I recently read a story about a girl visiting her grandparents and liked the idea of writing about visiting mine. My grandfather would have been 114 this week. This remembrance just covers the years I knew them.
The years before are worthy of a noir novel. I kid you not.
From 1941 until about 1953, my grandparents, Clarence (Chick) and Dorothy (Dot) lived at Oak Terrace Country Club in Ambler, PA, where my grandfather was the manager, a job that had belonged to my father until he was drafted. This caused some tension between them over the years.
During their years at Oak Terrace, my grandmother didn't have to cook at all. She got to serve as a sort of Grande Dame, which suited her perfectly. The owner of the Club was the husband of her best friend, which worked out well too. She was able to dress for all of her meals, served in the main dining room or on the terrace. She greeted other diners, sitting at the head table.
But things changed when I was five (no one ever told me why) and my grandfather returned to architecture, a profession that never earned him much of a living. They moved to Lynnewood Gardens in Elkins Park, Pa, about fifteen minutes away from us. He specialized in designing churches and synagogues.
Unlike grandparents today (ahem!), my grandmother was stricter than my parents. I would usually stay for a few days and was expected to entertain myself without getting dirty or breaking things. I was expected to keep my nails clean, my hair combed. My brother's visits were usually separate from mine since their place was so small.
The good thing about Lynnewood Gardens was that it had a lot more open space than our row house in Philly. It also had play areas for kids. It was here that my grandfather taught me how to pump a swing. We also spent a lot of time looking for four-leaf clovers. We both liked to roll down the huge hill that ended at the playground. He was a rotund man who most often wore Bermuda shorts, socks and sandals. He liked to sit on the floor and if urged, he would draw for me.
At dinner, he ate a small dish of canned French peas with the rest of his meal every night. I never saw the attraction and wasn't made to eat them. Their apartment had just one bedroom and I slept on a daybed in the living room. The shadows on the wall at night were different from the ones at home and no one would get me water if I yelled. They pointed out they were too old to have their sleep disturbed. I could tell this was true by their joint snoring.
His favorite dessert was a Duncan Hines spice cake with chocolate icing. Dinner was unfailingly a piece of meat, a potato of some kind and a vegetable. Although my grandmother was a better cook than my mother, it was a close race.
The only books in their apartment were the Readers Digest Condensed books although my grandfather held a master's degree from Columbia University. They both liked to play cards and we would do that at night as I got a bit older. My grandmother made beautiful clothes (by hand) for my dolls. My grandfather encouraged me to talk about adult things. We never left the apartment complex that I can remember. When I visited, it was there I stayed.
Their favorite TV shows were Gunsmoke, Perry Mason, and Bonanza. In the daytime, my grandmother watched THE EDGE OF NIGHT, and an ongoing argument until my mother went back to work, was which was better that or THE GUIDING LIGHT.
When they moved into the apartment, they had no furniture so they bought it all new. It was the mid-century look that's become popular again today and I have some of it still. They liked to have parties and serve highballs and dance. Those country club days were never far away.
My grandfather died of a heart attack in 1960. They were returning from the movie PLEASE DON'T EAT THE DAISIES. I was home watching THE TWILIGHT ZONE-the one where Burgess Meredith breaks his glasses at the end.
After that my grandmother lived down the street from us for eight years before marrying again. Although it was one block away and she was only in her fifties, no one ever thought of her walking down the street to visit us. Someone always picked her up. Still the grande dame.
Was visiting your grandparents similar to this?