I stayed with my grandparents (my mom’s parents) most weekends when I was a baby. Then after my sister came along it was still often we got to see them or stay the night at their house in Lorain. When I visit now, not much has changed, except how fast my grandparents move, and I feel like a 10 year old little girl again. I feel at home there and have memories of them and their house that will never leave me.
They moved to Lorain from Baltimore in 1963 when a friend of my grandpa’s (Ralph Myers) told him there was work. Grandpa headed out to the ship yard in Lorain and got the job, staying by himself until my grandma and the three kids could join him. They stayed in a tiny apartment until their house was built in a new neighborhood. They have been there ever since. Fifty years next year. Twenty-eight years of those years I have had the privilege of being around to call it a second home.
I’m sure you all have wonderful memories of your grandparents whether they are still with you or have passed away. Please share those with me in the comments section. I’m fortunate to have one set of grandparents still living, and at 81 and 82, I soak up the time I get with them and still feel as cuddly and as loved as I did when I was five.
In the fall of 2000, I took my journal and walked around outside of their house and inside, jotting down notes of the things and the senses that stood out to me or brought to mind memories of visiting that familiar house on Skyline Dr.
Sitting on the front stairs, eating a bowl of grapes. Not just eating them like normal people, but peeling the skin off and taking mini-bites of each one. It was juicy and messy. And fun.
Playing in the leaves in the front yard under the big tree they had planted when they moved in. Closer to the house, the birch tree that shed its many seeds on the grass gave me something to collect. Like I needed another thing to collect as a kid.
Hearing the “Ca-lump Ca-lump” of the cars passing by on the concrete blocked street, slowing for the stop sign but mostly not stopping.
Hiding in the bushes and behind the big spruce tree while playing Hide n’ Seek.
Taking walks to the park down the street.
Running, jump-roping, riding the plastic tricycle, then naturally falling down on the sidewalks and in the driveway-they must hold many blood stains from my knees and elbows. They were perpetually scraped. I still have a few scars to prove it. The cure? The red dyed Mercurochrome. Grandma would get mad if Grandpa tried to fix our scrapes with Iodine, she didn’t want us to feel it’s sting.
Grandma would let us have washed out butter containers (which we used a knife to poke holes in the lids) to catch lightning bugs in.
Stopping to smell all the different kinds of flowers, mostly the roses that my Grandpa takes meticulous care of and knows all about. Petals so delicate, so silky to touch. Pink ones, yellow ones, pink and yellow ones, red ones, light pink ones, peachy ones, dark purplish red ones. And the snapdragons, forget-me-nots.
Swimming in the neighbor’s pool, learning to dive. Hearing about how Grandpa’s dad taught him how to swim- “Tied a rope around my waist, and threw me in the river”. The water and swimming is in our blood, we come from a long line of watermen and crabbers and oystermen on the Chesapeake Bay. Lake Erie is a familiar place for us, with my grandpa’s boat he passed along to my mom and dad, we’ve been out fishing and boating many times. Docked at Beaver Creek, I know the winding way we took with no wake under the bridges to the spot near the marina where the creek widens and becomes Lake Erie.
The picnic table with an umbrella I used to draw and color with marker and pencils under.
The windmills in the flower gardens- the sunflower, the rooster, the flamingo.
The barn (shed) in the back yard with the sign over the door said “Wilkom“, where inside lay an old canoe, lots of “junk” as my grandma defined it, and the old croquet set we would play over and over in the backyard. Wiffle ball, “football”, playing catch with Grandpa, who liked to use his old catcher’s mitt from the 40’s or 50’s.
Grandpa teasing me that my birthday was his birthday. (Ours are only a week apart.) Or teasing about whose rock it was…”My rock!” Little inside joke I guess.
The Mickey and Minnie kiddie pool we’d spend all afternoon in.
The crab-apple tree I spent many days in, barefoot and climbing towards the sky, hanging monkey-like from limb to limb.
Chasing butterflies with the nets Grandpa would always have for us.
The spinning swing that hung from the crab-apple tree.
After a day on the boat on Lake Erie, fishing and/or swimming, Dad and Grandpa would clean the fish for dinner or for freezing, and they’d pop a few eyeballs out for us to examine and play with. I remember collecting them in a little plastic bag like they were marbles.
Hearing all the stories from being in the Navy, growing up in Baltimore and visiting his mother’s family on the Eastern Shore of the Chesapeake, endless genealogical findings, maps and pictures. Present day stories of the how the neighbor “Rainey” did this or that to tick him off. 🙂 Or swimming with the boys in Oberlin. It’s always entertaining and endearing.
Bird watching and being especially on the look out for Orioles.
After a weekend of playing and fun, leaving with pink polka-dotted skin. (From the calamine lotion on mosquito bites, of course.)
The goose on the front porch always donning the appropriate seasonal attire.
Grandma letting me use her lipstick and teaching me how to blot. And her cold cream. Thick, cold and always made my skin feel soft!
Sweet tea. Always cold, always with a hint of lemon. The hot tea, always with milk, always with sugar, and always always with 5 or more choices of desserts. If mom and dad weren’t looking, Grandma would let us try them all. The menu of desserts usually went like this: Tasty cakes, pie, cookies, Klondikes, Orange Push-ups, Pineapple sherbet, Eggnog ice cream, banana popsicles or fudge-sicles. Or, for special morning treats, Dunkin Donuts- the cake ones filled with white or chocolate frosting- the old way they did it, now they are just not the same. For snacks, Jones chips in the bag or Mike-Sells potato chips in a big tin can, pretzels, fruit pebbles, apple jacks and Chicken In A Biskit.
The flag pole in front, with the American flag raised high, and directly below it, the Royal Scottish flag.
The garage that Grandpa has filled with junk (as Grandma calls it:) – neatly stacked boxes upon boxes, carefully labeled with a draftsman’s handwriting, fishing rods over head, buckets, rakes, brooms, mowers, tools galore, straw garden hats, old bikes, rolled up maps, sprays and fertilizers, bumper stickers on the wall and a checkered clock by a framed paper with a cartoon drawing of a foot in a sock with a hole in the big toe that states “The only hole in one I ever had!”
The candy dish on the coffee table that held Werther’s candies or those strawberry hard candies in the wrappers that looked like the fruit.
Grandma’s slippers. Grandpa’s perfectly sharpened pencils.
These are just some of the things I remember and some of the things I still get to enjoy about visiting my grandparents. It is a special relationship and they are lovely, kind, wonderful people. I hope I make my grandkids feel at home someday by just being with them like my grandparents have made me feel when I’m with them.