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I Know the Feeling

 

Screen Shot 2014-07-31 at 6.58.02 AMLast summer Robbie invited me to bring my Grands, ages 8 and 6, to swim at her house while her 9 ½ year old grandson Noah was visiting. The children splashed and played along beside each other, just as children do when they meet someone new. At lunchtime, we all dried off and spread our towels to sit around the pool. Noah started inside the house, turned, and asked my Grands, “Do you’ll want a Luncheable?”

 

David and Lou frowned. I answered for them. “No, but thank you, Noah. We brought our lunches.” I handed my Grands the small cooler in which Daughter had packed their food. Rollup sandwiches, made with flour tortillas filled with thin sliced turkey and shredded mozzarella cheese. Hunks of watermelon. Clusters of grapes. Homemade cookies.

 

Noah settled himself beside David.   He ripped the thin cellophane covering off a square plastic package. Lou tilted her head and looked at the package. David eyed it and said, “What’s that?”

 

“What’s what?” Noah said.

 

“Your lunch?” David asked. Inside the six-inch square plastic package were three small round tortillas, 5 slices of pepperoni, some white shredded cheese, and a take-out ketchup sized packet of pizza sauce.  Lou furrowed her eyebrows as if memorizing the package’s contents.

 

“It’s like little pizzas,” Noah said. Using his teeth, he ripped open the packet and he squirted red sauce on a tortilla.

 

“Where’d you get it?” David asked.

 

“Nana gets them at the grocery or somewhere,” Noah said. David held his roll up sandwich close to his mouth but he didn’t bite it, instead he watched as Noah covered the tortilla with a pepperoni slice and cheese.

 

“That looks really good,” David said and he laid his sandwich back in the cooler. “Does every grocery store have them?” Noah shrugged his shoulders. “I wonder if Mama could find them.”

 

“I think they’re by the milk and stuff,” Noah said and bit into his miniature pizza. David and Lou watched as red sauce dribbled down Noah’s chin. I knew exactly how my Grands felt. I remember being envious when I was young and spent the night at a friend’s house and for breakfast her mother spread Blue Bonnet margarine on toast. At my house, we spread home-churned butter on Mom’s homemade biscuits.

 

Now, watching Noah and David and Lou, I restrained myself from raiding Robbie’s refrigerator for two more packaged lunches. “Noah, would you like some watermelon?” I said. He bit into the watermelon and somehow that reminded David and Lou that they, too, had food to eat.

 

But that’s not quite the end of the story. Last week Robbie again invited us to her house. “We’ll eat lunch and swim, just like last year,” I told my Grands. “Noah is there. And on the way, we’ll stop at the grocery store to buy your lunch, maybe Lunchables.” They chose exactly what they’d watched Noah eat a year ago.

 

My Grands and Noah pulled the cellophane covering off their lunches and each ate every morsel packed in those small plastic boxes. I knew exactly how my Grands felt. The way I felt decades ago when I carefully unwrapped a stick of yellow margarine, put it on a serving plate, and told my friend, “Mom is making toast for breakfast.”

 

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Peppermints and Cupcakes

Picture 2             “Can we play the peppermint game after lunch?”  my Grand, age 6, asks.

“Sure,” I say.  “Do you remember who taught you that game?”

“Aunt Doris,” eight-year-old David, answers quickly.  “Remember the time I found a peppermint under the couch and she didn’t even know it was there?  It was kind of hard, but I ate it anyway.”

“I wanna’ play too,” says Ruth, age.

“Play, too!”  shouts my two-year-old Grand.  It’s Thursday.  The day these four Grands are Husband’s and my lunch guests.

Aunt Doris, the Grands’ great-great aunt, always had York Peppermint Patties to share with children.  But she didn’t just give them to the children – they played Aunt Doris’s game, Hot and Cold.  A game most everyone has played.  The children hid their eyes or went into the kitchen while Aunt Doris hid peppermint candies in her living room.  “Okay, you can start hunting now,” she’d say.  And then one at a time, each child looked for a peppermint while Aunt Doris gave clues as to how close the hunter was to the hidden treat.  Cold – far away from the candy.  Warm – getting closer.  Hot – very close.

I don’t know who had more fun.  Aunt Doris, my Grands, or maybe Uncle Hugh and I as we watched.   “Hide it again,” my older Grands would say, “and this time made it really hard.”  The same candy might be hidden two or three times, and Aunt Doris refused to give any clues except cold, warm, and hot.  A simple game and a simple candy treat, that connected two generations, separated by more than 80 years.  And now I hide the peppermints.

It occurred to me that so much of what grandparents do, we do to make memories and connect our grandchildren with those we love.  One afternoon when our oldest Grand was about four, Husband came home from work with a box of fancy cupcakes.  “Aren’t the kids (meaning our daughter, son-in-law, and two Grands at the time) coming for supper?  I bought dessert.”  I wanted to know what the special occasion was, but I didn’t get an answer.

As the table was being cleared of dirty plates and meat and potatoes, Husband left the kitchen and came back carrying a picture of my dad.  “Today’s a special day.  It’s your great-grandfather’s birthday,” he told our Grands.  “He made this kitchen table.  This one where we just ate supper, and he was your Gran’s daddy.”  And with that, a tradition began.  On the birthdays of my deceased parents and Husband’s father, we eat cupcakes, look at pictures, and talk about Papa, Grannie, and Grandfather.  Our Grands will never know and love these three great-grandparents as they do Grandmother, who visits and brings macaroni and cheese and chocolate pudding, but maybe they’ll remember that Papa was a schoolteacher and a postmaster, and that Grannie sewed beautiful clothes and owned a flower shop, and that Grandfather owned a grocery store.

  It’s all about the memories and connections.  And peppermints and cupcakes.images

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