"GRAND MEMORIES” – Life Lessons Learned From Grandparents - Part 3 in Series
The Homeplace - Built In 1939
The House On Cunningham’s Corner
The big, two story white house on the corner of Hwy 149 and Something Road has always been the home of my Paternal Grandparents. It sits on about three acres of manicured lawn and has a driveway entrance from two sides. The main entrance has about a 200 foot drive, lined with pecan trees and a big magnolia tree in the front yard. On one side of the house are big gardenia bushes that fill the house with fragrance when in bloom. Near the den door there’s a big peony bush that would always have massive blooms around Mother’s day. Not far from the back door stands a concrete picnic table and bench. The garage was Grandpa’s shop and work area and filled with endless things a child could get into. And then there’s the pecan grove … ohhh the pecan grove … with those big, towering trees that are meant to be climbed in and lying underneath on an old blanket or quilt and just daydreaming away the endless time, a child always thinks they will never run out of.
Or at least that’s the way it was … when I was a kid and a good part of my adult life too … until Grandma passed away in 1991 … and everything was sold. The house is still there. The people living there keep it up nice enough, but like any new owner they have made lots of changes over the years to make it their home.
For a long time when I gave thought to another family residing there, in the house my Grands built in the 1939, it saddened me and made me a little mad too. It seemed they had invaded and took over a part of my Family … a part of my life even! What gave them the right to close off one of the driveways or cover over the cedar paneling in the den? My Grandpa put that cedar up there with his own hands and then built a bookcase, which is in my home, from the leftover wood.
It was really difficult for me to admit that all things change .. at some point anyway. We may not always like it, but change really is the only certainty in life. A door closes and another opens. We grow as a person, only when we are willing to walk through those doors.
Even though it’s only a short drive, I don’t get over there very often anymore. There are still lots of cousins and a favorite aunt not too far from the old home place. Whenever I am in that part of the state, I like to sometimes drive by Cunningham’s Corner, slow down and reminiscence for a few minutes about the way it used to be … so many years ago.
As I’m writing this my eyes fill with tears of nostalgia. But, that’s OK, cause, the neat thing about happy tears is how warm they are on your face … warm … like the memories that fill your mind and heart when you think of those happy times.
Days and Nights with the Grands
Many of those happy times, were when I and frequently a brother and/or a cousin or two, would “spend the night” with Grandma and Grandpa. I wonder if they ever had any idea how entertaining it was to spend time with them at their place. Besides all the playing outdoors and helping out with chores, there was always something to do in the house as well.
Things like: helping Grandma cut out recipes and paste them in her huge, ever growing recipe books. Sliding in our sock feet on the hardwood floors, from one bedroom to the other or sliding down the banister. What fun for a kid of any age. For what seemed like hours, we would play in the big cedar chest filled with quilts and blankets, building splendid tents that any architect would envy. And there was always a race for we girls to see who would be the lucky one each month to get to the McCall Magazine first and the Betsy McCall Paper Dolls.
There was a very long, narrow attic that ran across the front of the house. To my child size thinking it seemed almost endless. It had two entrances; one from the hall and one from the southern bedroom. There was something very mysterious about being in that dark, cedar, musty smelling place. It was not nearly as tidy as the rest of the house always was. Things were sort of disheveled and tousled about; probably because of us kids and our curiosity to eventually go through all the contents in this special, almost secret place.
Grandma and Grandpa were born in 1900 and 1901. They grew up very frugally and kept everything that might, in any way, be put to use later on. How fortuitous of them to be thinking about their grandchildren even before we were born!
There were old magazines from the 1940s all tied up with twine in a bundle, just begging to be untied and looked at. We would laugh and giggle about the pictures of clothes and cars that filled the pages. Once I found a box of clothing patterns with my aunts’ names on them and the price on some of them was 49 cents. Of course there were Christmas and other decorations, both current and ancient. In one corner, in a hard to get to place, where mounds of hat boxes filled with hats belonging to both the Grands. We would work our way into that corner and hand the boxes to our partner in crime and then model each hat, giggling all the through our fashion show.
