Turtle's Progress

Saturday, April 22, 2006

....To Grandmother's House We Go (part two)

My Grama D was my “city grama.” Until she moved in with my parents during the last years of her life, she lived in the neighborhoods surrounding the downtown area of my small hometown. Where going to my Grama Keith’s house was nearly always a social occasion with lots of extended family around, going to Grama D’s was usually a personal visit. I spent lots of time with just my grandmother in her home. “Spending the night with grama” was something I wanted to do at least one night of every weekend. During that time I usually had her undivided attention.

In one sitting she would make entire outfits of clothing for my dolls (oh how I wish I still had some of those). She always made special cinnamon toast (baked in the oven) and coffee for breakfast. I sat on the arm of her rocking chair and we would sing songs – her favorite was “I Dropped Dollie in the Dirt”. I can still hear her singing it. For my fifth Christmas, she and my grandfather, who died the next year, gave my brother and me child-sized maple rocking chairs. Mine still sits in my family room. I have actually passed it on to Meghan, and will get it to her soon so that our little Charlotte (due July 5th!) can have it for her room.

My Grama Keith never worked outside of the home that I know of, but my Grama D always did. Her husband died when she was in her mid-fifties and still had three young children to raise. To support them all she worked in the produce packing sheds that were plentiful in our little agricultural valley of the central coast of California. Her hands were gnarled with arthritis but she continued to stuff celery tightly into plastic bags. Even though I know that is probably done by machine now, every time I fight to open a bag of tightly packed celery, I think of how hard my Grama D worked for her family.

As I got older, my activities at her house changed. She was within walking distance of the downtown area and I was able to head to Main Street and wander through the stores alone. I often had lunch at the Woolworth’s (ham salad sandwich with chips, please), listened to records in the music shop next door, or walked slowly through the town square, past the bandstand and into the library; eventually carrying home a stack of books. I once remember bringing back a book of Khalil Gibran poetry and reading some of it to my grandmother. She listened intently and discussed its meaning with me.

Some additional random Grama D memories. The first word I remember learning to spell was her last name – Degraffenreid – 13 letters long! She taught me to play jacks and always beat me despite the arthritis in her hands. She loved to watch us skate – most Friday nights of my childhood were spent at the local skating rink traveling round and round, learning new tricks and showing them off to my grandmother’s delight. She loved to watch “Lawrence Welk” and “The Andy Williams Show” (oh those Osmond Brothers!). She hated me to wear black. It continues to be one of my favorite clothing colors and I wear it often, but when I do, I can still hear a little voice in the back of my mind chastising me.

The memories I have of both of my grandmothers are many and still very clear. Growing up in the same town with them was a joy and something I wish my own daughters had been able to experience with their grandmothers. I asked them recently what childhood memories they have of their grandmothers – playing “office” in the upstairs attic room of granny’s house, and riding “Big Wheels” up and down the driveway of their grama’s house, is what they told me. I’m sure they have many more. But unfortunately for them, those memories don’t include weekly visits with those who love them in the unconditional and accepting way that only a grandparent can.

I’m a grama myself now and I doubt that (beyond these first two years with Brody) I will ever live in the same town with my grandchildren. Our society is so mobile today that books have been written about grandparenting from afar. I received one for Christmas entitled Long Distance Grandma. I will work hard at having a loving, close and connected relationship with my grandchildren. I will visit often, call, write, email, and send packages. But I know deep in my heart that none of those things can possibly replace growing up with your grama right down the road teaching you how to brush your hair or play jacks on the sidewalk.


At 1:06 PM, Blogger erin said...

Nice one, Mom. Sarah will love you dearly not matter where you live! By the way, you sounded very Rory-esque talking about coming home with you stack of books.

At 2:21 PM, Anonymous Meghan said...

You never sease to amaze me with your beautiful writing, Mom. Its so fun to imagine you as a little girl with Grama D. and I know that you are/will be just as memorable and influentual a Grama as yours were.

At 2:41 PM, Blogger lori said...

This is a keeper! I printed it out and it's going into the "Grama D" scrapbook right next to the last letter you wrote her.

Thanks for keeping up your blog Ter. I really look forward to reading it and I feel so luck to have you as my sister.

At 7:01 PM, Anonymous Bill said...

I think it is time for a different point of view...a male's. And here is what I think..you hit the nail on the head every time with your stories. You have that Southern perspective and a true talent for writing. Really enjoyed the stories about your "Grandma's". As you know this is an important aspect of my life.

My theory is that Grandparents pass on the family history to the grandchildren. Our generation had the luxury of knowing and living close. We were able to share their lives on an almost daily basis. Times have changed. But your children have had some great relationships that will stay with them forever. Who will ever forget a party at the Keith's bar. It is part of our son's history as well.

Your grandchildren may know you in a different way... you will not live down the street, but they will know you and you will pass along all the family history, just as you should...Keep writing and sharing! Your children and grandchildren are very lucky!

At 9:11 AM, Anonymous Joyce said...

As I read your words of wisdom and memories, I think of my Grama Scherer. Even though she lived in Germany, I had the chance to visit with her when she came to the U.S. Those visits were enough for me to keep in my mind and heart, to this day.
I thank you for letting me go back in time and think of the many happy times I had with her.
By the way, you are now official: Not only a Southerner, but a great writer, as my Bill put it so gently.
Thanks for being you, my friend.


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