By Dorothy Dean Holman
Edited by John M. Holman, Contributing Writer
Or was she a kind, motherly sort of person who welcomed you with open arms and a glad-to-see-you smile? And gave you molasses cookies from the always full cookie jar, and had plenty of time to listen to your childish prattle?
Which. kind of a grandmother are you? And how will your grandchildren remember you? Most of us can't leave them much of this world's goods, but we can leave them memories.
Perhaps you live far from your grandchildren as my grandmother did from me. But we loved her little as we saw her, and we thought all grandmothers were wonderful. She visited us very seldom but I remember one time when she took four of us back with her when she returned to her home. I was about five then. We took the night boat from Boston, and before pulling away from the pier, I remember how everyone was on the dock side of the boat waving to friends on shore, as we were to Papa who had come to see us off. I remember wishing Grandma, being big and heavy, would go over to the other side of the boat to help balance it a little, and keep it from tipping over.
We had a lovely visit with Grandma. She took us to a fort where we saw all the soldiers, and she took us to call on relatives, great aunts and uncles we'd never seen and who'd never seen us. And we went to the beach occasionally. And that's about all I remember of MY grandmother.
My sisters and I used to pretend we had one living with us, and we'd drape an apron or skirt over the seat of a chair, hang a shirtwaist over the back and sit in her lap, so to speak, with her arms, the empty sleeves around us.
We grandmothers of today can make up to our grandchildren what their parents don't have time for or thoughtlessly neglect. And that is more love shown and attention given, and more interest in their very-important- to-them, affairs.
Of course we have our busy lives too, now that our children are grown and gone from home, and have more time to do the things we've always wanted to do. But there's always time for the little people even if it's only one afternoon a week.
They don't need or expect much entertainment. They'll find that for themselves. And we don't need to feel we must take them to the park, movies or zoo, though that would be nice once in a while. They're happy with the simplest things.
When my little grandson was four years old, he kept busy a long time with some scraps of wood, a hammer and a handful of nails. Two pieces of wood crossed and nailed together made the most wonderful airplane. Then it must be painted, of course, though painting was something perhaps he wasn't allowed to do at home. But given a tiny can of red paint and an artist's brush and he was in seventh heaven. We spread newspapers on the kitchen floor but I'll tell you a secret. The floor was spattered linoleum, and if he happened to get some outside the paper, one more spatter didn't matter.
Another thing little grandson and his sister liked to do was to cook. So I saved all my scraps of pie dough for them, got out the rolling pin, pastry board and cookie cutter, and they were kept happily busy "making cookies". Of course they had to be sampled when done, and the rest taken home proudly in a paper bag. They didn't make much of a mess and it was soon cleaned up, allowing them to wash what dishes were used, and what little child doesn't love to do dishes!
Although small children can be amused and kept busy with gadgets and things around the house, it's nice to have a few toys around to fall back on, so Grandma should have a toybox. When I was a very new grandmother my little grand daughter said to me one day, "Grandma, you haven't anything to play with," which set me to thinking, especially so when I went to call on a neighbor grandmother one day. while we were visiting, her little grandchild came in and went straight to the toy box under the kitchen table, and pulling out some building blocks, began quietly playing with them.
Mentioning it to my neighbor, she said, "Oh yes, Grandma has a toy box. We keep a few things in it and add to it occasionally to keep up their interest." What a nice idea, I thought, and going home, brought down from the attic a little old-fashioned wooden box trunk and set it in a corner of the living room. The next time I went shopping I bought a few inexpensive toys, paper dolls, building set, sewing kit. I tried to get things they didn't have at home, and constructive toys wherever possible.
They say we grandparents spoil our grandchildren and perhaps some of us do, but we don't need to. On the contrary, we can be of great help in the process of discipling, by the right admonition given in the right place and at the right time, and by example.
For instance, tea with Grandma, besides being fun, is teaching them the little amenities of entertaining which will serve them to good purpose when they are older. The coffee table is just the right size for the small fry, and how they loved the occasion.
Real tea of course but weak, and served with sugar and lemon, along with little crackers or cookies. We usually observed teatime no later than three o'clock so as not to spoil their appetites for dinner . Sometimes sister poured and sometimes little brother, and again Grandma took her turn.
Among the things we can teach our grandchildren is thought for others. One time we made scrapbooks for crippled children in a nearby hospital. We bought inexpensive composition books and cut pictures from magazines of animals, children at; play, or anything a small child would be interested in. We even pasted in a few covers from old Christmas cards that appealed to the little ones. They loved working on their scrapbooks and were allowed blunt- nosed scissors to use in cutting out the pictures.
These were some of the things we did inside that helped to make those memories of later years, but there were just as interesting activities to take part in outside. Sometimes we went for a walk, "looking for treaures" we called it, collecting pretty stones, colorful leaves in the fall, early flowers in spring. We walked in the woods and sat by a pond, hoping for a glimpse of a duck who had been seen there. We'd lie on our backs and looking up into the trees, watch them sway in the wind, or see clouds shapes scudding across the blue. Then, turning over on our tummies, we'd find an ant hill, and watch for a while the busy little ant people scurrying in and out building their homes.
Their little eyes saw beauty in many things we take for granted, the intricacies of a bird's nest, wild flower seed heads, various mosses. One fall we brought home some of the latter and placing it in a small glass jar made a sort of terrarium. We set a small fern among the mosses, and a partridge berry vine, and just to make it more interesting we hid an acorn down underneath.
By early winter it had sprouted and a baby oak tree started growing. How proud they were of their little indoor gardens And how they loved to show it off to their friends. At a Christmas family gathering, little grandson walked through the room holding high the jar with the oak tree in it exclaiming, "See what me and Grandma grew"! Though the grammar was incorrect, the enthusiasm and joy of achievement in the little voice was unmistakable.
Do you join in their little games? Some children don't look upon Grandma as an older person. They treat her as one of the gang, especially if she does join in their fun. My little grandson used to say, "We're pals, aren't we, Grandma?"
Winters, the coasters would come out and Grandma was asked to "come sliding". Did you ever ride down a snowy crust on a flying saucer? You've no idea what fun it can be to go round and round as you descend. Of course you have to double up a bit to get your whole self inside.
Do you know what fun it can be to make a snowman with the small fry? Given just the right kind of snow, the wet sticky kind, and starting with a snowball you can roll it into a base in no time, while granddaughter rolls another into a body, and grandson takes care of the head. Two stones for eyes, a carrot for a nose and a stick for a mouth completes "Frosty". An old hat of Grandpa's and a scarf and Frosty is dressed for any occasion. Then watch the little ones stand back and admire the finished product, and see in their attitude the satisfaction of a job well done.
Walking in the woods was a treat to the children in spring, summer or fall, but it was fully as enjoyable in the winter time when we'd walk to the woodlot where Grandpa was cutting wood. He'd combine our pleasure with thought for the wild things to be seen occasionally there, a chickadee, gray squirrel, chipmunk or a little wild rabbit. So we'd take food for them and place it about where we thought they'd be sure to find it, an apple, peanuts, squash and sunflower seeds.
All these things a child will retain in memory, and though as they grow older other interests may take the place of Grandma, still she isn't entirely forgotten. She holds a very special spot in their hearts and she always will.
We may not be around to hear them, but we can be sure what they will answer when asked, years hence, "What was your grandmother like?" That is, if we've left them memories.