“Rub My Back, Please”

Since the end of August I have been at my daughter’s home caring for my granddaughter, then when the babies came home, helping with the babies. While at my daughter’s I slept on the bottom bunk with my granddaughter. She enjoys sleeping with Granny, and Granny rubbing her back until she goes to sleep.

Change is hard for all of us, but especially for those who are little children. When I went to stay at my daughter’s home, my daughter had been admitted into the hospital. The first time my granddaughter had been without her parents. It was a strange time for her, unsettling and insecure. I would lay down with her at night, rub her back and she would go to sleep, in the comfort that Granny was there with her. This soon became a routine.

When the babies came home, I continued with the routine of sleeping with my granddaughter, as well as getting up to help feed babies. Feeding goes much faster if three people are feeding three babies, than if there are two people feeding three babies.

My oldest daughter came down to visit and help with the babies. When I was leaving, my granddaughter made a statement that her aunt could sleep with her and rub her back. Her mom quickly told her that Granny was the only one going to rub her back. It is something that Granny does, not everyone else.

I was told I had spoiled my granddaughter, not a bad thing. She had learned to go to sleep on her own, and that she was of the age she can do so. I am allowed to spoil her, as being a Granny allows for those spoiling moments. Me rubbing her back was a special thing that she shares with Granny and no one else.

Change at times is hard. For my granddaughter being the only child for five years and wanting a sibling, she was eager for the addition. When the three little brothers arrived, small and frail compared to her imagine of siblings she could teach to slide and swing, change was hard. She is not allowed to hold them yet. They are not able to slide or swing. Her words, “They just sleep and eat, they do not go anywhere.” She is happy to have siblings, but misses the attention she once received.

Granny sleeping with her and rubbing her back for comfort and security when mom and dad were in the hospital, transferred to attention and feeling special once the siblings arrived.

The babies are doing well, growing and soon she will be able to interact with them more. In a year or two they will be best friends and constant companions. But now, change is hard being on the sidelines only able to observe and not really participate. Her parents are great, and do help her during this time.

There will always be that special memory of Granny helping, and rubbing her back. Will rubbing her back go away, absolutely not. That is a special bond between Granny and granddaughter that will remain.

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“The Mommy Switch”

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I am a happy and proud mother of four children. One of the happiest moments in my life was when I became a mother. Upon becoming a mother, a switch turned on, the “mommy switch”. Life became centered around providing for, teaching, and protecting my children.

Time marches on, they grow up and become their own person. Each child starts their own lives, finding spouses and having their own children. In the process of each child growing up, and establishing their independence, I have learned to control my instincts and impulses as a mother to tell my children what they need to do, choices they should make and direct their lives. I want to protect them from making the mistakes I made, feeling the pain of those mistakes. As a mother, I still desire for my children to be happy with no pain or disappointments. My words at times is considered “unwanted advice”.

This “unwanted advice” or meddling can cause problems in the relationship with my children and their spouses. But I have not learned how to turn off the “mommy switch”. I keep my words to myself, but how do I deal with the desire to speak? I voice my concerns in prayer.

When things happen in my children’s lives, things I can not speak to them about, I pray. I take the energy of concern and put the words I desire to speak and focus them in prayer for my children.

My children are now parents. They have experience with the “parent switch”. They are starting to feel the desire to speak to their teenage children about concerns, yet also realize they have to make some decisions on their own as they are becoming adults. My children are learning the challenges of the “parent switch”.

My children learning the “parent switch”, they now understand my difficulties of when I said something they considered meddling at the time, to be the voice of a concerned loving parent.

Recently I was asked by one of my children of how to speak to their teenager about a situation. My grandchild thinks they have been bullied at school. When all the facts were brought forth, they and another student was competing and verbally “fighting” to be best friends with one student. We had a discussion on defining bullying. Then the discussion turned to what makes a friend. A person who chooses to be friends with one person at a time, does not know what friends truly are. There was no reason both of you could not be friends with the student at the same time.

Granny talking to the teenager, although it was the same words used by their mother, had a different effect. A useful verbal communication because of the “mommy switch”.

Living with the “mommy switch” is not easy. Being a parent is not easy. Being a grandparent is a little easier than being a parent, but still has challenges. The “mommy switch” is an important part of our make up in becoming a mother, carries over in being a grandmother. Learning to control the tongue with the “mommy switch” is the challenge.

