Thursday, March 13, 2008

The Blessing of Grandparents

One of the blessings of watching my children grow has been remembering my own childhood while they are experiencing theirs.

Their sibling squabbles make me recall my own endless arguments with my brother. Their giggles after I shut their bedroom door at night remind me of the stories my older sister used to tell me after our own mother had tucked us into our double bed.

And lately, their excitement about seeing their grandparents has made me realize how truly blessed I am to have had a childhood full of memories of my own grandparents.

I remember when I was trying to decide between an out-of-state college, which seemed adventurous and exciting, and an in-state college, which seemed ordinary and too close to home. One of the deciding factors in my decision was the knowledge that once a person moves out of state, it is usually permanent. Having grown up in a close-knit family, I could not imagine myself several states away from my family, especially my grandparents.

When we were kids, my siblings and I could hardly wait for summer to arrive. Unlike some kids who only wanted an end to school, we were waiting in anticipation of the visits to grandparents’ homes. At my Grandma Louise’s house, we enjoyed piling cousins on the pony and circling around the driveway. We ran through the sprinkler, had exciting adventures with snakes, and walked all the way down the road to the neighbors’ just to sample a piece of candy out of the jar on the counter.

We played hide and seek in the horse’s stalls and had our first real horse rides in Grandma’s corrals. I can still feel the velvet of old Dandy’s nose as I stroked him and hoped he wasn’t going to bite me.

Best of all, we ate like royalty. No one can come close to the culinary expertise of my Grandma, and we enjoyed every mouthful of her homemade noodles, mashed potatoes, pies, cookies, rolls, and strawberry jam, which I gorged upon until every bit of my skin broke out into hives. It was worth it.

My dad's parents lived a bit closer, and we would sometimes spend a few days at their place without the interference of our parents. Grandpa would take us fishing, although the only thing I can remember catching was a sucker and my thumb. Grandpa let us keep the sucker in a coffee can and play with it all the way home. Grandpa always caught fish, though, and he would take them home to Grandma to fry. We would eat them with rootbeer floats or have ice cream slathered in Hershey’s chocolate syrup (from the can) for dessert.

I will always associate the smell of Oreo cookies with Grandma and Grandpa’s house, since Grandma would always slide out the special treat for us to have with lemonade in the afternoon. It was also the only place we could have powdered sugar donuts or Froot Loops for breakfast.

Grandpa gave me my first paying job when I was about seven years old. Every year we would help him dock and paint brand his lambs, and that year I was deemed old enough to paint the squirmy lambs. The glory of the job was enough to thrill me for weeks, but I’ll also always remember the $5 that Grandpa slipped to me after we had finished for the day.

I had done paint branding at home on our own sheep, but it just wasn’t the same. You see, at the grandparents’ place, doing chores was a privilege.

As my kids are growing, I see them developing special connections to their grandparents, and they are also fortunate enough to know many of their great-grandparents. They are developing memories of playing with the very same toys I can remember so vividly from my childhood. Watching my son play with the tractor and baler and watching my daughters snuggle the one-eyed noodle-necked dog at my grandparents’ house is surreal for me.

Grandma asked me recently, “Do you ever sing ‘Bimbo’ to your babies?” I was instantly transported 30 years into the past as Grandma comforted me in her rocker and sang every verse to that song, as she did to all nine of her grandchildren.

I am reminded that I made the right choice to stay in Montana. Although life in agriculture is certainly challenging, it has the benefits of staying close to family, and I wouldn’t deny these memories to my children for the world.


My Grandpa and me, Christmas 1977. Grandma's mother made those mittens for us every year for Christmas.


My grandparents surrounded by all of their great grandchildren, summer 2007.


My grandma and my youngest daughter, spring 2006.


jane said...

Your grandma is beautiful! Your kids are very lucky...we have basically no extended family, but my grandmother was the guiding force in my life, always, and I always spent summers with her. Just me. I have many fond memories and I've always tried to do with my kids some of the things she did with me...camping, picking wild berries, bonfires...

Jen said...

Erin your kids are very lucky to know their great-grandparents. I wish my kids had known both their Grandma Alice *Mike's Gma & my Gma*. Sutton Alice is named after both of them...anyway I always took for granted my Grandma would always be around and now do I ever regret not taking more time to visit her.

I just hope I can be half the grandparent my grandma Alice and Grandpa Helmer were!

Lovely tribute to grandparents!

Anonymous said...

How very true. My kids' Grandma lives about 200 yards away and they venture down many times a day to get treats. I will admit that I do too.
Jennifer D.

BoufMom9 said...

The photos are just beautiful!
You have such a way with words that I am moved by every one of your posts so deeply. Thank you so much for stirring up such feeling of nostalgia in me. :)

Andrea said...

What a great blessing grandparents are to grandkids. I love that last picture! My kids only see their one grandfather (PawPaw). My parents live in Utah. I was the one that went to an out of state college! You are lucky to have family close by!

Life with Spirit said...

What a beautiful article. I was not so blessed to be close to my grandparents. In proximity yes but nothing else. Thank God for that! What is the main lesson your grandparents have taught you?

Life with Spirit said...

BTW, I mean you should thank God! I feel like I missed out on something, not being close to mine, not thanking God for that.

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