Monday, June 06, 2016

Grandmothers

When I was young, I spent most Friday nights (and many Saturday nights) at my Granny's house.  I loved going to her house.  Mostly just the two of us, our nights would be spent with me watching TV while she read or crocheted in her huge rocking chair.  Friday night TV in the late 70s/early 80s consisted of Donny and Marie, The Incredible Hulk, The Rockford Files, The Dukes of Hazzard, and later, the original Dallas and Falcon Crest.  A real treat would be when Granny would send me to the local store to get a large vanilla ice cream cone for her and a small plain pizza for me.  Together, they would cost a little less than $5.  We mostly would do this just in the summer, though.  But without fail, she always drank a Diet 7UP and I got to drink a whole bottle of Pepsi by myself. It was, in short, my nirvana.

This was our typical Friday night unless my Aunt Linda and Aunt Mary Lou would pop in to visit.  When that happened, the 4 of us would play either Chinese Checkers, which Aunt Mary Lou nicknamed Ping-Ping, or Aggravation, which Aunt Mary Lou nicknamed Peck-Peck.  When it came to choose which to play, Aunt Linda would ask me if I wanted to play with my Pinger or my Pecker.  They also taught me how to play craps with dice.  I credit my aunts with teaching me the art of the double entendre, as well helping to cultivate my dirty mind.

On Friday nights, I would fall asleep on the couch, usually before "The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson" ended (Granny never missed an episode).  I'd wake up early Saturday morning and turn on the TV to Channel 9 to watch the Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Show, then flip to Channel 7 to watch the Krofft Supershow.  Granny would eventually roll out of bed and we would eat breakfast together.
We'd talk a lot about her childhood; she'd told me the same story about her dog Beans riding on the footboard of the car and popping up in church about a million times.  We enjoyed each other's company.  She liked having someone around and I liked being anywhere but home, where I got lost among my brothers and sister.  At Granny's, I mostly just watched TV or colored.  I'd walk to the post office for her or pick up stuff from the local store.  I'd also water her plants, and dust and vacuum her living room.  Every Saturday.  But mostly, I was just company for her.

In those days, Granny was in her late 60's to early 70's, about the same age as my Mom is today.  Granny was an old woman in my eyes back then, and I wonder if my nieces and nephews view my Mom like that today.  The relationship they have with my Mom - whom they called Meemaw when they were younger but have since shortened it to just "Meems" now that they are in their late teens and early 20s - is very different than my relationship with Granny.  They tease and cajole with Mom, which I never would have done with Granny.  They treat Mom's house as if it's theirs, getting into the fridge or opening up snacks; whereas I felt like I needed to ask for permission or wait to be invited before I could do anything like that. Their relationship with Mom is much more casual - and I'm sure she prefers it that way.

The three youngest of our nieces and nephews stop in to see "Meems" almost regularly.  The kids mostly sit at the dining room table and talk with Mom and each other, or make themselves something to eat, or go down in the living room and hang out, play video games or watch TV.  Mom  - like Granny - likes the company, and she likes the fact that the kids have someplace they feel they can go to just hangout.  She always has food and snacks and sodas at the house for them.

My hope is that they cherish this time with my Mom.  I knew back then that the time I was spending with Granny was special, so I hope the kids today understand what it means to spend time with their grandmother.  They clearly get a kick out of her.  And she provides a safe place for them where they also bring friends and dates to hang out.  It was no secret that I was Granny's "favorite", but I think it's only because I voluntarily spent time with her.  Of her 15 grandchildren, I was the only one who would stay at her house over night, and I always insisted that she be included in as much as possible when we did things as a family.  The one thing I hate is that I drifted away from her a bit once I graduated high school and developed a social life.  But gladly, that has not seemed to happen with my nieces and nephews - in fact, quite the opposite.  I love that they have not outgrown my Mom, that it's cool for them to hang with her and stay at her house, even though some of them have graduated high school and college by now.

Mom and Granny are very different grandmothers, and I think it's their grandchildren who helped shape them into their eventual roles.