Still, I love being a mother. I thoroughly enjoy being a Granny. And I look forward, although I hope not too soon to the adventures of being a great-grandmother.

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Grandpa’s Garden

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The enjoyment of gardening started when I was nine years old. My dad purchased twenty-four acres that was used as hay ground. He moved our mobile home or trailer house to the land. Along with us came my grandparents, my dad’s parents in a mobile home. That spring there was to be a garden.

My sister and I worked with my dad putting in an absolutely straight as an arrow fence. My dad was a perfectionist of sorts, when he did a job, he did it right. “Do a job right the first time, and you will only have to do it once” were words he often spoke to us. My dad used a surveyors transits to make sure the fenceline was straight.

My grandpa loved to garden. He was retired and liked to keep busy. A place was selected for the garden. Dad plowed the garden area to loosen up the soil and break the grass roots up so a rototiller would be able to work the soil. Then Grandpa spent two days going over the area with a rototiller. All day for two days, when he was done, the soil had a fine texture, no clumps and no grass.

Next was to set out the rows and irrigation ditches. The acreage was watered by flood irrigation. The garden would be watered using the same method. Dad and Grandpa made a tool using a level and lumber to determine the slope of the garden area, to find high spots and low spots. The low spots would collect water, not good for plants as the roots would rot. The high spots would not get enough water. After walking all over the garden area with the leveling tool, next was to grade or smooth the area getting rid of low and high spots.

For the grading, Dad and Grandpa made a drag from railroad ties, attached ropes to the ends and pulled this railroad tie leveler back and forth across the garden area. Then out would come the leveling tool to see find the high and low spots again. The process took a whole Saturday. As a kid, a whole Saturday doing one job, was a very long time. When they were done, the whole family gathered at the edge of the garden. With pride my dad said, “The garden is now ready for rows.”

Months before, my mom would spend hours with Grandpa, selecting seeds, and learning how to map out a garden. Different plants needed different width of rows for growing room. They drew a map for the rows and labeled each row with a name.

The string and stakes along with a tape measure came out, my Dad’s favorite tools as they were used for everything we did. Going my Grandpa’s carefully drawn map, they started putting in ditches. Marking the ditches with stakes and string, they cut the ditches into the soil using a hoe. The ditches were for the water. Us kids were told to stay out of the “garden” until all the ditches were done. They did not need us tromping all over messing with the strings and ditches. When all the ditches were in place, the water was diverted down the irrigation ditch into the garden ditch, and water flowed. Dad and Grandpa watched the water flow down every ditch, making sure the flow was even. The first flowing of the water was to settle the soil and put moisture back in. Two days later they had the water flow a second time, this was to mark where to put the seeds.

The garden was ready to receive the seeds. I was eager to learn anything. My siblings and myself were not allowed to help with the garden prepping, but we would be allowed to plant seeds. My mother did not want us in the garden at all, but Grandma said we were old enough to learn. Grandpa and Dad agreed, and said us kids could work beside them. They would teach us how to plant.

Grandpa took me to teach me how to plant. We started with the corn. Taking out a tape measure, ( I think a tape measure was one of his favorite tools as well.) we walked to the area for the corn. I was told to hold the tape measure and seeds while he made the planting row with a hoe, just above the water line in the ditch. Grandpa taught me how to use the tape measure to measure 6 inches. Place a seed at the very beginning of the planting row, then measure 6 inches from the seed, and place another. I went down the rows, measuring 6 inches and placing seeds. Grandpa made the rest of the planting rows, while I planted. I felt so important as I was planting seeds on my own. When he finished the planting rows for all the corn, he came back to fill in the rows I had placed seeds. He told me I was doing a great job.

After the corn, we planted green beans. Green beans were 4 inches apart. Dad and my sister and brother planted the carrots, radishes, peas, black eyed peas and beets. Grandma was teaching mom how to transplant the 30 tomato plants that Grandma had started and grown in the house for a month.

Next Grandpa took me to the squash and cucumber area. There the rows were farther apart. He would take a step and mark with the hoe, take a step and mark. Then he came back to me and said “now let’s plant”. He showed me how to make a small mound, put a hole with my finger in the center and place three seeds next to each other. He would cut the water ditch to go around the mound. We planted the squash and cucumbers. When we looked up, the others had finished what they were planting.

