To Grandma’s House They Go

(I am excited to share with you this article that my Grandma wrote. Enjoy!)

Subtitle: SHE LABORS AT THE COMPUTER NOW INSTEAD OF IN THE KITCHEN, BUT THE WAY SHE CHERISHES HER GRANDCHILDREN HAS NOT CHANGED IN GENERATIONS.

    From the Orlando Sentinel – Orlando, Fla.
    Author: Doris Roney
    Date: May 11, 1986
    Doris Roney is a free-lance writer from Orlando.

THEY’RE SO INCREDIBLY GOOD LOOKING, these grandchildren of mine. So alive, so trusting, so new. Especially the babies. The teenagers are beginning to be caught up in themselves, in having to make choices. That’s normal, and can be good, but it shows around the eyes.

It’s amazing to me that such delightful young people call me Grandma. I really don’t feel like a grandma . . . or at least the way I thought a grandma felt back when I was a grandchild.

My grandma wore long dresses, and her house smelled different. Maybe because she’d accumulated so many things down through the years, her home acquired an “aroma of the ages.” But I loved the way my grandma’s house smelled, and I loved visiting. Her house was full of rooms, and full of furniture — furniture that stood in the same place year after year, like old friends waiting for me to come visit.

The dining room was a lively room when family came to visit.

Grandma had nine sons and one daughter, my mother. They’d gather around the dining-room table and DISCUSS, and because I was Grandma’s oldest grandchild, I often got to sit with them. Grandma would bring out rye bread and coffee, and everyone would dunk the rye bread, thick with butter, into the strong black coffee — though I must confess, my coffee was heavily laced with cream. Before long, the discussing would get very loud and exciting. My uncles would wave their arms and roar and laugh, pounding one another on the back, and the mirror on the sideboard seemed to join in the fun.

Another exciting place in Grandma’s house was her cellar. It could only be reached through a trapdoor in the dining-room floor. Whenever Grandma had to fetch something from the cellar, she would light a kerosene lamp, open the trapdoor and disappear down the steps into the cool, clammy darkness. I seldom ventured down those steps. Just waiting by the trapdoor sent shivers down my spine. Eventually Grandma would come back up with the jars or bottles or sacks she needed.

Grandma kept big jars of tomatoes, sauerkraut, pickles and fruit in the cellar. There were smaller jars of jams and jellies, and bottles of homemade dandelion wine and beer.

Grandma was from Germany, and believed that beer was a necessary food, especially for skinny little granddaughters. She’d pour me a small glass of beer, stir in some sugar, and tell me to drink it up while it was still foaming. Mercifully, I’ve forgotten what it tasted like, but I can still remember the foam.

At least once every summer, I spent a week at Grandma’s house. I slept in a little room off the front porch in a feather bed. After we’d said prayers, Grandma would drop me into this waiting cloud, kiss me goodnight and disappear through the curtains that separated the tiny room from the rest of the house. I’d fall asleep listening to her move around the front room, and when I woke in the morning, she was already up, dressed and busy. The only time she stopped puttering was when her friends came by. Then they would sit and talk, and every so often they would lapse into German, which tended to make me sleepy.

At Grandma’s house, I played on the porch, a rambling affair stretching across the entire back of the house. Whenever I visited, that was my territory. On Grandma’s back porch, I could do anything, be anyone, go anywhere. There don’t make porches like that today — porches that can become houses or ships or castles or trains. And Grandma would give me things — bits of lace, buttons, string, colored paper, empty boxes. We’d make paste, stirring the flour and water till it reached the proper consistency, and I could create curtains, costumes, piled-up treasure . . . On Grandma’s back porch a little girl with sticky fingers became an artist.

Probably the best place in Grandma’s house was the front room, especially in the winter time. Here, smack in the middle of the room, stood a huge, silver coal stove. We’d sit around it, propping our feet on the ornate ledge, and watch the red glow of the fire through the little glass door. Every so often, someone would have to get up, open the little door, and shovel in some more coal to keep the fire glowing. And while we sat there toasting, we’d listen to the Victrola. All we had to do was wind it up, place the needle in the right groove and enjoy “Japanese Sandman” or “Yes, we have no bananas.”

I loved Grandma’s house, and I loved visiting her. It seemed she was always waiting just for me. I couldn’t imagine Grandma doing anything when I wasn’t around.

NOW THAT I’M A GRANDMA, I KNOW grandmas do a lot of things when their grandchildren aren’t around. But oh, how I love to see them come. They’re my window on the future. They give my life meaning. And they seem to like me, though I don’t wear long dresses, and I know there can’t be any “aroma of the ages” in my condo. I got rid of all the accumulation when I moved to Florida. My condo isn’t very big, but there’s plenty of room, even when the family comes to visit. I simply open the table in the “great room” and we can all gather around and DISCUSS. There’s a lot of roaring and laughter, but now the “uncles” are my sons, and I don’t dare put cream in my coffee because this grandma hates being chubby.

When the grandchildren visit, they swim in the pool and jump on my trampoline. What I grimly do for exercise, they do for fun, over and over. When Grandma needs some quiet time, they pull out blocks or coloring books or stick-ums. They travel with their own bag of toys and never need paste.

I don’t have a big back porch or a feather bed or anything mysterious in my condo. The closest thing is my new computer, and that is a mystery only to me. And there’s no cellar, or even a basement. But I do grow sprouts in a glass jar in the kitchen, and I make my own yogurt.

My furniture is all glass and wicker, with no hiding places for candy. Besides, I’ve learned that candy isn’t good for children . . . or grandmas. I have a fruit “bowl,” a wicker basket that I keep filled with fruit. But somehow, the pears are so much smaller today.

The children always call before the come to visit their modern grandma because she might be out. There’s so much more for grandmas to do nowadays — exercise classes, volunteer work, golf, tennis. And there’s that microwave – cooking class I’d like to take.

I wonder, sometimes, if all this busy-ness is hurting my image? Should I be spending more time at home baking cookies and dusting the piano? What will these precious young people remember about me?

Then I take another look at their earnest young faces and I am at peace. These are my grandchildren. They know they are Grandma’s favorite people, and in her heart she is always waiting just for them.

~

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One thought on “To Grandma’s House They Go

  1. Thanks for sharing your Grandma’s writing, Amy… you have the gift for it too, and I can see why. I feel like I just spent a day in her childhood, and then in her present, and it sure was a nice visit. 🙂

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