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Grandparenting

By Elizabeth Foust

September 11th, 2005 commemorates Grandparents Day. As a proud grandparent of 5 of the most beautiful, brilliant grandchildren the world has ever known, I had fun comparing my parents and grandparents to myself.

My first thought was "They don't make Granny's like they used to!" My own grandmother was a Hungarian immigrant. She was barely 5 feet tall, and had long, thick hair, which she braided every night into one long pigtail. Although she had lived in America for over 60 years she never lost her strong Hungarian accent. She was very work oriented and expected everyone else to be the same. I remember her as always having a cleaning cloth or a broom in her hand. Despite severe arthritis in her hands and feet, she managed to cook, clean and garden, producing prize winning roses. She ran the farm by herself in rural New Jersey while my grandfather worked in New York City as an interpreter for the courts. He spoke 7 languages. Unfortunately, he only came home on weekends, leaving my grandmother with two small daughters and cows, chickens, pigs, ducks, geese and a huge garden to care for. She always had an endless supply of energy and was never seen sitting down. I mostly remember her complaining about her arthritis pain in her hand and feet. Whenever anyone asked her "How are you?" she explained to them at great length. Naturally, being the shallow grandchildren we were, we didn't often ask her how she felt. I vowed never to complain like that to my grandchildren. Despite the complaining, she was always very generous with us, preparing delicious Hungarian delicacies. They were usually complicated dishes requiring much mixing, peeling, rolling and cooking; always using heavy doses of butter, cream and eggs. Some of her best pastries contained Leaf Lard. At the time, no one knew anything about cholesterol. I was a very skinny child to which to my grandmother was almost a sin, she took it upon herself to fatten me up. Whenever I spent any time with her, she was always scooping extra cream or butter on my already heavily laden plate. It was wonderful! I ate like a pig and never gained an ounce.

My grandfather gave us tickling kisses due to his bushy mustache and slipped us Hershey candy bars and silver dollars. I saved my silver dollars for years.

My children had two grandmothers who doted on them, Maine Grammy and New Jersey Grammy. My mother was the New Jersey one. They loved both of their grandmothers. . . and with good reason. They always cooked special goodies for them using less fat then their mothers had, but still containing plenty of calories.

Maine Grammy and Grampa were a delight to visit. They had pictures of their grandchildren on every flat surface in their living room. They proudly displaced and talked about them endlessly. The children loved the special attention. There was never a bed time or rising time so naturally it was a great place to visit.

Maine Grampa was a veteran of World War 1. He told outrageous war stories which all the children believed every word. He also had a large tattoo of a battleship on his chest, which they admired to no end. In that day and age it was not a common sight. He had been in the Navy in England and France when he was 18 years old and got caught up with his buddies and wound up in a tattoo parlor. He came from a very strict family, so one can imagine the repercussions of this feat. His grandchildren's version of his WW1 experiences, however were hilarious. They stated "Grampa joined the Navy and went to war overseas, got tattooed and that's how he won the war. Grampa chuckled over that for years and could always be counted on for another outrageous tale.

New Jersey Grammy was a widow by the time my two sons arrived. She spoiled them also, but in a more structured way. She also cooked or bought them delicious goodies, but not too much candy. "Their teeth will rot!" she'd say. She always made them watch their table manners, which surprisingly enough they didn't mind coming from her, but did coming from me. She saved all her change in large glass , gallon containers. Since we only came to New Jersey a few times a year , it would amount to a lot of dollars. She delighted in watching them dump it all on her rug and eagerly count it. "Oh, I just love to see their greedy little hands stacking all the coins in their correct piles and adding up the totals." She also bought them many expensive books and magazines and toys, often educational ones. She was much less strict with them than she had been with me and my siblings. She let them say and do a lot more then we had been allowed to do. I couldn't understand that, until I had my own grandchildren.

Since I married at 20, I was only in my 40's when my 1st grandchild Sean was born, to be followed by Rebecca, Allison, Jackson and Leah. I don't have to explain to other grandparents how wonderful it is to see your children react with their children., delighting in how they held them, fed them and even changed them. . . something their own father had never done. It was so good to see that my sons actually had listened to me through the years and had remembered some of the things I had taught them. "Jackie, don't talk with your mouth full; take your elbows off the table, etc." However, they were raising them differently, too. I was determined to be the perfect Grandmother.. I was one of four. Their great grandmother is Nana, the maternal grandmother is Grammy, their step-grandmother, Angie is Grandgie. I am Granny. The children are crazy about all of us and vice versa. All of us get along famously.

There are many changes in this day and age about being a grandparent in the 21st century. Trying to be the perfect Granny is fun, but oh so different from the past. Since many of today's Grannys' are still working full time with only weekends and holidays and vacations free, we don't get to baby sit as often as we'd like to. Whenever I have made the effort, I have thoroughly enjoyed it, even if Monday morning found me exhausted.

Although I vividly remember my grandmother's endless complaints of pain, (I realize now just how much she suffered) I try to keep my arthritic bones a secret, taking extra Ibuprofen etc.. My arthritis, happily is not anywhere as severe as my grandmother's was. I try to keep a positive attitude while being a tired old Granny sometimes.

My grandchildren are a delight to me. They keep me young at heart. I love having the girls watch me put on makeup and suck in their cheeks as I apply blush to mine. Yes, it is necessary for this 64 7/8 yr. old to still wear makeup everyday. My grandchildren expect me to look my best! I even wear shorter shirts with those marvelous elastic type panty hose that hide the cellulite so well. I do as many things as I can to make them think I'm fun. . . I really am you know. I have a great time being silly and hope to keep on being that way, despite their fathers' clucking their tongues at my antics. Sometimes sons can act just like fathers instead of sons.. Just wait until my 65th birthday arrives next week. I'm 99% certain I'm getting a tattoo on my right ankle, nothing tacky you understand. Just a tasteful little something to celebrate the big 65! Let my sons rant and rave. . . grandmothers all over the Cape will approve. Maybe I'll start a Cape Cod Granny trend! Stay tuned.


   

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