In writing a series of stories about Grandparents, I decided to begin with a "how to" story to first get an idea of what it is to be a Grandparent.  I don't suppose it is grammatically correct to capitalize Grandmother without a proper name included, but I did this out of respect for all Grandparents, who are very special people.

How To Be a Grandmother

"Grammy, why are butterflies stuck on the bottom of your bathtub?" my granddaughter asked
me when I was giving her a bath.

"Because this used to be your Great Grandma's house and she put them there because she thought
they were pretty and because they help to keep you from slipping when you stand up in the tub." I explained.

"I 'member Great Grandma…can I have some butterflies for my tub Grammy?"  She asked.

Well, of course, my Granddaughter got her very own butterflies to stick on the bottom of her tub at home,
but her questions got me to thinking about what it means to be a Grandmother.

Being fairly new at being a Grandmother, I decided to see what I could learn from
the professionals so I started checking out the homes of some Great Grandmothers.
After all, they are a generation ahead of me.  As I began my own little investigation,
I began to see many similarities that included the following:

-First of all, you need to have family pictures.  Not just one or two pictures but enough to keep
guests browsing the walls for a day or so.  There should be pictures of everyone in the family
from birth to cemetery.  I believe the professional Grandmother has at least two to three
dozen pictures on the wall, along with photographs sitting on tables around the house
and several photo albums scattered about the place too.  These pictures are of newborns,
weddings, and children in baseball uniforms, just to name a few.  I decided if this is what it takes
to be a Grandmother, then I'm off to a good start because I have always been
a bit of a camera fanatic and there isn't a shortage of pictures in my house.

-Grandmothers must always have a cookie jar and if you are a real pro at being a Grandmother,
it should never be empty.  After you are a Grandmother for awhile, you may want to study
to become a specialist.  Every Grandmother should have an area of expertise.
My own Grandma, for instance, specialized in chocolate cake with pink icing.
She always had it.  It is important to "always" have some certain item that the children
connect with you because children love tradition and consistency, especially when it comes
to foods that they enjoy. These days the stores make specialization much easier on us Grandmothers.
For example, you can specialize in Twinkies, Oreos, or Doritos and all
you have to do is stop by the store.

-You should have lots of handmade items around the house such as doilies, afghans, and quilts.
There's nothing quite like curling up on Grandma's couch under her Texas star quilt.
It's a real plus if you can knit or crochet little covers for your Kleenex boxes or make a
little dress for your dishwashing detergent bottle to sit beside your kitchen sink.

- Lots of clocks are good.  The more strange and interesting they are the better.
Great Grandmothers have clocks that chime, sing complete songs, or sometimes they
even have educational clocks that have a different birdcall on the hour so you have to
learn the sound of the bird to know what time it is.  In addition, when all of those clocks s
trike the hour at the same time, all of that clamor gives you a real "Twilight Zone" sensation.

-Some of the more professional Grandmothers have pretty shaped bottles filled with c
olored water.  Many Grandmothers have them but nobody knows why.

-If you desire to be a professional Grandmother, be sure and keep enough fruit and vegetables
canned in jars in the back pantry or basement of your house.  I have noticed many Grandmothers
have shelves jam-packed (pun intended) and some are dated 1983, (not FDA approved).
Most Grandmothers do have a specialty such as pickles or homemade jelly and
the date never gets old on these because everyone begs for more so Grandma works
all summer to keep up with the requests.

-You should keep lots of things in your medicine cabinet in the bathroom.
Great Grandmothers have been known to have Aspirin in the medicine cabinet
dated 1983, probably last taken after a severe headache from canning all those vegetables
that year.  It is also good to have various items that you have never heard of before in
your medicine cabinet.  Such things as Cloverleaf Salve, Tincture of Benzoin,
Dr. Lyon's Tooth Powder, Hai Karate after shave,
or Brill Cream (remember a little dab will do ya?)

-You should have at least one calendar in every room in the house.
Having more than one on the same wall is better and you can get these at
local banks, feed stores, and funeral homes.

-Most Grandmothers have plants… lots and lots of plants.  When they get together
with other Grandmothers, they talk about their philodendrons and dieffenbachias
and whether to repot them in the light or the dark of the moon.  If you don't
understand any of this, read up on it in the Farmer's Almanac that Grandma always uses.
See the preceding paragraph for where to pick them up along with your calendars.

-Many Grandmothers have every kind of nightlight imaginable in various shapes and sizes.
I've seen them in various animal shapes, lighthouses, praying hands, or made from seashells.
There's sometimes more than one in a room and it's okay if you have a nightlight
on in the daytime but nobody knows why.

-A lot of the professional Grandmothers still have iron skillets and coffee pots that perk.
They are a lot more interesting for children than watching Mr. Coffee drip.

-Almost all Grandmothers have a long list of phone numbers on the wall beside one of those
old telephones with a circular dial.  The list of numbers doesn't have to be in any particular
order but the funeral home is up there, just in case there is time to call at that last moment,
but it's not likely with the extra time needed to spin that dial around eleven times to dial a number.

-Bulletin boards are really good but you need to be sure you have enough pictures
and newspaper clippings to cover it.

-There should be lots and lots of magnets on the refrigerator. (Don't forget the magnet
that says, "Thou Shalt Not Weigh More Than Thy Refrigerator").  The refrigerator should
be covered with grandchildren's artwork with magnets holding their pictures in place.
You can usually get these at health fairs, farm and home shows, or people running
for public office.  Just remember it's considered tacky to cover up the faces on
the pictures with magnets.  You should be especially careful about placing the
little 911 magnet over the face of a cranky relative.

-More pictures, newspaper clippings, Bible verses, and cartoons can be stuck along mirrors
and picture frames, doorways, or anything with an edge to hold them.

-It is good to have some objects that have never been seen before anywhere else in
the world and you don't know what they are for or what they do but a
professional Grandmother can always tell you.

-Having lots of stuff is important.  It doesn't have to be anything expensive.
Empty cool whip containers, plastic bread sacks, string, rubber bands, or even the inside
sacks from cereal boxes will do just fine.  Grandmothers save these things and nobody knows why.
If you ask why, the usual answer is, "You never know when you might need them."

I noticed all these things as I watched the professionals at work but there is something
more that I noticed that is even more important than everything else I have written here.
What I observed that was of the greatest value was when I observed the
Grandmothers with their grandchildren.

The greatest secret of the professional Grandmother is spelled T-I-M-E and
L-O-V-E.   I saw a small child lead his Grandmother out into the yard to see the ant he had
found that was carrying a crumb across the porch. She didn't say a word about being too
busy or wanting to leave the arduous scene of the ant trek.  Instead, she watched
and commented to the child about the industriousness of the tiny ant.  I've watched
other Grandmothers spending time coloring with a child or laying on a blanket on the ground,
pointing out the pictures the clouds made in the sky.  Babies seem to miraculously quiet down
and go to sleep in the arms of a Grandmother in a rocking chair as she softly sings
the same old lullabies that have been sung to children for generations.

Sometimes Grandmothers are there when a child has no place else to go.  When I was a child,
I remember getting angry with my mother and running away from home.  I packed my
little suitcase and went down the road to Grandma's house.  Grandma didn't say a word
to me about anything but just allowed me to feel welcome and by suppertime
I was homesick and ready to go back home.

Being a Grandmother is a great calling and can be quite tiring after the 16th game
of UNO in one afternoon but when it's time to go, it's all worth it just
to hear, "Grammy, I love you!"

Pamela R. Blaine
© February, 2003