The most important gift grandmothers give to their grandchildren is unconditional love — the knowledge that each child is loved beyond measure. The second gift we offer is a bridge to the past for these children. Their parents are caught up in the job of raising them, providing food, shelter, clothing, love, and a sense of security. Parents are busy dealing with the present, so it is left up to grandmothers to tell the stories of the past. We are the ones who talk about the childhood of their parents, who tell them stories about their family history. We pass down the heirlooms and treasured family items. We are their link to the quirky ancestors and the family traditions.
Those of us who live near our grandchildren also pass down stories of the history of their town — maybe the house we lived in as children, or the special people and places that were part of our town when we were young. One of my granddaughters attended the same elementary school I did as a child — how I loved telling her the stories of my years in those very same classrooms, and of the changes that have taken place in what used to be a quiet little rural area. Across the street from her school, the dairy farm where we could watch them milk the cows is long gone, replaced with a Walmart and Lowe’s. I can tell her that; she would probably never know what had existed before Walmart was there. I tell her abut my fourth grade teacher who used to scream and push all of the books off her desk when she got mad at our class. When we walk on the rail trail near my house, I tell all of them the story of my godfather, who was a brakeman on the railroad that used to run along that trail, and of how he had to lie down on top of a train car when they went under the bridge at the end of our street, a bridge which no longer exists, except for the concrete base hidden in the weeds beside the trail. They would not know there had been a bridge there if we didn’t walk the trail and talk.
They love to search through the rooms of my old house, pulling out little treasures that they find, and asking questions. They often go home with one of my old stuffed animals, or a pretty piece of jewelry that belonged to a great-grandmother or aunt. So much of my home is furnished with family treasures and estate sale finds — we have made a pact that one day they can all come over with stickers and mark the pieces they want when I am gone.
I believe it is important for children to know about their personal history, and their family history — both the good and the bad. One day, it may help them to understand themselves a bit better. And, who better to share the past with them than their grandmother.