Thursday, April 26, 2012

In which Sly and Doris take the kids for a special treat

Remember how I told you about the summer we spent on my grandparents' farm? Did I tell you the part about how my grandfather rented a pony from the Amish so my siblings and I would have a pony to ride? Well he did. They might not even have charged him. He used to drive them to the doctor and other such things. Maybe they just lent him a horse to be nice. Or maybe not. Those Amish are capitalists. Which is fine with me.

There are a lot of Amish in that part of Wisconsin. It's not unusual to see a horse-drawn buggy on the road. Even more not unusual to see horse-drawn buggies in the parking lot at K-Mart in Medford. Then, if you go to the Amish grocery just off Highway 29, from which I have bulk spices that are almost 15 years old - when I bought them, I thought I was going to be using a lot of mace and allspice, but really, does anyone need a half a cup of that stuff at once? - you really see the buggies. Young Amish women, wearing their caps and their dresses with white aprons pinned to the front, run the store. You can get some good deals in there, but you have to know your prices. Just because something is in a plastic bag with a white sticker on it being sold by the Amish doesn't mean it's a deal.

Anyhow, my grandfather probably got a good deal on the pony because he was always doing favors for his Amish friends. My brother, sister, and I had a pony to ride for the summer, although all we really did was go in a circle while my grandfather held the long rope that he'd attached to the pony's neck. There was no galloping out through the hayfields.

That had to wait for when we visited my Aunt Mary and Uncle Hugh in Colorado. My uncle is a real cowboy. He grew up in Prussia, which is now part of Poland, on a farm with horses. During the war, his mother taught him to embroider. He embroidered the beautiful rose on my aunt's wedding gown. When the Russians came, they fled over the hill in front of the soldiers. He found some American soldiers and asked them for food. The cook told him they'd already eaten but he could eat what he could find in the kitchen. My uncle crawled inside the big soup pot and licked what remained on the sides.

He made his way to the US and worked on a ranch in Kansas. Put himself through college. Started buying land and horses in Colorado. By the time I was old enough to care, he had several horses. We lived in Texas, so would drive to Colorado to visit. Each visit included at least one horseback ride, which was about as glamorous a vacation as I could imagine as a kid.

I got to ride horses with my relatives. My grandmother taught me to make bread, apple strudel, and pie crust. I knew how to make pie crust from a very young age, which is one of the reasons I was so annoyed with Doris the time she tried to teach me how to make pie. I KNOW HOW TO MAKE PIE! And she didn't even do it right.

My other grandmother let my brother and me clean the bathrooms at the Shell station she owned. You might not think that sounds like much fun, but we thought it was cool. When we were done, the mechanics would pull a bottle of Coke out of the machine for us and hand it to us, icy cold. As my mom never had pop in the house, this was a special treat.

The station is gone, replaced by some other brand. The house my grandma lived in is gone, too. The people she sold it to smoked in bed, set the house on fire, and killed themselves.

Don't smoke in bed.

Granma Sylvia would also take my siblings and me to the Shopko in Marshfield, 35 miles away from her house, and give us each a dollar to spend, which was a lot, as we only got 25 cents a week for our allowance. On the way, we would say a prayer to St Christopher, a small statue of whom stood on her dashboard. St Christopher has been de-sainted. But we never had an accident. I say those results speak for themselves.

My uncles would take their teeth out for us. When you are six, that is high comedy.

My grandparents and relatives did cool things with us.

When Primo was a little boy, his grandfather taught him to play pool. He would visit his grandparents at their little retirement village in Florida and do grandparent things like go to the beach. He says his maternal grandparents - the ones Sly thought were stupid, uneducated, and unsophisticated and hence not worthy of respect - were the nicest people he had ever been around.

Now I am getting to the point of this story.

Guess what Sly and Doris did with their grandkids the other day?


What would be a fun thing to do with your grandkids who are home from college for spring break? What would you do with your grandkids whom you hadn't seen since Christmas? How would you form sweet memories that your grandchildren would later pull out of their minds after you were dead and say, "Oh I loved spending time with my grandparents! They were so sweet and so fun and they just wanted to make me happy?"

What experiences would you want to share with your grandchildren?

Here's what I would do.

I would know what my grandchildren liked to do and what they thought was special and then I would try to make that happen. If it were something extravagant or expensive, it might not happen exactly, but I would try to get close. Suppose my granddaughter wanted a trip to Paris. If I couldn't take her to Paris, I might suggest that we put together a scrapbook of things about Paris. Maybe have a Paris-themed movie marathon. Cook a French meal. Do something Paris-y and French.

If my grandson wanted to be a ball player, I would take him to a ball game. Go to the batting cage with him. Collect baseball cards.

Sly and Doris' grandchildren like basketball, bowling, listening to music, going to the beach.

They are not political activists.

They are college freshmen.

Sly and Doris took them to a lecture on global warming.

Which is pretty darn lame.

It doesn't even matter where you stand on the issue. I am not getting into a global warming debate. But taking your grandchildren to a lecture on global warming is dull, dull, dull.

Why didn't they just say, "Yes, we know you're on spring break, but we think you should still be in class, so we're going to drop you off at your old school for the day."

Or why didn't they say, "Hey! We've rented a bunch of documentaries about wood from the library! Seven of them!"

Or, "How would you like to spend a few hours cleaning the cat box and the bathrooms? For free? While we criticize how you do it?"

Sly and Doris = most boring grandparents ever.

What did your grandparents do with you for fun?