When we think about things that are good for us, many will agree that spending time with children is one of them. It doesn’t take much to feel their positive energy. Children approach life with enthusiasm, and if we listen, they will suggest what we might want to do next.  

A walk in the back yard isn’t just a walk in the back yard. It can be an adventure. Children see insects, and hummingbirds, and dragonflies, and want to know more. They see a tree toad and wonder if they are brave enough to hold it. A garden pond with daylilies and goldfish are fascinating for all of us to watch, but it seems little things become big things when we are around children.  

There was a day it occurred to me that our homes somehow change when we become grandparents, for there is a new little person on this earth who will start using the words “Grandma and Grandpa’s house.”

It seems a house takes on new character when occupied by a grandparent, or an aunt, or an uncle – for a child sees a home through their own innocent eyes and discovers charm the adults may take for granted.   

Perennial flower beds are not just a place where flowers bloom every year – for the flowers now hold a special title as they will be forever viewed as the kind of flowers our grandparents had. Or our neighbors had.

The barns at our aunts and uncles’ homes are not just any barn. They are the barns we played in.  Children kind of own the barn too, you know.

The smell of fresh dill in the air takes me back to our neighborhood where the Fritchs’ were often seen in their back yard, donned in garden attire and knee-deep in produce.  Never to be forgotten were the black-eyed Susans standing taller than our waistlines and in bloom every year.

When a child shares their take on things, we are reminded of the innocence of their newness to this earth and the language and culture they are learning.  A comical comment from a child is valuable indeed – something we know we should write down, so their words will not escape our memory.      

As the years pass by, we discover how quickly we become the “older” person in the group and soon learn the vocabulary of the younger people can be hard to keep up with. My mother was 90 years old and still using words from long ago. Her catchphrases were so innocent, and her words were causing others to smile as they knew she didn’t know the modern-day meaning of the words she was choosing to say. Grandparents can say the funniest things. 

A good place for retirees to gather for lunch and conversation is the local Senior Center, for we are with people who are not so new to this earth and are equally interested in what children and grandchildren are up to these days.

Years ago when mom’s great-granddaughter McKenna was in elementary school, McKenna asked what the school planned to serve on Grandparents’ Day when the children and grandparents would be eating lunch together. When McKenna heard sloppy joes was on the menu, she stated that it was a good thing because some of the old people do not have teeth and would need the softer food.

McKenna’s statement was one my mom always remembered and shared with her friends at the Senior Center and with others over the years. Perhaps the humor in McKenna’s thoughts is the underlying element of truth in her words: Grandparents get into issues that grandchildren take note of.

Children really don’t need an explanation regarding why “old” people begin to change their ways over the years and begin doing things at a slower pace, for they have eyes to see what’s going on and ears to hear what grandparents say.

My grandson Toby was three years old when he and his mother Natalie were discussing a treat Toby proposed he should have:

Toby: “Pleeeaaaase, Mom. Pretty pretty please.”

Mom: “Stop asking me like that. I already told you no.”

Toby: “Well, girls say it like that.”

Mom: “Well, you’re a boy, so don’t.”

Toby: “Please, Mom. Handsome handsome please”…

It’s no wonder families take on a vocabulary of their own.

Not long ago, my seven-year-old grandson Dean shared an interesting idea with me, “Hey Grandma, how about you be the kind of grandmother who hides candy around the house, and I will be the kind of grandson who finds it?”

Deano’s words made me laugh way too quickly which caused him to show his disappointment in my reaction just as quickly. I have since had the chance to think about becoming the kind of grandmother who hides candy and lets Dean be the kind of grandson who will find it. Deano has always been a treasure hunt kind of guy. He even proposed we invite cousins over for a grand treasure hunt.

When I think of what kind of grandmother I will be remembered as, I already know it’s going to be one of those amaryllis kind of grandmothers – a grandmother who takes pictures of her flowers and house plants and feels she is looking out for others by sharing what’s going on at the top of the amaryllis stem.

Certainly others appreciate my updates. Doesn’t everyone want to know how much the stem grew in one day and how many blossoms and what color they are?

Doesn’t everyone want to enter a grandmother’s house and be escorted to the dining room table for an opportunity to check out the amaryllis blooms?

I realize I am not the kind of grandmother who hides candy, but Deano is only seven years old, and I can change my ways and be more of a treasure hunt kind of grandma.

Every day is simply a day that will eventually be someone’s day from their childhood. Flowers in bloom, a grandfather seen napping in his chair, and climbing down the window well to catch a tree toad, are simply things that will become their own set of custom-made childhood memories.  

When children grow up, they figure out where their treasures have been all along. Eating lunch with a grandparent (especially one who has no teeth) is without a doubt, one of those moments they will look back on with fondness and realize they were living in the best of times.  

The fingerprints of a child can often be found later when the sun shines through a window. Grandparents have been known to leave the little fingerprints right where they found them, for reasons they need not explain.

I wonder if my grandparents ever left my fingerprints on their windows, but more important, I wonder if they knew they were leaving their own fingerprints upon the many little people whose lives they touched as they were simply living life as grandparents live.

It may be possible to wipe away fingerprints from a windowpane, but it is impossible to wipe away memories of wonderful moments of living, and learning, and laughing after the old and the young decide to spend a little time together.

When I see the amaryllis bulbs for sale every holiday season, I think of both of my grandmothers. This is an early 1970s photo of an amaryllis in bloom at Grandma Imm’s house.

A photo of the amaryllis at my house – blooming in June of 2021.

© Marlene Oxender 2021