“Over the river and through the woods to grandmother’s house we go!”
Ah, who doesn’t sing along to that refrain … holidays or not! When growing up in Lewisberry, PA, I thought it fun that I could sing this song for real. Leaving our home to head to either grandparents’ houses, we had to go over a river and through some woods, though not in that order. We also had to traverse the busy streets of Harrisburg, PA. (Photo of a house on Crescent Street, PA)
Which do I begin with? My paternal grandmother, whom we called Nanny, lived on Hummel Street, across from the house my family lived in until we moved to the country. She had a corner home and knew most of her neighbors. In those days, people did.
When walking through the door, we entered her living room, walked through an archway into her dining room, then through a doorway on the left into the kitchen. Most of our visiting took place there, as it did in many places we visited during my childhood. (Ah, a blog post in the making!)
Both of my grandparents’ houses stayed immaculate, nothing out of place, yet comfortable and homey. They had nice things … nice furniture, nice knick-knacks on every available space, nice carpets, and nice wallpaper. Maybe having lived through the Great Depression, they learned what it was to live without and desired to live “with,” though not extravagant … simple, yet elegant.
At Nanny’s, jars of candies sat on a buffet in her dining room, enticing little fingers to open a lid and dip into their delights. M&Ms, orange slices, peppermint leaves year-round. Filled raspberries and red, white, and green nougats with tiny Christmas tree centers took their places for the holidays. Our daughters knew they could have a few M&Ms without asking each time we visited. Any extras, though, would need to be checked with Nanny.
The dining room table held a lace tablecloth, as did my maternal grandmother’s, no doubt starting my life-long love of crocheted and tatted laces. (I never had one on my table because of dog nails and children fails … if you know what I mean.) A centerpiece of some kind sat in the middle, leaving the expanse of white or ecru lace open and beauteous. Many Sundays found my family, my aunts and uncles and cousins crowded into the dining room and stretching into the living room through the add-on of a card table (for the kids) for Sunday dinners.
In the kitchen, four vinyl placemats lay on the table waiting for company. A door in the kitchen led into the tiny, fenced-in backyard and out to the alley. At the sink, Nanny would set up her ringer washing machine which she single-handedly hauled up the steps from her basement, through the dining room, and into the kitchen to use every wash day. She had lots of those because she took in laundry for other people. I can still see her ironing board set up where the ringer washer had been (after she’d wrangled it back down to the basement). She would iron mountains of white starched shirts … and my aunt’s long hair, which tended to get wavy, something the 1960s didn’t allow. (Photo not of Nanny!)
On to my maternal grandparents’ house, Mom and Pop’s. (Still not certain why we called her Mom; but my brothers and I never mixed up which “mom” we were talking about, and neither did anyone else.) They lived on Crescent Street, one street over from Nanny.
Their basic set-up was much the same: in the front door to the vestibule, through the vestibule into the living room or straight up the stairs to the bedrooms and bathroom (only one in those days!). Then, through the arch into the dining room which included a door to the basement, through the dining room into the kitchen, and out the kitchen door into the backyard. (Maybe city houses were all designed by the same architect!)
Another similarity sat in the dining room—the table, set with its lace tablecloth and centerpiece. (Photo not my grandmother’s.) However, though we may have, I don’t recall much eating at that table. My food-related memories stem from the kitchen, where Mom would make fried chicken to beat any KFC could dream of making. And hot bacon dressing poured over open-faced sandwiches of toast, eggs, lettuce, onions, and catsup … mmm.
One keen memory happened on the stairs headed to the bedrooms. My parents had gone somewhere (something they infrequently did), and my brothers and I were supposed to be put to bed upstairs. When my parents got back, apparently, they would come upstairs, pick us up in our PJs, and carry us to the car. This time, though, my grandmother let me stay up later than my brothers and sit on the steps to watch the Miss America Pageant, something she watched every single year. I don’t remember who won, but I do recall the twinkle in her eye when she was later asked if we had gone to bed when told to.
So, “Over the river and through the woods to grandmother’s house we …” went.
