselves in the beautiful cloth…helping each other with clothespins and rubber bands… tying up loose ends… until we had just the right dress, plain and simple or intricate and fancy like a princess. To finish the look, we crowned our heads with a gorgeous veil made from another sheet or sometimes delicately intertwined from our wedding dress.
“Here are your flowers.” At least one of us would have run to Aunt Sharon’s room to grab the old bridesmaid bouquets in there.
“Okay, Aunt Sharon! We’re ready!”
Melodiously, the wedding march would begin and three brides walked down the aisle to meet their groom and more importantly to hear our Grandma “ooh and aah” as her treasures emerged into beautiful women. Women who love MASHED POTATOES! Women who can bake kolaches and cook chicken noodle soup, although they will never taste as good as our Grandma’s. Women who can create something from nothing and most definitely host the wedding of all weddings. Women not afraid to take a risk, but remain predictable and are comfortable with that. Women with our Grandma at the heart of our journey, who are mothers, teachers, writers, accountants, counselors, and so much more. Women who know that one of God’s greatest treasures is our Grandma.
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