I like to spend time with the kids in an organized way, with activities or some other plan, but
grandchildren are, of course, welcome at our house any time, and for those unplanned days, I’ve collected things that make it a comfortable and happy place for them to be.
I learned this from my children’s grandmothers. They were two totally different kinds of grandmas. We lived three hours away from them so when we did go to the City, we stopped at both places to visit.
- Grandmother G. lived in a small cluttered house. She was a professional quilter and had many projects going at once in the living room, dining room, and the back room. She was a dear lady and so talented that her name became well known by all quilters. She had many articles in the newspaper about her talents, and she won the Governor’s Folk Art Award for her contributions of continuing the art of quilting. Everyone loved her, especially her grandkids, but they hated going to her house. They weren’t allowed in her bedroom or Grandpa’s room downstairs. There were very small areas in the living room, dining room, and kitchen where you could walk to get from one room to the other, but there was never to be any rowdiness or active play in her house. The children were not allowed to touch anything because there were pins and needles and scissors, and tacks everywhere. So a visit to this grandma’s house was boring. Although they could have played quietly, she had no toys except a string of thread spools that she had made long ago. And the worst thing was that there was nothing in her house to snack on except saltine crackers. They were always left out in a plastic container on the table. So the kids would come in and ask quietly if they could have some crackers. Sometimes she cooked a meal for us, At those times we ate in the kitchen with some of us sitting and some standing because there was not much room. The table and chairs served as storage space. Grandma and Grandpa G were from the South and so she made great soul food. We loved it, but the kids…well-some of it we ate at home and they liked, but other things…well it took me a few years to acquire a taste for a lot of the food and I did. Yum, I love it all! But they refused to put the effort into acquired taste buds so they usually came away from her house still hungry unless she had plenty of crackers to spare.
- She did have some great family gatherings–a barbecue in the summer and a Christmas Party in December. At these times she outdid herself on baking and cooking. There were so many goodies and food in a big variety. The back yard summer parties were great. They were not confined to the house and there was always homemade ice cream! Christmas party, however, there was no room to move. The dining room table was cleaned off and a wonderful spread of food was placed on it. Then you picked your spot to sit or stand and you stayed there. The kids often went outside to play in winter or summer, but she didn’t let them play noisy games. She worried about her neighbors and would go out and tell the kids to be quieter.
- The kids have fond memories of all of this now, but when they were young they would embarrass me when they would keep asking when we were going to our other grandma’s house. They knew she loved them, but with all the “don’t touch,” “don’t go in there,” “put that back, it’ll hurt you,” a visit to her house was no fun.
- Grandma H. was just the opposite She had books and toys and dishes of candy around so that if we surprised her with a visit, she still had a treat for the kids. I heard one of my little boys tell his friend, “You should see my Grandma’s house. She has tons of candy!” She always had other snacks and their favorite cereal on hand as well. She made sure they knew they were welcome to anything (Except her Mrs. Cavanaugh’s Chocolates, which she were for the adults who knew how to appreciate good chocolate–so we had our treats too.) Her house was neat and always cleaned up with lots of area to walk, play and even run. Her children dropped in often to see her and check on her with their children, so on our visits there were usually cousins to play with. They would play hide and seek, and other noisy games inside and outside. They could help themselves to anything and play anywhere in the house.
- Grandma H. would say, “I’m going to lie down for a bit, but no matter how noisy the children get, don’t close my door.”
- Grandma H had many barbecues through the summer for her family and a big Christmas party too She also had parties for the little kids, candy making parties for the teenagers , bowling parties for everyone and picnics up the canyons to keep her family close. Everybody wanted to be at Grandma.’s house any time or all the time. They kids hated leaving and couldn’t wait to go back.
- I knew early on what kind of grandparent I wanted to be. Grandma H was my role model. It is fun to keep a house that is friendly to kids. Some of my favorite words are “Grandma I love coming to your house.”