This weekend I’m traveling to Santa Cruz and San Francisco, California, — primarily to spend time with my 93-year-old grandmother, who also happens to be my soul mate.

I love her. She and I seem to have an understanding between us that needs no words. We also share a love of the water, backyard birds (she doesn’t like birds for pets), classical art and music, children’s books, nurturing others and singing hymns.

When I was a newborn my parents moved to Ohio to live near my grandmother who was deep in grief over the recent and unexpected sudden loss of her husband, my maternal grandfather.  Perhaps one of the reason’s she and I bonded so well may was because I was a distraction from her pain.

Some of my fondest childhood memories were in the house in Worthington, Ohio that Grandma kept for guests even after she re-married and moved into her husband’s home. It made sense that she had a house for her own stuff because she loved having guests and because (until his dying day) my step-grandpa kept his house exactly as it had been decorated by his first wife. Don’t take me wrong, he was a good man and I loved him too.

Grandma’s house was a treasure of things to discover and do from my earliest years through my teens.

Her hostessing skills put me to shame. We would arrive at the house (the one she kept for guests) and she would be there waiting for us, no matter the hour.

Her refrigerator and cupboards would be stocked with fresh foods and special treats such as Breyer’s vanilla bean ice cream and sugar cereals that my parents did not usually allow me to have. And the toy closet almost always held a new (to me) toy.

It was a large house with four bedrooms (or maybe five). It had a fireplace, a remote controlled door garage (which to me as a child was a never ending delight), large kitchen and dining room with a big window facing the backyard. It had a livingroom with a huge oriental rug in its center and a painting of a stormy sea on one wall.  My favorite part, however was playing in her large backyard which had a fire pit, swing set, a set of beautiful white-painted cast iron benches, several bird houses and a sand pit.

For as much as I loved my grandmother I was a misbehaved houseguest in that I loved to rummage through grandma’s dressers and closets. I never took anything, however, without her initiating the offer (well maybe a couple of times I asked before she offered).

The kitchen had a blue and white theme. All of a sudden the memory of the smell of Dove dish soap mixed with grandma’s Este Lauder perfume floods my thoughts.

I was a child of simple pleasures. I remember how much fun it was to play with the wooden music box she had that you would put metal records into and then wind up to play. Or how great it would be to sit on grandma’s lap as she read to  me using different voices.

There were a few things she would do when she tucked me into bed. She’d sing the old tune that I only know by its chorus… “over the sea, over the sea. Jesus savior pilot me. Over the sea, over the sea, over the Jasper sea.” Grandma was an alto so her voice would sometimes crack on the high note on the word Jasper if she hadn’t pitched the tune just right.

Then she would pray with me, give me a hug and a butterfly kiss and turn out the lights. 

There were places forbidden to me as well, that is, until I was in my teens. The basement I later learned was full of my maternal grandfather’s things. Perhaps that’s why I was not allowed down there, for fear I would hurt myself or damage something of his. It held his rock and fossil collections, his work benches, his many cabinets of files that hadn’t been opened or touched since his death and many other things.

Also forbidden was the attic because it was not floored and I would have easily fallen onto the insulation.

We were at grandma’s often enough that I had friends in the neighborhood and from her church.  In fact my first official “date” was with a boy from my grandma’s church. He came to my grandparents’ door and asked to take me to the dairy queen. Neither of us were old enough to drive so we walked.

Well my day is coming to a close and I have a long list of things to do before I tuck myself into bed for a few hours of sleep before I catch an early morning flight so I must go.

What are some of your childhood memories of your grandparents or similar figureheads in your life.