to grandmother’s house we go 11-23-23

Each November our grade school music teacher had us sing, “Over the river and through the woods, to Grandmother’s house we go,” probably in reference to Thanksgiving with the grandmother. As I consider it today, it reminds me of both my town and country grandmothers. I am thankful for both although neither fit today’s mythical, ideal loving grandmother. Still, their similarities and differences blessed us all.

Both had been teachers before they married farmers. As was the custom in the early 1900s, when Town Grandma married she stopped teaching anyone other than her four pre-school aged children. She stopped that before her third child because the teacher told her to leave the job to the school. He was the one child who needed help all through school. After that experience, the Town Grandma taught my mother everything. My mother started first grade a year early knowing how to read, write and do arithmetic. 

The Baby Boom after the end of World War II left schools scrambling for teachers.  Schools had too many students, too few classrooms and not enough teachers. Country Grandma got recertified and for a while and helped with the teacher shortage. I think she taught at least one of the grandchildren’s classes.

Town Grandma would never have done that. She rarely left the property. Although living less than two miles from our school, she did not attend any “come watch your grandkid perform” event. She even requested that visitors walk down two buildings to the old general store and pick up groceries. Her list might include mushroom soup, salt rising bread, canned peaches and a package of Archway molasses cookies. We knew lunch would be a neatly arranged tray with a plate of toasted salt rising bread smothered in Campbell’s cream of mushroom soup, an Archway molasses cookie topped with a slice of American cheese and a bowl of peaches. We ate while watching TV. (My parents did not have a television in the house until after we entered high school.)

The men watched sports on Country Grandma’s TV. The kids rarely joined them. We found things to do as did Country Grandma. She joined clubs, sat on the voting board and traveled in retirement. She had no problem leaving her house outside the next town over to come watch our performances. She even came across the nation to visit when our family moved that far away.

Both wrote lengthy letters to keep us updated on events.

Probably from the necessity of the early 1900s, both grandmothers knew how to sew. They did not sew the same things. Country Grandma enjoyed hours at her sewing machine. She made matching plaid jumpers with white blouses for all of the granddaughters. We wore them to school on picture day. One year she knit sweaters for all nine grandchildren in their school’s colors. Those sweaters were passed down to the tag-along two younger grandchildren when they reached that size.

Town Grandma did not employ her skill to sew new clothes; she mended and altered hand-me-downs. She insisted, “Bring me the socks with holes in them. I will darn them for you. I need something to do.” When I received hand-me-down clothes, she made them fit. A green jacket she altered reminded me of Heidi of the Alps because she embroidered flowers over the button holes. 

At Town Grandma’s house we played board games, watched TV or wandered in her garden. We rarely stayed the night. We stayed overnight with Country Grandma. We also shucked corn, cut it off the cob and helped clean up afterwards. Town Grandma insisted, “Leave the dishes, it will give me something to do.”

Country Grandma’s hands made the knitting needles and crochet hooks fly.  She always had something she was making in the sitting room, sewing room or kitchen. Meals at her house consisted of everything in her overflowing refrigerator and maybe her signature sugar cookie.

They were not alike and each left their stamp on my life, for which I will always be thankful.