One curious thing about growing up is that you don’t only move forward in time; you move backwards as well, as pieces of your parents’ and grandparents’ lives come to you. Philip Pullman
I think the great thing about grandparents is seeing another home, realizing that people you love can have different priorities, different opinions, and lead quite different lives from the ones you see every day and that is immensely valuable. Simon Hoggart
One of the roles that Simplicity has the privilege of playing is that of a grandparent house. In our blended family, we have eight grandchildren ranging in age from twenty-six to almost two. None of our grandchildren live nearby so when they visit, it is extra special. The older grandchildren have found their own ways of snuggling into Simplicity, but I worried that the young ones might forget this house that loves them and gets excited when they visit.
In talking about Simplicity as a grandparent house, Don and I lovingly remembered our own delight in visiting our grandparents. So different from our own family homes, their houses were filled not only with love, but new places to play and explore. What would our grandchildren remember about Simplicity, we wondered? What would they look forward to seeing, doing, and being when they visited? What would they reminisce about in years to come?
For Don, visiting his grandparents farm was always a highlight. The two-story frame house offered more nooks and crannies than the ranch style of his family home. A large porch with its wide railing was a most wonderful place to sit and play. One room, off the stairs, held unusual treasures like ostrich feathers and fragile Baroque figurines. The tool shed, the boot room, the balcony were all places of adventure. Several months after we moved into Simplicity, Don realized that our house was nearly the exact blueprint of his grandparents’ home, just flipped. No wonder he said, “This is home,” that day we were first introduced to Simplicity.
My widowed grandmother lived in an old brick multi-storied apartment building that hugged the lawn in a U-shape. As a child, I thought it was a magical place, just as she was. The front door of the building led one into a small lobby where either an elevator or stairs took you to the upper floors. I rarely took the stairs, preferring to push the brass buttons on the elevator panel. Once off the elevator I passed several doors and there it was, my grandmother’s place. A nameplate with her name confirmed the right door. Inside was a single room that served as a living area and bedroom. On the other side was a galley kitchen, complete with a dining space for no more than two people by the window. Everything was within reach, close by, an efficiency. For a little girl, this home felt just the right size. I would dream of living in such a place when I grew up. My grandmother’s telephone intrigued me. Much older than the one at our house, this was matte black with a rotary dial that made a two toned deep clicking sound when you dialed the numbers. The receiver was larger, one end hugging the entire ear, and the other perfectly cupped to easily catch the sounds made with the mouth. When I spoke on this phone, I felt important, and very grown up.
Putting our heads and hearts together around how to keep Simplicity in the minds of our little ones, we came up with a fun plan. Don would take them on a ‘field trip’ of Simplicity’s spaces that were off limits due to child safety reasons. Their next visit arrived and in due course Grandpa Don asked if they would like to see the secret places of Simplicity. Eyes lit up. Smiles grew from ear-to-ear. Bodies starting jumping up and down. Each was given a flashlight and off they went with their most capable guide, Grandpa Don. Up the stairs into the third-floor attic. Down the stairs to the hidden staircase that comes out through a door in the living room. Then to the upper balcony. The space under the front stairs. The space under the back stairs. Each location welcomed our eager explorers as their eyes widened with treasured delight. A most successful field trip, for sure.
With our four youngest grandchildren knowing me as a storyteller, I decided my part was to write short stories about different parts of the house. Don would take a photo, then both story and picture were sent in the mail. On their end, a photo album collected the story on one side and the photo on the other. The album was to be a memory book of Jazz and Grandpa Don’s home, a place where we hoped each grandchild felt safe, creative, and welcome. To write a Simplicity story every three weeks was my goal, resulting in over forty stories. The stories introduced new toys awaiting the grandchildren’s arrival, the wind chime on the porch, the garden, fire pit in the backyard, making bread, the porch swing, the clock in the living room, a piece of artwork, the clawfoot tub, our offices, the mailbox at the end of the drive, the turn style doorbell at the front door and more. Each told of a unique part of Simplicity. Each was also a memory of their time with us, always reminding them that this, too, was their place, their home.
Here is a sampling of the Stories from Simplicity . . .
BRRRRRRing . . .
Do you know what this is?
Do you know where to find it?
Do you know how it works?
Of course you do!!
This is Simplicity’s doorbell.
Can you hear it ring?
Remember how you turn the handle?
Pretend you are standing at our front door.
Put your hand on the bell.
Give it a few turns.
Hello!!!! We are so glad you are here!
We’ve Got Mail
Jazz loves mail. She really, really, really loves mail! Grandpa Don likes mail, too, but not as much as Jazz. She hears the mail truck long before she can see it. “What will be in today’s mail,” she asks herself? Some mail comes to Simplicity with window envelopes. Some mail comes to Simplicity with our names typed on the envelope. Some mail comes to Simplicity with our names written by hand! This is the best mail because it means someone special is thinking of us. Sometimes we find a letter in our mailbox from you. That makes it an extra special day at Simplicity! Our mailbox has a red flag that we put up when we have a letter ready to go to the post office. Today our red flag is UP because this letter is ready to come to you. Soon it will be in your mailbox. Do you like mail, too?
Molly Moo and Ollie Owl invited Peaches, the bunny, for a play date. Peaches was so excited! Molly Moo and Ollie Owl decided that a perfect place for their first play date was the swing on the porch. All three jumped on and smiled – ready to have fun. BUT, the swing didn’t move. This was not fun! