Any weekend or school vacation that I spent with my grandparents was like a light at the end of a tunnel, a shelter in a storm. Accustomed to the din of two brothers and no sisters, it was a welcome respite to inhale perfect stillness at their house. There were always unique things to do. As a youngster, I played under the multi-scroll-legged dining room table, creating stories with plastic zoo animals or having tea parties, the draping tablecloth the perfect seclusion for imagination.
What fun I had threading buttons onto string—or watching Niagara Falls scenes from an old ViewMaster--or playing Uncle Wiggly or Hide the Thimble with my grandparents!
I was entranced watching Grandma make doll clothes on her treadle sewing machine, her foot pedaling furiously while she guided the material through the throbbing needle above.
It’s Monday morning, washday in my grandparent’s household. In the immaculate basement, Grandma wheels the old washtubs in a circle, the wringer washer in the middle. I feel important guiding clothing pieces through the wringer rollers and, hours later, help empty the rinse tubs down the floor drain.
It’s Tuesday, ironing day. I press Grandma’s colorful hankies into neat, folded squares. She has a box in her dresser drawer made especially for these sorted matching color piles. She doesn’t trust tissues and carries a soft, fresh handkerchief in her apron pocket or tucked up her sweater sleeve.
It’s Wednesday—cleaning day. I polish the furniture and rearrange the knick-knacks. Before supper, Grandpa sits at the head of the table, while Grandma and I sit across from each other. As always, Grandpa clears his throat and reads a Bible passage before we bow our heads to thank God for providing the food before us. Next, we go to church—Prayer Meeting for the adults and Youth Group for me.
Thursday--“free” day! I spend hours reading a book in the clock-ticking silence while Grandma makes phone calls. At night, we sit on the screened porch, drinking ginger-ale floats in glasses with colorful cloth holders around them, listening to the crickets and chatting.
Friday, we’re at the grocery store where I am “keeper of the cart” while it is filled with necessities and special treats for me. Upon our return, we make another recipe stored in Grandma’s smudged file box. After supper, we play Rack-o until bedtime—Grandpa winning AGAIN! Washing up in the bathroom, I reflect on Grandpa’s cleaned bandages hanging next to Grandma’s support hose. His left leg is swollen twice the normal size, the elephantitis caused by a childhood injury from a schoolteacher’s thrashing—an undeserved punishment because Grandpa’s father was a minister. My thoughts then wander to other family stories—about the Great Depression my grandparents suffered through, their subsequent nervous breakdowns, and the hard lives they endured—that ended victoriously because of their strong faith in God. Sleep comes slowly.
Saturday I help Grandma strip the beds and remake them with fresh, puzzling-smelling sheets. (Years later, I realized the unique odor came from the linen closet mothballs!) One more day, and I’ll return to my normal home life and school again. I enjoy putting the finely edge-embroidered pillowcases on the striped pillows. Grandma gives me another embroidery lesson in the afternoon. I have advanced in mastering the different stitches and am finished with a pair of pillowcases to put in my Hope Chest. Grandpa offers to pay me a penny for each dandelion I pull out by its roots in their small yard, which truly is carpeted yellow. I collect 200 of them and earn stained hands as well as $2! Time to take our baths, I watch Grandma combing her long, white wet hair over the top of her head before the open over door as it dries.
On Sunday, I sit with my grandparents during the church service. It’s comforting to lean my head against Grandma’s shoulder, placing my arm on her lap for her soft stroking while I listen intently to the sermon. I will be going home with my father after the service and, distracted by this thought, I store up memories from the past week.
Grandma is now with the Lord, but whenever I am tempted to criticize someone, I remember words she gave me as my spiritual mentor:
“Remember, honey, we must LOVE them into the Kingdom.”
Grandma was a true example of unconditional love. Now a grandmother myself, I‘ll feel privileged to give my grandchildren a piece of her heritage.
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