Treasure Chest From Your Family

No matter what the family is like there is a treasure chest of memories that are left behind by those who went before us. In this month where we remember the military and we count our blessings it is good for us to look back to see how others have handled the many situations of life. I easily go back three generations. I was very close to my great-grandparents. Maybe it was because I lived with my grandparents, I do not know. Sundays were spent visiting. In the afternoon we visited the house where my grandmother grew up. At that time Uncle Walter lived with great grandma. He was a bachelor, and she needed the help, so it was a good match.

I remember that Uncle Walter had a motorized bike. I thought of him recently as I heard a man on television say that he rode his motorized bike everywhere. That was Walter. He rode the bike to work and he rode it to get groceries for their home.

It was while visiting great grandma that I saw my first large screen television. Uncle Walter had purchased a television with a 21″ screen. I watched the Roy Rogers show while we visited there. It was nice to see Trigger on a screen that was more than 10″ large. I followed the adventures of Roy and Dale every Sunday as long as great-grandma was around. That is also where we got our rhubarb in those days. Grandma also had a large bed of genuine Holland tulips. She had come over from Holland.

Then, there was great-grandpa. He was my grandfather’s dad. He had trouble getting around by the time I was around. Often he sat in a chair and played Solitaire while he smoked his cigar. When we came home from great-grandpa’s it was time to air out our clothes to get rid of that smell. I also remember that great-grandpa had a mustache that was very prickly. I loved him, but I hated to have to kiss him good-bye each week. My aunt lived at home and there was also a cousin living with them that saw to their meals and the cleaning. They always served Vernor’s ginger ale. If you have never tasted Vernor’s you cannot appreciate the different flavor that it had. Sometimes they had birch beer. That was a treat. We visited there every Sunday evening as long as grandpa was around.

The intergenerational aspect is good for children. It is good for them to learn from the older generation. That is where I learned respect for my elders. I also learned to love my great-grandparents very much. When each of them passed I missed them.

Then, there are my grandparents. I lived in their home for about 18 years. My relationship with my grandparents was different because I lived with them. I got to see my cousins when they visited with grandma and grandpa. My cousins and I were very close. Through the years we did many things together. We became friends as well as relatives.

The night my grandmother died I felt it. We were still awake after midnight on Christmas Day. I told my husband that something was wrong. It was only a few minutes before I got the call from my mother. I remember that grandma had been different that morning when she called. She wanted to talk to all of us. Usually she was very careful about long distance time, but not that day. That was my last visit with grandma.

Grandpa did better on his own than I ever thought he would. He learned to create his own meals even if he ate the same thing for the next week. When it came grandpa’s time to go I was sad. I definitely was his little girl even though I was a grown woman with two children of my own. My mother was a single mother long before the concept was as prevalent as it is today. My father left us before I turned 2. That was why we lived with my grandparents. They jumped in to help take care of me so that my mother could work. We did not have all the bells and whistles. Life was simple back then. We had what we needed, but we did not have anything frivolous.

My mother and my grandparents bought a car together. I do not remember all of the details, but somehow they made it work. Sometimes my mother walked the eight blocks to work. Grandma and grandpa always had to have the car on Wednesday, my grandfather’s day off from work. That was the day that they went grocery shopping and ran errands. Who would think of sharing a car today? In many households there are three or more.

My treasure chest of memories is mostly of the people. I do not think about the things we had or did not have. It is the people who made the biggest impression on me. It is the things that they did that created my memories of growing up.

I have tried to maintain this close relationship with my children and grandchildren. I want them to remember the things that mom/grandma did, not the things that grandma gave them. I want them to think of grandma as a friend, as someone they can share secrets with. I want them to recall trips to the Audubon and walks in the woods. I want them to remember cooking with grandma – learning how to make bread and rolls, too.

No one can take away memories. You do not have to be rich to create them. Most of the things that I do cost nothing or are a minimal cost. We play games around the table and giggle and laugh. We eat what we made during the day for supper. Life is simple and that is what I appreciate. My family is truly my greatest treasure.

Ann Swanson writes from her home in Russell, Pa. Contact at