Three Generations

As I was holding my new great granddaughter and watching her milk drunk little face fight off sleep, I was struck by a sudden, overwhelming, love for her. It felt, in many ways, just like the love I felt for my new born sons many years ago. I guess those innate nurturing emotions never fade.

I was a young mother. By the time I was twenty-one, our two boys were born. It wasn’t easy to be so young, poor, and parents. But we were, so we just worked harder, made do with less, and loved our kids. We learned to accept the fact that one of us would be out driving around in the middle of the night to sooth a grumpy, over tired baby. We learned to live with sticky mystery goo on hands and faces. We could wrangle a two year old into the bath while talking on the phone and feeding a new born. We were fast diaper changers, quick to feed a baby, and very good at carrying on a conversation with each kid and each other at the same time. Our house was loud, active, and somewhat crazy.

I never got the laundry completely done, not even when they were teenagers. I was always facing a sink filled with dishes, and a house that was beyond messy. But, my boys and I had fun, and it was much more interesting to be with them than it was to clean house. We survived bumps, bruises, bike wrecks, fist fights, stitches, and broken bones. Not to mention childhood illnesses and germ filled school days. It didn’t matter to me that things went unfinished or undone when a Scouting project or school project took up our evenings. Dishes would still be there the next day. We managed the teenage years. Not as well as we could have, but we managed.

Then, suddenly, my boys were grown. And, before I was ready, our first grandchild was on the way. She was born between Christmas and New Years, and we were thrilled to have a girl to spoil. We never really thought we would raise her, but when we lost her father, we did. So instead of cars and building forts in the woods, we had a little girl who knew she was a princess. She spent six months of her third year determined to turn used computer parts into a time machine. And she refused to go to sleep unless her Papa told her about another Princess Crystal adventure. I honestly think that those stories were as real to her as her own life. We did all the things we did with our boys, only differently. She was, and is, high maintenance in many ways. And our greatest delight was to see her riding on her horse in a show. She is a natural. But, suddenly she was a grown woman, with a baby of her own on the way.

Our second son gave us two delightful grandchildren. A boy and a girl. Both are smart, funny, opinionated, and a joy to us. It is different from our first grandchild, it is more like being a real Nana and Papa rather than a parent. Our son is a single father, and he does a super job raising his children. The divorce was not amicable, but at least he gets to see his kids every day. When I see him telling them the exact same things I told him when he was in trouble as a kid, I smile inside knowing I did something right.

Now I have a great granddaughter. She is only three weeks old, and, like most babies, she has taken over our home and our hearts. I have raised, or helped to raise, two generations of children. And at the age of 58, I get to be involved with a third generation. And as I talk to my granddaughter, I hear the words I told her about raising her come straight from her heart as she talks about raising her daughter.

I am a mother, grandmother, and a great grandmother. My life has been raising kids, encouraging my husband, and constantly improving me. I do not regret one moment of being a parent to two rowdy boys and one little princess. It has been the greatest accomplishment of my life, better than my degrees, and all the world travel we experienced. Raising kids to be faithful, hard working, patriotic, and dedicated men and women is the best thing I have ever done, or will ever do.

If you take the jump to parenthood, you will see that all the work, lack of sleep, school projects, and laughing at the dinner table is well worth it. Because that crying baby in aisle two of the grocery store that annoys you now, is going to grow up one day, and he will take on his world from the lessons his parents taught him.

Three generations of children fill my heart. I am blessed and thankful for the opportunity to love them.

Childhood Memory

When I was a little girl, my sister, Carla, and I spent one year with my grandparents in Atoka County, Oklahoma. My grandparents still lived in the house they had built with their own hands when they got married. It was a two-room cabin with a lean to on the back for a kitchen. There was no running water, no indoor toilet, and the electricity hook ups would never have passed any inspection if they had bothered to come have a look. In the front room, where my grandparents also slept, was wood burning stove, a double bed with an old cast iron headboard, a dresser, and a small table on which the bulbous brown radio with the huge dial sat. My favourite piece of furniture in the whole house was the wooden rocking chair with the rope seat. All of the grandchildren would fight over sitting in that chair, until Granddad would look up from what ever he was working and say, in his quiet but firm voice, “Here now, y’all stop that fussin’.”

