By Lori Stewart
If you are a grandparent today, chances are you play a large and important role in your young grandchildren’s lives. You spoil them, teach them about family history, babysit, and contribute financially to their education, health care and even some everyday expenses. You tell them silly jokes and talk to them about serious subjects -- morals and values, sex, drugs and rock and roll. You know to boo the Snatcher and cheer Galahad because you’ve spent quiet times watching their videos with them. And you’re embarrassed to admit you’ve actually learned a bit about fine art and classical music from the Little Einsteins.
You’re up on the latest in baby gear, nutrition, medical care and child rearing advice, and you’ve kept up with new technologies -- joining Facebook, Skype and Face Time -- just to stay connected. You know better than to comment on hair or clothing or music preferences, and you know when to give advice and when to hold your tongue.
You’re doing a great job as a grandparent. So let me ask you this. How would you like your grandchildren to remember you? They’ll grow up someday, and have grandchildren of their own, and they’ll tell stories about you. Do you ever wonder what they’ll say?
I’ll tell you what I remember about my grandmother. She taught us how to knit and to play bridge, how to make her famous ‘grandma’s chicken’. I remember the smell and taste of her freshly baked sourdough bread that went straight from the oven into our greedy little hands. And I remember the lemonade cocktails she made for us, layered with orange juice and cherry juice to match the setting sun.
She always put a $ bill and pack of gum on our pillows when we’d arrive for a visit, and she’d give us “mad money” when we went on dates -- not a great source of income! We’d spend summers at the beach with her and work on projects -- building sand castle cities, a makeshift sailboat, sewing doll clothes, learning dance routines, wandering through tidal pools, lazing about on her ‘lanai’ doing our summer reading. Grandma would rub our sunburned backs with lotion, and brush and braid our straggly hair.
She would tell us stories about our grandfather, who had died early on, keeping his memory alive. Grandma was full of surprises. When the ‘grunion were running’ she would awaken us in the middle of the night and tell us to grab our pails, and we’d race to the beach and catch the silvery fish flopping around on the sand with our bare hands.
She was always with us during the holidays. She’d organize craft projects over Thanksgiving and we’d make gifts to give and keep forever; wreaths from nuts, and cones and seedpods gathered during the evening walk, sparkling sequined tree ornaments, and walnut shell dioramas.
Every year as we hang the wreaths over the mantle and the keepsake ornaments on our tree…she is with us once again. We’d dress up -- hats, coats, white gloves and patent leather shoes -- and go ‘the City’ for a day of shopping and a prime rib lunch at a grand hotel. She gave us nightgowns and silver spoons for Christmas, but the ‘big gift’ was always for our mother - a beautiful outfit, a necklace - something to make her feel special. She’d take us to the wharf to feed the sea lions, and to the stables so we could ride horses through the artichoke fields and down along the beach.
And because we loved horses, she would take us to races at the county fair, where she would put up the money for a $2 bet and let us pick the winners! She’d take us on trips to Disneyland, Canada, Mexico, Hawaii…and “back east” to meet more relatives.
I don’t remember her being beautiful, but she was funny and fun and everyone loved her. She drove a lemon yellow Oldsmobile with wire wheels and would dance up a storm whenever the occasion presented itself. I don’t remember her babysitting us, or coming to tennis matches or music recitals or Halloween parades, and I don’t remember having important conversations with her -- at least none that turned out well.
I don’t know if she was really all fun and warm and good, but that’s what I remember. Maybe we only keep the good memories and discard the bad. Perhaps, memories are made up of lingering impressions and simple events that stand out from our day to day lives. When I remember my grandmother, I think of those special times, and I remember her funny laugh, her sweet fragrance, her artistry, spontaneity, generous spirit and sense of fun, and that warm wonderful way she had of making us feel very special.
So what do you remember about your grandparents? How would you like your grandchildren to remember you?
Lori Stewart is the author of If I had as many grandchildren as you... (http://www.ifihadasmanygrandchildrenasyou.com/) released by Palmar Press. She lives in California and spends her time writing and running AFTA Associates, an organization she started that supports wildlife conservation through community enterprise.