“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 _______”!