By Ashley Hardway
I grew up being very close to my maternal grandparents. My great-grandma was alive until I was twelve and we spent a couple days a week with her. My grandma and grandpa’s house was a daily stop because we lived close by. Even my paternal grandparents were a big part of our lives because we spent several weeks with them a couple times a year. I am a big believer in the power of grandparents in the lives of grandchildren.
The relationship between grandparent and grandchild does not have to be a complex one. There are only a few times in my young life that I remember doing anything really big or fancy with my grandparents. But I have so many special memories in my heart from the simple everyday things that we shared. These memories hold those relationships forever in my heart.
My great-gram was born in the eighteen hundreds and she was so full of stories that her life amazed me when I heard how she lived. Her momma died when she was about fourteen and her daddy could not take care of both her and her sister so she was sent to live with another family to clean house for them. She started working early and for a part of her life she worked in a factory sewing overalls. She told me about the huge sewing machines and large needles and how one day she caught her finger in it! She had an old pump sewing machine and she made her own clothes and quilts. If one of her granddaughters would show up with a doll she would let them select material out of her scraps and she would quickly sew a new dress for the doll. No patterns and no measuring and they fit every time. I was in awe.
She just shared herself and her stories and she made a deep impression on all of us. She was always cooking something and her food was simple but always delicious. As I look back now I have to laugh at the sweet way great-gram got us kids out of her hair when we started getting on her nerves. She never raised her voice; she would just go into the kitchen and peel an apple, or a potato she salted, or a piece of lettuce with sugar, or bread with butter and sugar and hand it to us and say, “Go out on the back porch and eat it.” And we did, after that we pretty much stayed out in the back yard and played. We never even knew we were getting on her nerves.
Her sister would come and visit every now and then and we loved it when she did. She would tell the best stories and she had such a gentle way about her. She often told us Bible stories and all the kids would just sit around and listen so quietly. Her name was Aunt Zoni and we always asked her about her name because we loved to hear the story. She told the story about how her family was coming across the country in a covered wagon when her mom was pregnant and she was born in Arizona Territory so her momma named her Arizona Territory. How cool is that! We thought so.
As I told you we would spend part of almost everyday with my grandma, mostly while grandpa was at work. She had such a relaxing demeanor and I loved being with her. Everything she did was relaxing, even cooking and house work. I would follow her around and she would tell me how to cook something she was cooking or teach me how to clean or dust the right way. I remember her teaching me the right way to sweep and dust. She just sort of took you along in her day and talked to you about what she was doing and tried to include you in the work.
She had an ingenious way of getting us kids out of her hair just like great-gram did. She would never get loud or upset, she would simply offer us a nickel or a quarter to pull weeds or dust the furniture for her. We would always take her up on the offer because there was a five and dime store a couple blocks up on the corner where a nickel could buy a lot and a quarter could practically put you into a sugar coma! Back in those days it was two pieces of candy for a penny and candy bars were a nickel. We loved walking up there and looking through the bins of penny candy!
In turn I have watched my mother with my children. She carried on some of the same traditions from her grandma and mom but she was just a little different. My mom was the adventure grandma! She did not have a great deal of money but she had a spirit of adventure. She was always thinking up new ways with things she had on hand to entertain my children and my sibling’s children. She would often take them hiking, fishing, bird watching, or to arboretums and botanical gardens. She loved nature and taught them everything she knew about the different plants and trees as well as birds and other wildlife. They were always taking day trips to places nearby like state parks and wildlife centers. The only expense was a little gas and her time.
When they could not get away she was so creative in keeping the kids entertained at home. One day I came home to find that she had run a pulley system from one large tree to another in the back yard. We lived in a ranch style home and the yard was wide. She had a strong rope with a duffel bag full of old rags at the end that she put on the pulley. She had tied a knot in the rope before you got to the final destination to stop you before you smacked into the tree. My children were sailing through the back yard as if they were on a zip line tour deep in a forest! It is something they will never forget. They rode on that for years until it was worn out and they were much too big.
Mom made up treasure hunts for the kids, she brought home boxes for them to make into cars and castles, she even ordered a truck full of sand for them and had it placed right on the driveway! Then she set up a blow up pool of about three feet deep and six foot wide for all the grandkids to play in and gave them all buckets and shovels and dump trucks. They had their day at the beach and never left the house.
When the kids got particularly antsy one of Mom’s favorite things to do was to get them outside doing something active. She would set up relay races, play tennis in the street, or go on bike rides. She loved to work in the yard and she would often get the kids busy raking which usually ended up being great fun playing in the piles of leafs.
No matter what type of person you are there are all kinds of ways to share yourself with your grandchildren. Just giving of yourself and showing them who you really are is a great gift to give to them. So often what you consider hum drum about yourself is the very thing that your grandchildren will learn to love about you the most. My daughter has the best memories of sitting and listening to her great-grandma read to her from the time she was very small. Just sitting and reading is a special memory that they can carry in their hearts forever. Children do not need grandeur or excitement to feel the love of and to build close relationships to their grandparents.
Always curious, Ashley Hardway is constantly learning and passionate about sharing what she learns with others. Based in Houston, Texas, she loves to help families grow stronger, help their environments and communities, and keep moving forward! Check out @NannyLady on Twitter to connect and find out more.