For most of my childhood, going to Grandma and Grandpa D’s house felt like a long trip, but in actuality it was probably much shorter drive than getting to my other Grandparent’s house. They actually lived in the city I was born in. My mom and dad met and married here too. It’s a small town, but it had its perks. My favorite was the huge municipal swimming pool where I spent many fun hours playing with my cousins.
My earliest impressions of Grandma and Grandpa’s house was its elegance. It’s a quintessentially well-to-do home from the 50’s, and my grandparents had extremely good taste. It was a unique house because on the outside it was painted purple with white trim (but don’t call it purple around Grandma–she insists it’s “mauve”. 😉 ) Inside, the carpet was white and soft, furnished with stylish pieces. Grandpa usually had some classy Frank Sinatra-like music playing softly when you arrived. Grandma burned candles and the house always had this lovely clean vanilla scent. In the one corner of the living room was a glass curio cabinet filled with glittering pieces of Swarovski crystal. On the end table was a beautiful crystal lamp–I spent many hours marveling over its beauty. (This lamp was given to me as a gift from Grandma when I became an adult. I love it so much!)
At one end of the living room was the door to the screened-in porch, where we spent many summer evenings laughing and chatting.
Down the hall was the bathroom–and I only mention it here because it always amazed me that there was a telephone next to the toilet, and the toilet seat was this soft squishy vinyl. They obviously spared no expense, even in the bathroom!
At the end of the hallway was the den. I spent most of my time in the den with my cousin. This room was usually my makeshift bedroom furnished with a cot, or sometimes grandma let me sleep in one of the two lazy-boy recliners. Or better yet, she’d set up a pair of card tables and my cousin and I would make a fort with them and sleep in the room together. The den was outfitted with a TV and VCR, and along one wall (the entire wall!) were at least 200 movies to choose from! My cousin would stay up late watching all of them–our favorite was Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella.
If my cousin and I got tired of watching movies, we’d head down to the basement and play games on Nintendo. Our favorite game was Anticipation which was this Pictionary-like party game. My cousin and I had all the pictures memorized and we’d annihilate anyone that played with us. The basement, like the rest of the house, was cool as fuck. Grandpa was a traveller, and everywhere he went, he’d buy mini bottles of liquor, and no two were alike. Along three of the four walls in the basement were custom-made tiny shelves built specifically to hold these bottles, and they covered the top half of the entire wall.
Speaking of custom made shelves, Grandpa was a woodworker. His workshop was in the basement and we were absolutely not allowed in there for any reason whatsoever!
Also in the basement, Grandma had an extra refrigerator and she always kept it stocked full of every kind of soda imaginable. My cousin and I drank a LOT of pop at Grandma’s house. Other snacks that we loved were “Smarties” candy, and air-popped popcorn with a liberal application of melted butter. Both are treats that give me a burst of nostalgia whenever I eat them. I figure it’s worth mentioning here that one of my favorite dishes my Grandma used to make for Thanksgiving was sweet potatoes. She would always make them extra sweet and buttery. They weren’t really a vegetable by the time she was done with them, if you know what I mean. Grandpa also had a specialty—homemade applesauce. Also extremely sweet and cinnaminny.
Before I get too far here, I should mention that the woman I knew as “Grandma” was actually not my mom’s mother. My blood-related Grandmother was Dorothy, and she died in the early 80’s before I was born. Right before or shortly after I was born, my Grandpa remarried to Eileen, a lovely lady with a beautiful soul who rose mightily to the task of being our step-Grandma. I never really considered Grandma Eileen to be my “step” anything—she has always been my 100% Grandma my entire life.
I do wonder sometimes what my Grandma Dorothy would have been like had she lived. I remember asking my mom about her once and she replied, “She would have spoiled you rotten.” Lately, I’ve had a better, illuminating vision of what my Grandma Dorothy might have been like. My mom had the privilege of becoming a grandma about 2 years ago. I have seen first-hand what kind of Grandma my mom has been to my son, nieces and nephews, and she surely learned from the best. She was right. Grandma Dorothy would have spoiled us rotten with the kind of unconditional love that Grandmas can give.
When Grandpa remarried, we also grafted in a few new families, most noteably, my Aunt Pam, and my cousins Ryanne and Whitney. I would point to this marriage as a marvelous success-story for blended families.
Whitney was closest in age to myself and we spent all of our family time playing together. Because I only had brothers, she was the closest thing I ever had to a sister. I gave her the place of Maid of Honor at my wedding, she returned the favor to me (even though she did have a sister herself). I think that speaks to the depth of our bond. I love her candor, and bubbly demeanor. Even if it’s been a long time since we’ve seen each other, when we get together it’s like no time at all has passed. We just pick right up where we left off. She really “gets” me and my family’s dynamics. I always make an effort to see her, even despite our growing families and busy schedules.
In the spring 1998, Grandpa died very suddenly of a heart attack. He had been the recipient of heart surgery previously, and though he had fully healed from that, I think he was always at risk. Because he died so many years ago, (I consider myself to be fairly young at the time, age 12) I don’t have as many firm memories of him as I do my Grandma Eileen (who is blessedly still with us today). However, I do know this: Grandpa was a very handsome man, with mischievously twinkling bright blue eyes. He was a big man later in life, and often had kind of a grumpy demeanor; but he could be a softie too, especially towards me, whom he called “peanut” (because I was the size of a peanut when I was born). I’m am grateful for the time I had to get to know him, and remember him fondly. He is missed.
As I mentioned, Grandma is still with us, and she hasn’t changed a bit. She’s warm, kind, generous, and beautiful. I hope to be half as awesome of a grandma as she is.
That’s my grandparents! They left behind a legacy of 5 kids between them, 9 grandkids, and 3 great-grandkids (and counting).
- Grandpa was in the Air Force for WWII
Image source: File Photo Digital Archive