Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Wisdom of old

As a child, I spent a lot of time with my grandparents. It was an arrangement of necessity as my mom was a working woman and a single parent for a large part of my growing up. I say large part - that is how my mind perceives it, but it can't be all that accurate.
Anyway, in those days while mom worked, I was able to loose myself in the surroundings of my grandparent's home. It was an absolutely wonderful way to grow up. Not only was I safe, but I spent more time with my grandma (being a grandma, not a surrogate parent) and grandpa than most kids ever get to. I was there at least 10 hours a day, spent many nights there and came away with a love and respect for my grandparents that I cherish deeply.

In their way, they imparted a certain wisdom to me that I couldn't have gotten any other way. And because I received it from them directly, I have held it close to my heart as each has passed on.

My grandfather used to tell me with a seriousness I didn't truly understand until much later, "Poor folk have to buy the very best things they can. Don't skimp on price!" It wasn't until later in my life (after all, Grandpa died when I was 16 and knew it all) that I understood fully what that meant. When you don't have "extra," make those important purchases once. Spend the money once to get the very best, so that you don't have to spend money multiple times to replace shoddy equipment. This goes for cars, homes, appliances, furniture-just about anything you can buy. I have assimilated this philosophy into my life and sometimes have to roll my eyes loudly at Hubby to get him to apply it as well.

My grandmother was a resourceful woman who lived through the depression gaining all kinds of knowledge about how to make ends meet. It is from her quiet example that I learned to learn. Nana made it plain that all things are not possible if you are poorer, but the library was a wonderful place to start researching how to do it yourself! I learned how to type at her dining room table, I learned to heat soup on the stove, I learned that the library was a vast, unexplored paradise that could take me away and bring me down to earth all at the same time! I could learn how to make cookies, explore other countries, travel back in time or just sit at an old library table and people watch. The library was only a two block walk from her door and I was almost always allowed to go there. In fact, I think I only remember one time that she grounded me from the quiet, cool building one summer, and I am pretty sure I deserved every bit of my punishment.

Grandpa was unaware of the next thing he taught me, as most men blissfully are. I learned to try to leave a little bit behind for the next person. It might shock you that a man grown up during the depression era would leave anything behind, but my grandfather always left me a little something in his black metal lunchbox. He would pick me up as I ran to meet him, returning home from working at the Transit Mix plant. He worked hard and drove a concrete truck in the days when that was not a safe endeavor. He could have easily snarfed down his entire lunch every day, but he didn't. He always sat me on the metal counter of the rolling cabinet in the kitchen with that round-top box and smiled as he kissed his wife and watched me dig in. It was rare that there wasn't something saved back for just me. A cookie or two, a slice of apple, some sweet crackers... And always the smell of oranges. He always had an orange in the box, but he always ate that. The peels would be there, stacked up neatly in a corner, scenting the box with a sweet citrus smell that still wafts me back to that counter top.

My grandmother also contributed one more nugget of information that I cannot leave here without telling you. She often told me, "There will always be another load of laundry, another sink of dishes, another phone call to answer... Your kids will grow up and move away and you won't get that back." She reminded me often, before her death, that taking care of my family was paramount to any other endeavor I could possibly take on. The memories I leave my kids with are lasting, even the things I think are small. They can be good memories, or I can leave them with that empty spot that has those troubled memories in them. I can take time out of my day to hug and cuddle and talk, or I can spring for therapy later. She used to say, "Unless you are going to walk around naked and very thin, those things will always be there waiting for you." And so, my house is not a clean house, but like my daughter says, "It looks like a family lives here," and isn't that what I'm aiming for?

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1 comment:

  1. Stacey, this is an fabulous post and a loving and honorable tribute to your grandparents. I find this particularly moving because I am now a Nana and wonder about the impression we are making on our grandson. How lucky you were to have your grandparents to influence you in such powerful ways and how lucky they were to be able to spend rich time with you. Thank you for sharing this beautiful story.


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