Then, all of sudden, we would hear Grandma calling “You kids get out of that attic and stop messing around with all that stuff”. We would emerge all grimy and sweaty with our minds going non stop with all the things we had discovered.
Also, there was something kind of eerie about that attic, but only at night. The Grands always insisted we sleep in that southern bedroom. I never knew why they insisted on us sleeping in that room for there were two other rooms we could have slept in just as well. For some reason, I would sometimes have nightmares about a strange man creeping from that attic door into the bedroom to get me. To this day I can’t go to sleep at night if a closet door is open.
The Strawberries Mission
My cousin Billy, two years older than me, and I would sometimes be playing outside together in the summer heat while Grandma was resting on the den sofa. We would work our way into the kitchen through the back door, with a mission in mind. You see, there was a big upright freezer in the kitchen that always had plastic containers of strawberries. We would quietly take one out and then sneak a couple of spoons from the drawer.
Once out the screen door, being careful not to slam it, we’d race to the back of the garage and share the sweet, frozen delight. Then we would wash the container and spoons, using the outside water faucet and dry everything on our shirt tails. The hard part was putting back the container. The spoons were easy enough but the containers were not so easy for short children. For you see, they were often on a high self in the laundry room. So sometimes we were forced to hide them outside, never to be thought of again … until that is … the next strawberry mission.
Many years later, my sons and I were visiting with Grandma for a couple of days. The boys were about 8 or 10 years old at the time. Grandma could no longer make it up the stairs. As we were taking our luggage up the stairs, I asked her if she wanted us in the southern bedroom. To my shock and disbelief she replied it did not matter which room we used.
That was when I found out the reason, as children, we had to sleep in the southern bedroom. Grandma laughed and said “The reason we made you grandkids sleep in that room was so we could hear what was going on, after the lights went out.” The Grands’ bedroom was in the same spot downstairs and they could hear every move we made on the hardwood floors in the southern bedroom.
It was that same revealing weekend when my eyes were opened about how necessary it is to “pick your battles”. I learned there were others things, I thought we were getting away with as kids, the Grands knew about as well. “Sometimes grown ups just have be sneaky about innocent things”, Grandma would say with a silly grin on her face.
During Grandma’s secret reveal that day she also told me about the strawberry missions. Turned out, Grandpa would find the hidden containers, usually within a few days of mine and Billy's visits. Knowing our love of strawberries and the stains on our shirts, they knew who the culprits were. Grandma said, "Me and Grandpa would always get a chuckle about things like that." But they never said anything to us kids.
Grandparents are smart folks in many ways!
Links to Part 1 & 2 of this series - "Grand" Memories
- "Grand" Memories - Life Lessons Learned from Grandparents & Grandma's
PART 1 IN SERIES: Becoming a Grandparent causes one to reflect about how much of an influence Grands do have on your life. Things shared and learned by Grands can have a lasting impression.
- "Grand" Memories - Life Lessons Learned from Grandparents. Part 2 in a Series and
PART 2 IN SERIES: Without even knowing it we teach by our example. Sharing a few life lessons learned from my Grands and my recipe for Luscious Flan.
Generation to Generation
Things have really changed, in so many ways, since those childhood days and wonderful hours spent at the “Grands” house on Cunningham's Corner. Even though they didn't have a special Grandkids room filled with toys and stuff and when we went to visit, we didn’t take backpacks filled with stuff to keep us busy. Yet we were never, ever bored!
Now that I’m a Grandma, I have a room for my one grandson, filled with toys and such. Even special bedding just for him. Of course, when he walks in the house, he usually heads straight for his room and it gives me great pleasure that he has a good time in his space. But, my deepest heart’s desire is for him to have cherished times with his Grandma, with or without all the stuff. And, hopefully, someday when he’s all grown up he will remember our times together with warm feelings and realize that he learned some important life lesson by spending time with his Grandma.
If that’s accomplished, then I will have fulfilled what “Grands” are put into our lives for ... to make your childhood a special place to be.