Where did your grandparents live? A drive-able distance or once-a-year visits? What furnishings fill your memories? Any special toys (another blog post in the making!)? Share your stories of “Over the _______ and through the _______”!
2 thoughts on “Tell Me a Story about … Grandmother’s House!”
You WOULD write a blog about “Grandma’s House”, wouldn’t you?! Something I think about all the time! It is the first topic I ever wrote about for a submission, too, for a writing class. I don’t know where to start when it comes to my memories of her house and I’m afraid once started I might have trouble stopping, lol. Weekend overnights, sitting at her dressing table trying on her clip-on earrings and necklaces, rolling my hair in her curlers; or sitting on her window seat in the dormer window in her bedroom and daydreaming (that window seat/cedar chest is in my house now; all the Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners she fixed, sledding down the hill on the side of her house with my brothers, having my first sip of sweet tea in her kitchen, playing “cook” with her measuring cups and spices, learning how to do laundry for the first time, the climbing tree, the cornfield across the street that my grandparents owned and grew corn on, where my brothers and I played house and hide and seek, goliath – a german shepherd who lived down the road who I had fun walking and running with, Granmda’s cats — Sonny, Johnny, JJ, Creamo, my great-grandma’s cat Jigger, sitting at her table in the kitchen have cream of chicken soup while watching Jeopardy on the little portable TV at the end of the table; Grandpa popping popcorn on the stove. And on and on and on. Grandma and Grandpa built that house in 1948 with the help of Grandma’s architect brother, my great-uncle Don. My mom grew up there. But what I most want to say about that house, is that I have a dream to one day buy it and have it back in our family. Grandma sold it in 1977 when it became too much for her to take care of. It has had I believe two owners since. It has been well-maintanied, fixed up and added onto. I watch for it to go on the market, having saved it on Zillow. I live 800 miles away from it now so I can’t even go take a drive anymore to go see it. But one day, if the Lord wills, and if we return to Indiana again, maybe my dream will come true. It may not be in God’s plan for us and if not, then it is okay. He will have something better in mind. But you never know what God may do. I hold out hope and Igive my dream to God to do with as He decides. All things are possible with Him. If not for all the precious memories that took place at her house, it wouldn’t mean so much to me. And the memories and just having had my grandparents for those years means much more than the house itself, of course, but I think it would make her happy to see that house in the family again. She’ll have to see from Heaven, though, now, as she’s been gone for 30 years. It had broken her heart to have to sell the house. My brother told me he’d seen her cry. I want so much to one day turn the key in that door and start making new family memories that my kids and grandkids can always cherish too, in the house of my own memories. I can leave it to our boys, then, in hopes they might love having it and pass it on to their kids after them, if they’d like to. I know it won’t means as much to them as it will to me, but at least they might have the option to keep it one day. I’ll just have to wait and see what happens and if God has something different in mind, well then, maybe I’ll just turn the dream into a new story to write!
See what you’ve gone and done — got me thinking (and dreaming) again!! I’m so glad you have your special memories too of both your grandmas and that you shared them with us. My husband never knew any of his grandparents. Isn’t that sad? He did know mine, though, as did all 3 of our sons, though the 2 youngest were really too young to remember her very well. My oldest son does but it’s a very faded memory now. I always wished I’d be as good a grandma as mine was. I’ve never achieved that and probably never will, but then she had some tough shoes to fill!
I guess this is long enough, huh?! Take care, God bless, be safe and be well ♥
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Wow, what stories memories bring, huh? You mentioned cream of chicken soup. My maternal grandmother, Mom, loved making Campbell’s Old Fashioned Tomato Rice Soup. She’d make it with have water and half milk, get it boiling hot, and throw in a slab of Velveeta cheese! Oh my! How delish! She also made the best potato soup, with cheese and bacon, long before “baked potato soup” was in vogue. I truly enjoy your memories and the stories they spark. I just prayed that , if it be His will, God will make your dream come true. I can understand it because my mom sold our family house about 5 years ago, now. I miss it terribly. If we would ever be able to sell this house and move closer to our girls, I would also be hoping to buy our family home. Blessings as your memories roll along and bring you sweet joy.