Monday, November 13, 2017

Things I Learned From My Grandparents

Grandparents are very special in a child's life. Every moment of time that one can spend with them becomes even more special. I was very lucky to have one of my Grandmothers through some of my adult years, and even become a very active Great-Grandmother to my son and daughter.

Her husband, my Grandfather, did not get that special time and bonding with my two children before he passed away. I will say this: he was determined to stay on this Earth until my son was born and he was able to see and hold him before he passed. I knew that as soon as it was safe for me to fly with a very young toddler daughter and a new baby son, that we must get on that plane bound for Memphis. That picture of him holding my son is priceless. It was only a couple of months later that we returned for his Memorial service.

My relationship with my Grandparents was very special, indeed. My brother and I grew up with our Mom in my Grandparent's home. As far as I knew, as a child, this was the way it was supposed to be. It surely worked out for us. We always had a loving adult at home with us, while growing up. The three of them worked their schedules out to be sure of that.

Let me start with the fact that yes, it seemed to be a true saying that characteristics/traits seem to skip a generation. I believe that some of it is the fact that our Grandparents are much more tolerant and patient than our parents. Just my take on my own situation. 

My Grandmother was the kindest and most patient person that I have ever known. She was one of the best cooks that I have been around. I watched and learned. When I was old enough, she gave me the little jobs to do, like stirring or reading the directions to her. This was funny in one way, in that my Grandmother never went by directions or measurements. If I asked her how do you make cornbread, she would say that she takes a bit of this and a handful of that, stirs it up, checks to see if it needs another egg or a drip or two of milk or water...
How did she do that?

Before she became too ill to cook any more, I sat with her when she was cooking and wrote some of my guesses of how much of each ingredient that she used while cooking some of my favorite meals. When I was living one thousand miles away and in charge of making a Thanksgiving dinner for 13 family members I pleaded with her to write out her directions of what she did to prepare for such a possible catastrophe. 

How in the world did she magically have all of the food ready to serve at the right time? I still have the autumn leaf stationery that she used to write out specifically what she prepared and did the night before, such as make the cornbread, tear up the bread and slice the onions and celery for it sit overnight with sage and pepper in a big covered dish. Somehow, with all of my years of watching her do this, as well as helping her, and having her write out in her own words of adding a bit of this and a handful of that I pulled it off. Really, much to many of my former in-laws surprise. (and even my own)

Cooking is not the only thing that I learned from my Grandmother. She taught me the importance of always doing, acting, and looking my best. How to shop for upcoming events at all different stores. Sometimes the upscale stores and yes, even the bargain basement stores. There was a time and place for everything.

I watched her interactions with others and how she treated other people with her kindness and generosity. She was the person that attracted other people to her by her warmth and charm. I hope that I learned and have become even half of what she always was to others.

Decorating was another specialty of hers that I watched and learned. None of these things were school learned  -  they were from her own good taste and abilities and willingness to try. There was one thing that she tried to share with me that just did not take. She, nor my Home Economics teacher, could do one thing to help me in sewing. This was sewing by hand with a needle and thread or with a machine. The only thing that I was good for was to thread the needle for her. No problem there. After that, sewing , basting by hand or using a machine was pathetic by the time I finished. If you looked at a row of buttons on a shirt, you would be able to spot the one that had come off and was sewn back on by me. TRUE!

My Mom was just not interested in any of these skills. Maybe that is not totally the truth. She was deep in study with going back to college and building a career so that she would be able to become financially stable to take care of two children. 

As two adults, my Mom and I were like two different peas from basically the same pod. She decided one year that she was going to cook the Thanksgiving meal. I saw disaster red SOS flags going up, especially when she washed the turkey and I caught out of the side of my eye that she had placed the whole turkey in the roasting pan without taking out the neck bone, liver, heart, and any of the other lovely items stuffed in the back end of the turkey. When I pointed this out to her, all I got was a great big, "Ewwwww! You mean that I must put my hand in there?" From that point on, I made the dinner. She wasn't even sure if she ever wanted to eat turkey again and was wondering, I am sure, if there were other foods that had "secrets" going on that she should or should not know about. In all fairness, she could scramble up some mean eggs and grill some fantastic grilled cheese sandwiches. 

My Grandmother had the softest skin ever, even as she aged. She talked to me about the importance of a good moisturizer in order to stay young looking. Of course, it did not hurt that she never gave out her real age, not even to my Grandfather. I caught on to that trick very easily. I even confuse myself on what exactly is my real age? My make up counter is full of all different kinds of moisturizers which I use generously.

When I had grandchildren of my own, and even with my own two children, I had a skill that I learned from my Grandmother; telling a story at bedtime or making up words to a lullaby while rocking an infant to sleep. Usually it mesmerized them. I loved having a book read to me, however, there was something so powerful to be able to close my eyes, hear my Grandmother's soft voice telling me a story. It could be a made up story or Goldilocks and the Three Bears told over and over again. 

On the other hand, there was my Grandfather. Most definitely, in dealing with his grandchildren, he had such a gentle way of teaching us. Being a Supervisor at a large Industrial plant, this was not his way at work to handle certain workers. I had witnessed that once or twice when in the car with him when he had to stop by to handle a work problem. 

Definitely, at home, teaching his skills was gender based. Not that he meant for it to be, it was just that I had not one single interest of learning how to make a motor run or what all of his amazing tools would do. My brother did and he learned well from a master of all trades. 

The one thing that I learned early is to not ever ask for too much because if I had asked for the Moon, my Grandfather would have found a way to get it for me in his own way. Some kids on my block had their store bought skateboards or pair of stilts. Not me! I had handcrafted toys. They meant so much to me. My only wish would be that I still had them. I have no idea what happened to them. I am sure that they were tossed as as outgrew them. What a pity!

Having tea parties with my Grandmother gave me my creativity in make-believe. After all, I had make-believe friends when I was little and now, as a writer, I still have make-believe friends. I just hope that my Grandchildren will remember something special that this Grandmother taught to them. 

My husband has a huge love of books, jokes and music. Speaking for him, I know that this is something that he would love to be passed on to all of our grandchildren and one way that he would love to be remembered for teaching.

We all have our special talents to share. Grandchildren are there to share these talents with so that they will grow up and think back on their time with us.

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