I was the middle child of seven children. As you can well imagine, growing up in such a big family meant that we didn’t exactly live in the lap of luxury. As a matter of fact, we spent most of our childhood living in a housing project in St. Paul, Minnesota, due to the fact that our father was very ill, and our mother not only had to take care of a sick husband, but seven children as well. But when you grow up not knowing what you’re missing, wearing the hand-me-downs from two cousins and two sisters before you seemed to be the normal way of life, and you didn’t even mind it when your mother patched over the already-there patches on your favorite pair of jeans. It’s just the way it was. We made do with what we had, and if we went to bed with our tummies not quite full enough, we didn’t mind so much, because at least we had each other to commiserate with. Not that we ever starved — but let’s just say that we never had leftovers!
But the day of the week that we all lived for was Sunday, because Sunday was the day that Grandma and Grandpa came to visit.
These were my mom’s parents, and they were German through and through, having immigrated from Germany when they were both in their teens. Anyway, I remember how my Grandma and Grandpa would always speak a smattering of German words, and especially I remember how my Grandma would always call me “Liebchen.” She even taught me how to sing the German folk song, “Du, du liegst mir im Herzen,” but the only thing that I can remember about it is that the first phrase means: “You, you are in my heart,” and she would sing it with me all the time. Ah, how I loved singing that song with Grandma!
My Grandpa was such a trickster and we loved him so. He loved to chew snuff, and whenever Sunday rolled around, Mom would always take out the coffee can which she stored underneath the sink, and place it on the floor next to his favorite chair so he could spit out his snuff into it. He used to hold out his snuff-box to us kids and say, “Here, here, want some? It’s candy.” And then this sly grin would come across his face while he waited for one of us to try some. And if perchance one of us kids would actually try to take him up on his offer by trying to take some snuff out his box, he would gently slap their fingers, pull the box away, and say, “Too late! Too late!” as he chuckled, shaking his head, and then he’d hobble away on his cane with a wicked little grin on his face. It’s funny. We always knew what he was going to do, but it never failed – someone always tried to take snuff out of the box. I think we all just wanted to play this little game with him.
But I think one of the reasons that we kids loved Sunday the most was because after Sunday dinner, when all the dishes were washed, dried, and put away, Grandpa would give each of us a dime. Now I know that today a dime won’t buy much, but fifty years ago, a dime bought plenty. So Mom and Grandma would take us children for a stroll down to the local candy store. And yes, that’s what it was called back then. It was then that we were each able to spend the precious money that Grandpa had given. I think Mom went just because she was happy to get out of the house, but we kids definitely went solely for the candy! After all, kids will be kids, right?
When we arrived at our destination, each of us would carefully looked over all of the candies displayed on the shelves lined up behind the glass showcase they were in. There were so many choices, so many ways to mix and match! I was always very thrifty with my dime and tried to get the kinds of candy where you could buy two or three pieces for a penny, thereby ending up with more than just ten pieces of candy by the time I had spent the entire dime.
Remember the little sugary dots of candy that were stuck to the paper? That was my favorite kind of candy to buy. It just seemed so economical to buy that candy. I mean, you could get an entire long strip of paper with so many dots of candy on it for only one cent! It just made so much sense to me to buy that candy, right? And it was so delicious!
So now, whenever I come across those little sugary dots of candy on strips of paper, it brings me back to those carefree days of my childhood; to a time when all I had to worry about was how I was going to spend ten pennies. And it makes me long for those days that I spent with my Grandma and Grandpa. How I wish I had them back again. How I wish they could have known my husband and children and that they, in turn, could have known them.
If I had only known back then how precious those days would be to me now, perhaps I would have savored them even more. I tell my children, who are amazing and wonderful young adults – live life to the fullest; don’t rush so much; remember that tomorrow may never come; etc. etc. etc. But I don’t know if they hear me. After all, they have a full life ahead of them. And maybe I didn’t listen to my mother at that age, either.
But there is one thing that I do know — memories are forever and they will live on inside each of us. And my heart warms, smiling as I remember each precious one.
QUOTE OF THE DAY: “Nobody can do for little children what grandparents do. Grandparents sort of sprinkle stardust over the lives of little children. ~ Alex Haley
This post is presented as part of the Essence of Reminiscence series. which is a weekly event presented by the WordPress Daily Post.