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Time with grandparents creates memories

GAYS MILLS - As my co-worker’s mom came into the office to tell her she was taking my co-worker’s teenager to the pool, I was reminded that, no matter what your age summertime is for grandparents.

Thatcher and Waylon are pretty lucky to have two great grandparents and one grandpa (aka Papa) that they love.  

“I go to Mark and Janey’s cabbbin and Papa’s house EVERRRYY DAY! That’s what I do!” Thatcher will often say to himself, in a reassuring way.  

They’re such a huge part of his life, that now as he enters the sassy, know-it-all, three-year-old stage, I wouldn't be surprised if he packed up a little bindle stick and tried to ride his bicycle to their house on the days where Mom just doesn't cut the mustard.  

I don’t blame him though. Spending time with your grandparents is probably one of the best parts of a childhood. They indulge your every wish. In Thatcher’s case, they not only give you ice cream, but help you make it from scratch. You can watch movies, and generally, just have the best time ever. 

I think I’ve actually only heard the little scrapper complain about his grandma on one occasion, when he said “Grandma always makes me wear a hat, and a coat, and mittens, she’s ALLLLWAYS doing that!” 

Good practice for anyone on a cold day, but three-year-olds don’t always make a lot of sense, it seems. 

I too, was a child who got to spend a lot of time with my grandparents. As you may have read, my grandpa Ray played a big part in my life. But as is usually the case, I had a few other elders in the mix too. 

Throughout my life, my parents always worked opposite shifts–my dad an early bird, my mom a night owl. So, gap coverage between one’s departure and the other’s arrival was necessary.

This is where my grandparents entered the picture–most specifically, my Grandma Schendel. 

My grandma was a pretty standard issue little Midwestern grannie. The only thing she was missing was a perm. She was plump, loved to bake, never got mad, and always had to watch her soaps.  

Thinking back, I hardly remember getting dropped off or picked up. Which is funny, because now, when I leave Thatcher and Waylon, it’s kind of the only glimpse I have into their lives together–the boys and their grandparents. 

I don’t have any photographs from this time in my life either, I never recall my grandma even having a camera of her own. There’s just my own hazy memories. 

My grandparents lived in a big house in a declining neighborhood in Beloit. What had once been a quiet, sleepy area of town, was slowly being absorbed by the crime that continues to consume the city. We were very seldom allowed to actually leave the large rock face porch and play in the front yard, but we made the most of our screen-free childhood of the mid-to-late 1990s. 

When not banished to the porch, or the sandy backyard with the rickety swing set, we enjoyed our time directly with our grandma. 

Although my numerous other cousins may have different things that come to mind when they think of summers at my grandparent’s house, to me, the things I remember most clearly were doing chores to earn a little money for vacation and baking cookies. Because who else bakes a batch of sugar cookies in July, but a grandma?

 It’s amazing I can claim I have no cavities too, for the only things I can recall ever eating at my grandma’s were the big, fluffy white sugar cookies washed down with orange Kool Aid out of little Tupperware cups. 

I can still remember her kitchen, and its’ checkered floor and large table. Oddly enough, it was full of condiment packets from restaurants. Small butters, jellies, and pink sugar packets, piled high with just enough room for your plate or to roll out some dough. 

I can remember the smell of the crocks of sauerkraut fermenting in the parlor. Probably, the only time she yelled at us was to keep us out of it. 

Also, I can remember her exhaustion, and having to help her with her insulin, when diabetes took her eyesight. Eventually, it took her live at age 71 when I was 17 years old.  

I can’t share stories about grandmas though, and not give you a glimpse into my cute little great grandma. She was my dad’s grandma, and it was always clear that he was a ‘grandma’s boy.’ Recently, I even divulged his childhood nickname, Doodlebug, to Chasca. He got an endless amount of laughter out of it. 

Grandma Wilson was the little grandma with a perm. But she was also, a little grandma who carried in firewood to heat her tiny home, most notably into the summer time. This created a sweltering sauna that had a distinct aroma of mothballs and overly ripe bananas. 

She was a grannie that taught me how to sew on her original 1920 Singer sewing machine, and made me flannel nightgowns with matching bonnets. She lived well into her nineties, even once visiting us at our house on top of the ridge outside of Gays Mills. 

Life has had a funny way of cutting things short for me and my little family, but I’ve tried not to dwell on the troubled side of life. I am reminded each and every day by Thatcher that the three grandparents he and his brother have are creating the most wonderful, fulfilling memories the pair could ask for.