Three birthdays draw near in my family, my daughter's (who shares hers with my Mother) and my husband's. I am pausing to reflect on years past and the life I have shared with my own extended family. I have decided that there is nothing more Godly and Grand than family ties. As a child, my fondest memories are of times spent with relatives. Some of my life's "firsts" were those shared with parents and grandparents, and I hope that Sissy and Bubby are forming memories they can treasure like I have. I see my brother and I as children, reflected over the years in our own kids.
Some of my earliest memories of my extended family were of Sunday lunches in Tarkio, Missouri, driving to see my great grandparents and waiting for the red barn to appear, signaling our arrival. Grandpa Joe would drive us south in his giant car, and we would be nestled in the backseat watching the fields fly by. I was probably only seven or eight, so my mother would probably be shocked to know that I recall Great Grandma making green beans with bacon, since I really didn't like green beans as a child. I remember sitting near a cracked and worn but lovingly cleaned counter top watching her bustle about and gather food for the table. She wore thick glasses, floral polyester dresses and support hose, but she was beautiful because I loved her so much. She crocheted an afghan for my bed in my favorite colors, and I still have it. Poppy was always there too, as we called my Great Grandpa, a tall figure folded into his comfy recliner chair. He always had a pack of Double mint gum in the bib pocket of his blue pinstriped overalls, and he would gather his grandchildren into his lap so we could seek a piece of gum and stay for a chat. I remember his chuckle was so quiet it would just shake his chest a bit while I sat with him. He would take us outside to feed apples to his horse after lunch.
My Grandma Sue and Aunt Lois continued family tradition for the next generation, as my large family grows ever larger. My Mom's eight siblings are strewn far and wide across the Midwest, and their families have families now. My Dad's three siblings are close to home in Iowa, though a smaller family they are nonetheless part of my family tradition. I am blessed that I am never short of family to send Christmas cards to, the only trick is keeping up with that many addresses and stamps.
On my Dad's side of the family, my great grandparents lived in Skidmore, Missouri. I remember dinners there too, usually for annual summer family reunions. My Dad's parents would take us to visit other times too, Grandma and Grandpa Johnson were very involved with my brother and I and our cousins. Many summer days were spent on their acreage playing with my cousins and growing tan and covered in mosquito bites.
While taking my own children to have photos taken with my nephew T.J. I recalled a similar photo of my cousin Eric and I when we were three. My Aunt Jan still has a hilarious recording of he and I playing and singing. As usual, I was the straight...aptly and primly singing the alphabet, while he sang "Fiddle-dee-dee" over and over endlessly. It wasn't really a song so much as a laughing, mocking interruption that I'm sure was meant to frustrate me. He was my best friend in childhood, once saving me from walking on an injured bare foot by pulling a nail from it, and running to get help. I remember being so scared, but he coolly handled the situation, though I don't think that we were more than five years old. In better times, he and I would squabble over the snacks Grandpa would give us while we watched him stock his delivery truck. He delivered chips for Guy's Foods, which seemed very glamorous from the point of view of a kiddo :) Grandma taught me all she knew about canning and gardening, and I loved picking my way through her garden choosing juicy berries from the raspberry bushes, or watching Mom pick green beans and tomatoes. I loved sitting with Grandma and Aunt Jan at the kitchen table, watching Grandma pin curl her hair and paint her nails, or embroiled in a cup of coffee and a game of Yahtzee.
I am so thankful for the loving Grandparents my children have had, and the attention that is lavished upon them. It makes the family circle feel complete. Sissy asks when we will next see "my Nonnie" (my husband's grandmother). Bubby adores talking hunting and cruising Cabela's with Grandpa Bill. I can't get him to stop wearing the camo jacket that Grandpa bought him, even though it's much too small. Sissy loves to help and watch Mom and Nana knit and cook, while Daddy and Bubby 'fix stuff' in Papa's garage. Sissy insists that Grandpa Gary likes to do puzzles and help her play dress-up! Bubby never forgets to complete a visit with Grandma Judy with one of her squeezy, swinging hugs. Sissy and Bubby are both convinced that it is their job to make sure Gramma Jane never runs out of cookies, or her own songs, original stories and artwork for her fridge. When at her closet every morning Sissy asks what I think Gramma would like her to wear, or if Gramma will pick her up from school. My kids are so secure basking in the love of their grandparents, and I know we are blessed by God to have such awesome relatives.
Aren't Grandparents Grand?