As a child, I spent late afternoons during the school year and long summer days with my grandma Is. She wasn’t a teacher by trade, but she taught me what was important through constant example.
Food is Fuel
Simple food is what is needed to keep your body healthy. We only ate at meal times. The food we ate was rather plain and there was no snacking.
My favorite summer lunch was buttered noodles with a couple of slices of summer sausage and a few bread and butter pickle slices on the side. A small triangle of watermelon was a sweet treat. She would keep the watermelon cut side up in the refrigerator, covered with Saran Wrap. (Once, as a small child, I took a spoon and ate several large scoops out of the bright red juice middle in the afternoon. She was not happy with me–I don’t remember the exchange that resulted, but I never did it again.)
Grandma always took care of her nails. She favored bright deep red polish. I’m not sure if it was actually her favorite or just the best color to cover the nicotine stains on her nails. But even years after she gave up smoking, she only wore vibrant red polish. I don’t ever remember her nails chipped or plain–always red and perfect.
Look Your Best…
…but don’t give away your secrets. Grandma didn’t exercise, but she always looked put together–cool, calm, and collected.
I would often sleep over and lay in bed talking to her as she dressed for the day. One part of her wardrobe that she always wore was a body slimming and shaping girdle. She would hoist it up over her hips and shimmy it up and under the bottom of her bra.
She (with a straight face) informed me that it helped to support her back.
Enjoy Yourself Mindfully
I’m not a big t.v. watcher. But back in the day, I had lots of favorite shows that I really looked forward to. Grandma’s house was just a couple of blocks from my Washington Elementary. When I got there after the school day, I would plop myself against the big n Naugahyde footstool that pushed up against the wall and watch Gilligan’s Island, The Brady Bunch, and M*A*S*H. Just after the 5 o’clock news began, my mom would pick me up to go home.
Now, it was a totally different system and schedule in the summer. Grandma said that there was nothing on t.v. to watch except re-runs. She would curl her lip and shake her head with the thought that anyone would want to watch such rubbish. Therefore, the t.v. stayed off all summer. We would instead sit in the patio and I frequently experienced boredom. (This did not seem to bother her.)
Chores, work, and errands are best done with a partner.
When I was small, she would drive around town with me in the passenger seat to do “errands”. These errands included dropping off mail at the post office and paying the water bill–in person. She would wait for me in the car as I ran inside to deliver the appropriate envelope.
Later in life, she would be a part of the family team that helped me to move, paint, and decorate several of my young adult apartments. I have pictures in my mind of exhausted parents and grandmas reclining after working. From morning ’til late, late night, my family would help for an intense weekend to get a place ready for me.
She was also game for supervising cooking and gardening. She had years of expertise and was glad to direct apprentices in acquiring the skills necessary to be successful. But I don’t think it was just the imparting of knowledge that she was interested in…it was the time spent doing something together.
I know times were different with many of the examples I’ve shared here. But it does get me thinking about the lessons I inadvertently have taught my own children.
Hopefully, someday they will understand (and appreciate?) that kids should do their own laundry,
cell phones must be charged in the kitchen at night,
and televisions don’t belong in bedrooms.