Once again, we gathered at the edge of the garden. With pride we surveyed the work we had done. The garden was planted. Us kids were told to stay out of the garden unless we had an adult with us. They did not want us tromping on the new plants when they appeared.

Grandpa would water the garden several times a week. I watched the bare ground begin to turn green. Grandpa would take me through the garden teaching me how to water and identify the different plants that were sprouting. When the plants were four inches tall, we started pulling weeds and grass. Grandpa showed and guided me in using the hoe to get the weeds and grass on the top of the rows making weeding faster. I had to carefully pull weeds and grass near the plants so I would not damage or kill them.

I would watch for Grandpa to come out of his house, and head to the garden. Mom did not spend much time in the garden. But Grandpa and Grandma were there almost everyday. I worked beside them learning how to grow and care for the plants that provide food for the table. When they were ready, my grandparents showed me how to harvest the fruit of our labors.

Grandpa and Grandma only stayed two years with us in the twenty-four acres. Two years I learned to how to grow a garden.

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Grandparents are Important

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My cousin, Melba, and I talked last night about our parents. Her nephews are asking their grandmother questions about their grandfather of family history. Melba mentioned to them, they needed to ask about their grandmother’s history as it is very different and interesting. Melba’s mother and my father were siblings. They were born into a very poor family at the beginning of the Great Depression.

My dad told me a story he thought was humorous about when he was a small child. His family was picking fruit or vegetables in southern Texas. He heard on the radio the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, and the men in charge were worried and upset. He ran to his dad, “Dad, we need to hide the Japanese are coming!” His dad told him to calm down, and asked a few questions, then started laughing. “Son, the Japanese are not going to bomb us, Texas is a very long way from Pearl Harbor.” My dad thought the planes were going to bomb him and his family at any moment.

Melba shared when her mom was little she loved to go grocery shopping with her mother as she picked out the flour, based on the color pattern of the sack. Her dresses were made from flour sacks. As a teenager, her mom no longer wanted to go shopping with her family, as they were really poor and she was embarrassed to be seen with them.

Melba could not understand her mother being embarrassed to be with her family. I reminded Melba to look at the situation from her mother’s perspective. Young ladies future was in who they would marry. There were not job opportunities as today. Her mom and my mom were restricted to being a teacher, nurse, or secretary as jobs for descent respectable women. If her mother wanted to get out of poverty, the best way was to marry a man with more money than her family. If she was seen with her poor family, her chances of getting a young man from a middle class or higher economic status to look at her as a potential wife would be less to zero.

Our mothers had very different pressures on them, than we did and our children have. The primary goal for our mothers was to find a man to be a husband, someone to provide a comfortable life for them and to have children for the man. Our mothers told us that was what was expected of them when they graduated from high school.

My father started working at age 12 to help support the family. He and his older brother would work in the crop fields and orchards in California up to Washington. Her mother would watch the young brother while her mother worked in the fields. In the winter they would return to New Mexico, and attend school. My dad and his brother would miss half of the school year to work logging or hunting or some other day labor type job to assist in supporting the family. Her mom was allowed to attend school daily.

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My mom received piano lessons, not for cultural education, but for monetary reasons. Her dad and brother were a country band and they needed a piano player. After a few lessons, mom learned to play by ear. She was playing in the band at age 12 years every weekend. Her younger sister at age 9 years was singing. The money the band playing brought in helped support the family. The family band did start a family history of music through the grandchildren and great grandchildren. A legacy of my mother’s father.

My parents were adults when they bought their first televisions and have a telephone in the house. I grew up with a black and white television and a telephone attached to the wall with the receiver was connected by a short cord and party lines with four or six other families. On party lines you had to count long and short rings to determine if the call was for you or someone else. Long distant calls cost money, you could only call friends who lived in your small area of the town you lived in. I was an adult with children when we could walk around the house with a telephone in hand and you could call within the state before it was long distance. Today, I have a cell phone, with no long distance charges except out of country.

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Grandparents are an important key in the history and genealogy of families. Grandparents remember the family stories, family history and have life experiences with actual historical events. My Uncle recorded some of their dad’s life experiences and songs he used to sing on a cassette. Unfortunately, none of us are able to listen to the tapes, as we do not have cassette players, but the tapes are still cherished. Today, we can record videos on our cellphones, saving the history and stories in digital form for future generations.

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