Tell Me a Story about … Grandmother’s House!

“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)Grandmother's House A

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.

Grandmother's House DAt 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 Grandmother's House Bkitchen 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!)

Grandmother's House CAnother 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, Grandmother's House Epick 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 _______”!

Walking – Part 1

          To someone who thinks horses should come equipped with seatbelts and to whom a bicycle still needs training wheels, walking is a joy. Peace and fitness, solitude and companionship, moonlight and cool breezes. Let’s walk through almost six decades together and see where it takes us!

          We’ll start in the 1960s, most of which I spent walking the brick sidewalks of Harrisburg, PA. We often visited one set of grandparents a street away. This took us past a corner store, where my brothers and I pressed our noses against the cool glass of the candy case. We placed our nickels on the wooden counter and made our choices. So many scrumptious candies tempted us: marshmallow-topped ice cream cones, colored liquid-filled wax bottles, candy necklaces. We clutched our tiny bags full of delectables and trotted the rest of the way, with a promise of one piece when we got there. That part of the walk always seemed so long; I wonder why ….

          During the 1970s, we spent summer vacations in the mountains of Potter County, PA. Ah, long walks along forest trails … crawling over falle5-7-18n bug-encrusted trees, slipping on moss-covered rocks, brushing spider webs off our faces. But oh, the vistas we reached overlooking valleys and glistening brooks. And my favorite reason to walk the woods–the wildlife: deer flicking their white tails and racing through the hemlocks and grouse taking flight when we startled them. My heart thrills whenever a forest path shows up, even in photos.

          For two years in the 1980s, my husband and I lived in a development on the border of Columbus, OH. Evening strolls around our neighborhood or one of the metro parks became our lifeline to sanity. We walked our cares away, holding hands, straining to ignore the hustle, focusing on the moment … or was that holding our dog’s leash in both hands, straining to keep her from chasing the numerous squirrels teasing her, fo5-7-18 Bcusing on keeping her from dropping “presents” in anyone’s yard?

          The trail in our favorite metro park bordered Ripple Rock Creek. While walking these parks built within the city limits, we could forget we lived so near downtown. We couldn’t hear the noise of the highway. The creek, named for its rippled rocks, filled our country-loving souls with a sense of home. We even brought one of the rocks back with us as a reminder of this little place of peace.

 ***We’ll have to continue our journeys next week, but for now, where have your walks taken you? Please take us along on one … or more! To leave your story, click on the words beside the date under the title of this post. Then, scroll to the bottom of the comment section to find the box with the heading, “Leave a reply.” Thank you for sharing!

 *** Next Monday we’ll see how the onset of serious health issues almost destroyed my joys of walking. Join me and see what we found on another walk—a bear hunt!