Didn’t grandmas used to be…uh…more grandma like? Mine wore dull colored, aproned dresses. If her hem lifted too high, you’d catch a glimpse of rolled nylons, just below her knees.
As long as I knew her, she kept her gray hair tight in a bun and her brows wiry. They poked out over clear plastic rimmed glasses like untidy caterpillars.
(I’m fairly certain many of today’s grandmas pluck and wax.)
Because my grandma lived near us, our family visited frequently, my brother and I restless, while the grownups sat on the couch, talking and sipping gingerale. Occasionally, we had to answer a question about school.
(Adults got to talk and kids listened? Grandparents today often have to wait for the grandkids to go to college for a chance to speak in full sentences to their adult children.)
But, also during those visits, Grandma urged me to sit on her lap. I shyly acquiesced, knowing I was too old for it long before she did. I ignored my brother when he mouthed “baby” so only I could see.
Because my grandma was rather stoic, I sensed this was her way to envelope me with her love, without getting too mushy. Even sibling ridicule wasn’t enough for me to give it up.
(I get it. I really do. But, frankly, I miss the days when holding a child on your lap didn’t raise eyebrows.)
Visits without parents were the best. Grandma seemed pleased to see us but when the parents left, she proceeded with business as usual. It was up to us to come up with our own entertainment.
(Wait! What? No list of Pinterest inspired STEM activities or games we would play together?)
On arrival, my brother and I raced to the formica kitchen table to see who got to the salt and pepper shakers first. Of course, being the older one, he’d win and taunt me with them. If he were feeling generous (yeah, right) or if Grandma didn’t want to hear fussing (more likely) he handed me one. Good fun if you can get your hands on them. (And, you can, since similar ones like the photo sell on Ebay.)
They squeaked open. They snapped shut. Squeak. Snap! Squeak. Snap! Squeak…
“Ok, now that’s enough,” my grandma chided when she couldn’t stand it another second.
(Ah, something the grandmas of today can relate to.)
At that point, we might head to the bell collections. My grandparents collected brass bells from their world travels. Some were strung on silky braids in doorways. Larger ones nestled on shelves and table tops. Sleigh bells, used on their horses, were also on display across the dining room doorway.
(No claims to minimalism in this house.)
We swatted and tugged the bells, making them bump and ring, jingled the table top bells and competed to see who could leap high enough to smack at the sleigh bells.
Just as we got them all ring-a-ding-a-dinging at once, Grandma would step into the room and announce, “Ok, now that’s enough!”
Chased from the bells, we might move on to snoop in drawers, blow air on each other with the fireplace bellows, or follow her “like a shadow” as she moved about. If we chose the latter, it wouldn’t be long until we heard the familiar refrain, “Ok, now that’s enough.” Sometimes that was followed up with a suggestion to go outside.
Outside the kitchen window was a wooden swing, with two facing benches, a canopy and a floor. Many times, on arrival, we’d find our grandparents there, sipping sweet tea or reading the newspaper, swaying ever so slightly.
(I want this.)
But, when it was our turn, my brother would leap up, straddle above the floor, a foot on each seat, and make that baby soar! I’d jerk into a moving seat, screaming for him to wait, then hang on for dear life. The more he pushed with his legs, the louder I screeched, certain that thing was going to explode into a shower of splinters.
My fear fueled his recklessness. Can’t stop! We’re a rocket! Tap. Tap. We’re ready to hit the suuuunnnn! Rap. Rap. Rap. Watch out for that meteor! RAP! RAP! RAP! RAP!
Eventually, we’d look to the source of the rapping and see Grandma at the kitchen window We didn’t need to hear the words to know what she was saying.
“Ok, now that’s enough!”
My brother and I got older, as children tend to do. Our lives edged out playing with bells, riding swings, and visiting Grandma. I suppose when we were looking the other way, she got older, too.
And, as it goes, her time on earth was nearly done.
(Some things never change.)
This time when our family visited her, she was in a sterile bed. It was surprising to see her hair cascading over her shoulders, onto the bodice of a delicate white nightgown. She beamed and reached out with a gnarled hand to hold mine.
Once again, I shyly acquiesced, and held her hand. I said the first thing that came to my mind.
“You look so beautiful.” Her face lit up with the words and I briefly wondered if she’d ever heard them in her whole life. Tears threatened to well in my eyes.
“You really do look beautiful,” I continued, “like an angel.”
She shook her head and gave my hand a squeeze. Then, one last time I heard her say, “Ok, now that’s enough.”
I was grateful for the weight of my brother’s arm across my shoulders. And our shared memories. As I turned to leave, I looked back one more time and was glad to see that she was still smiling.