 I remember it was cold that winter, but we went off to school at Harmony School every morning on the big yellow school bus. Every day Grannie would get us up and we would dash from the cold North Bedroom into the front room to stand by the stove as we raced to get our clothes on before we froze to death. I was in first grade, and scared to death of making a mistake. Mrs. Graham was the teacher for grades one through three – all in the same room. She was at the school her entire career as a teacher, and still remembered us up until she died a few years ago. I think she remembered every student who ever walked into her classroom. She was the kind of teacher that I would desire to be if I taught children. I can still remember her looking over her glasses at me, smiling and saying, “Of course you can learn this word, it isn’t too hard to read.” And learn it I did because Mrs. Graham never accepted less than one’s best efforts.

 When school got out for the summer, Carla and I had to go to work with our grandparents. Grannie worked at a laundry that did washing for hotels and restaurants as well as regular folks. I remember the huge whiter than white sheets hanging on the seemingly endless clotheslines, the heat of the clothes press and the steam billowing up as the sheets and tablecloths were ironed every day. The laundry stood in an old building that seemed to be half tin and half falling down bricks. It smelled of starch, steam, water, and freshly aired cloth. The women chattered, laughed, shouted, and aimed an occasional swat at one of the multitude of little kids running around during the summer.

 Granddad worked at a garage as a mechanic. I love the smell of the place. I still get nostalgic when I step into an old fashioned garage that smells of grease and oil. Every morning the new tire smell battled with the odour of fresh brewed coffee strong enough to melt a spoon. I used to play in the office in an old wooden chair. If I did things just right I could get it to spin in great circles while rolling across the floor. In the afternoon, when it got hot and sticky, I could climb up into the cab of Granddad’s pickup and have a nap. He would always wake me up around three with a cold Nehi Grape Soda to refresh me.

 At lunch every day, without fail, Granddad and I would go pick up Grannie and Carla, and the four of us would stop at the little gas station near the Railroad Bridge to buy lunchmeat, bread, and drinks from their deli. Then we would drive out of town and find a place to stop on a dirt road to have our lunch. Granddad would park under a shade tree, near a creek if he could find one, and we would all climb into the back of the truck to have lunch. Nothing tastes better than a pickle loaf sandwich and a cold soda pop on a hot summer day. The memory of those afternoons seems to be imprinted on my heart. All of my senses were involved in those hours. The smell of dry dusty roads, the feel of the soft breeze, the whirr of grasshoppers in the tall weeds, birds squabbling in the trees, and the taste of ice cold soda pop on a parched tongue. All were brought together in a kolidascope of colours to satisfy even the most discerning artistic eyes. If Granddad was in a good mood, Carla and I would be allowed to sit in the back of the truck until we got to the highway. I know, now, that we didn’t go very fast, but it seemed to us we were flying down the road throwing up huge clouds of dust behind us.

 I rarely go back to Atoka County, it just isn’t the way I remember it. My grandfather passed away and Grannie moved to town. It is where my parent’s “people” are from, and I suppose it is really the only home I’ve ever really known as I’ve lived all over the world since then. But, always in my heart stands the memory of those cold winter days, boiling summer nights, and simple times.

Grannie’s Hands

Her hands lie upon her stomach quiet and still. Telling, in their scared wrinkles, the story of a lifetime.

As a child her plump dimpled hands clung to her mother’s. They were, at times, covered with mud, sticky sweets, and all of the mess and mire of childhood. When she was a young woman, her hands were thin and lovely, yet strong enough to cope with the life she anticipated as the wife of a farmer. Those hands were adorned with a simple gold band, and, in time, held each of her newborn children.

They scrubbed, cooked, cleaned, and washed for her family. They comforted the ill, held the weary, and buried the dead. They were scared by fire, cut by life, and calloused by work. But to me, they were simply Grannie’s Hands.

I remember how they touched my face, braided my hair, and tied my shoes. I remember watching them as they sewed on buttons, kneaded bread dough, and planted flowers. They gently held my hands as I learned how to measure sugar for vanilla cookies, cried out my hurt feelings and fears, and poured out my heart when I fell in love. I remember Grannie’s hands reaching out to hold my first baby, and watching as she touched the face of her great great grandchild.

Her hands passed down instruction, discipline, talent, love, comfort, and compassion to four generations, and now, on her death bed, they are still.

But  as long as I live, I will remember Grannies hands.