Once upon a time there was a little girl with blond curls, who went to Grandma’s house. Sometimes the trip was a long ride in the car, sometimes a shorter ride in a plane. Either way, along with her brothers and sister, she ended up at Grandma’s. A place filled with love, games, and snow. See, Grandma’s house was in Pueblo, Colorado. Grandma’s house had mountain views.
It was a magical place, smelling of peppermints, and home cooked meals. Decorated with crotchet, lace, and soft cushions. The little girl had her own bedroom that was simple, stylish and right out of her favorite TV show The Brady Bunch. The twin skirted bed featured a foam mattress sheeted, and covered with psychedelic swirls of bright green and yellow. Grandma always turned down the covers for her little body to snuggle beneath, tucked away from the cold Colorado nights.
Grandma’s house had stairs. Oh, the wonderful stairs behind the kitchen, to bounce, and pounce upon. Up and down, again, and again, and again. She never tired of it. They led to a basement of wonder. A delightful place for a curious child, filled with many treasures.
A sewing room featuring pictures of all the family and artwork. Another living room with a sofa sleeper couch for the boys, a TV, and an overflowing bookcase. A bedroom for her sister, and even a bathroom. It had a stand up shower, not a bathtub, which she found very different, but a great place to hide. All the windows peeked out at ground level. How exciting to see feet, and wonder whose they belonged to.
The last room in the basement was the laundry room. The likes of which she had never seen. A concrete floor sloped to a drain. Two wide basin sinks lined the wall, alongside counters. An old fashion contraption sat in the middle of the room with a tub, washboard, and a crank. She loved to crank the clothes through it, even though it was hard, and she needed Grandma’s help.
They would come out stiff, and flat. Then be taken outside to hang on the clothesline to dry. How different from her Mom’s house, where they had square machines that made funny whooshing noises.
At the top of the stairs, she loved to go up, was the backdoor that led to a carpeted covered porch the size of a large room. It was home to a ping-pong table. That’s right. Grandma loved games. Playing ping-pong was a favorite of hers, and everyone else in the neighborhood, but most especially her brothers.
Down the sidewalk to the back of the yard, just past the clothesline, but before the vegetable garden was a little red house with a door. A real playhouse with windows like she had always dreamed of. Chock full of dolls, stuffed animals, and a tiny – just the right size – table for tea, with dishes to match. Oh, the fun she had imagining for hours on end.
My sister at the playhouse in Grandma’s backyard.
Grandma’s arms were always open. Her laughter exceptionally sweet, her cheeks always rosy, and her twinkling blue eyes shined merrily. She loved her grandchildren. She loved that they visited her all the way from Oklahoma every year, nary a snowstorm could stop them. The games they would play together – Yahtzee, Monopoly, and cards. She would take them to Church. She would take them on trips. She would tirelessly take them all on – all four of them.
The many memories of Grandma’s include the thrill of summertime camping, in the mountains at a place called, Gopher Creek. Taking the ride puttering up the mountain in Grandma’s RV. Sleeping in the top bunk, snuggled next to other little bodies, crammed in the cove above the cabin, to keep warm from the chilly windows. Traipsing up the tree filled hills chasing squirrels, touching the icy mountain creek water, and roasting marshmallows by a blazing fire. The wonders never ceased to amaze with every outing.
As the little girl grew older, a trip to Grandma’s house included great mountain adventures in the snow. Skiing. The child endured a queasy stomach ride up the mountain to Monarch for the day. A ski resort at the highest elevation. The mountain always had snow this time of year. It was a wonderful Christmas present Grandma, so graciously, gifted. Not just for the fun of skiing, but for the memories created, and retold.
She bundled herself up with gloves, long johns, thick woolly socks, and a big (new) winter coat. She took the gusty ride on the ski lift, dangling her legs wearing big chunky ski boots, and long skis locked on. Gleefully flying down the mountain in the pure white, taking bitter cold tumbles, then breaks in the lodge to warm up.
After a long day on the mountain, they made the trek back. Spent, sore, with a red chapped face, the drive took hours to navigate the curvy mountain roads. As they arrived in Grandma’s driveway, she glimpsed through the car window at the warm glow of the kitchen window. Grandma had a hot meal, a hot chocolate, and a heartwarming welcome waiting for them. It was heaven.
When the young girl turned sixteen, she began ticking on her fingers whose Dad was whose. Her mother was twice divorced, and remarried to her Step Dad. Her Mother’s Mother was Grandma Dorothy who died before she was born. Mom’s first husband fathered her older sister, and brother. Mom’s second husband, her Dad, fathered her, and her brother Lonnie. Her Dad’s mother was Granny in Oklahoma. Her oldest brother Jay, and her older sister Deedy’s Dad was Davey, and he lived in Colorado. His Mother was Grandma Owens – who lived here. Her Grandma.
But wait a second…..after all those years, she realized – the bloodline did not cross. Her Grandma was not her Grandma by blood. She was not even related to her. How could this be?
She asked her mother when she got home, and her mother told her this story.
“When I was married to your Dad, and your brother was little, he did not understand. He heard his brother and sister calling her Grandma. He wanted to know who she was to him. He went to her with his big brown eyes and looked up at her. He said, ‘You my Ganmaw too? You my Ganmaw too?’ Grandma looked down at that little boy all of eighteen months old and her heart melted. She picked him up in her arms and said, ‘Yes, I your Ganmaw too.’ That is how she came to be your Grandmother, not by birth, but by love.”
Dear Grandma Owens,
You were the Grandma I was raised to love, and know. You cherished me like your own. You never withheld your affections, or your gift of them. The door to your heart opened wide for me and my brother. You welcomed us into your family, into it’s safety, and warmth. What a blessing you were to our young lives. You knew how much we loved our brother and sister, and you wanted to keep us all together on summer trips, and holidays. So you did. You took a sledgehammer to the ex-in-law boundaries, and what love is “supposed” to be. You bulldozed those walls. You loved us. And Grandma, we loved you too. Thank you for the gift of your affection. It is timeless to me. Timeless to us all. Our definition of family is different because of you. I promise, I will pass this gift on to every child I meet.