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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 1 – Beginner)
Topic: Grandparent(s) (04/03/08)

TITLE: Clothespins, Tin Pans and Buttons
By Coleene VanTilburg


The smells were certain. The front room was a musty, spicy scent, Black Jack gum in the dining room, savory dinners and/or waffles and bacon wafted from the kitchen, toothpowder in the bathroom, Mentholateum in the bedroom and Camellias in the backyard; this was my Grandpa and Grandma's house. My grandpa was always dressed as if he were ready to go to work downtown in his jewelery store, my Grandma had beautiful silver-blue hair and always in a dress and apron. Recently, I have taken a trip back down Memory Lane while reorganizing old slides in preparation to have them converted to CD. Petticoated cousins lined up with one lone boy cousin for all those snapshots; the oldest (that would be me) to the youngest. It is cliché', "the simple life," "the good ol' days." Here was these well-behaved, respectful kids, focused on actual social activity with each other without the domination of today's hand held "objects of affection" that distract from bonding, personal imagination, reality, and sadly, maybe even lost opportunities to make memories. These electronic babysitters need recharging...my grandparents did not.

“I need to go into work early this afternoon, my mom would say. I’ll take you girls to Grandma and Grandpa’s house and Daddy will pick you up when he gets off work.”

We would take our Barbies or crayons and get in the station wagon and drive past the rock quarries and the new freeway they were building and towards the foothills. Soon we would be turning on the mini cul de sac and into the driveway of my mother’s parents. There would be Grandpa, hand picking tiny weeds from his perfect Bermuda grass or working at his trade fixing watches, though now retired. Grandma would be waiting to give us a hug.

"Grandma, can we play with the pans and pins? Can we look at the buttons?"

"Yes, honey, let me get them and you girls can sit right here in the living room, " said my Grandma.

Out came the pie tins and the wooden clothespins. My sister and I would play with these for hours. We would make suns, animals, people...wherever our imagination took us. We would pinch the clothespin and attach them one by one to the rim of the pie tin. Like Don Quixote's windmills, they became monsters to slay or giant ladybugs in the fairy garden.

The box of buttons...well, that was a box of jewels of every color and shape. They were "eyes" on our scribbling. If strung together, they became our dress-up necklaces. Buttons could be pretend money for our pretend store or plates at the picnic for our Barbie Dolls.

Later in life, I would find out that my grandmother had suffered from breast cancer, undergoing a mastectomy. That cured her. As I look at the forlorn pictures of her and try to look into her soul, I see sadness. I think there was so much more she wanted to be, that she was brewing with creativity that was never tapped in a male dominated world. She taught me how to imagine and see beyond what was the obvious. My grandpa, being a watchmaker, made sure everyone had the correct time, but my grandma "spent" time in the imaginary world of her granddaughters, loving us the best she knew how. She would eventually pass away from a bad heart; clogged arteries, unable to expel what lies so deep within. My imagination tells me there is more to this story...or is that my Grandma’s whispers?

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Member Comments
Member Date
Sara Harricharan 04/10/08
This carries an almost haunting feel to it (in a good way!) and it stays with me as I write this. Your title tied in wonderfully with your story and I loved to know about this grandmother. So special. Great job! ^_^
Debbie Wistrom04/10/08
I'd forgotten playing with the jar of buttons. Thanks for the memories. Loved your grandam, I too, would like to read more.
Josiah Kane04/11/08
There is certainly no being ignored in this story. As you said, it is such a difference from computer-based entertainment of today. But how did the grandmother go without recharging?
Joshua Janoski04/12/08
I enjoyed this. Your grandmother sounds like she was a great woman who loved to nurture the creativity of her grandchildren.

You have a gift of words that stood out in this piece. Thank you for sharing.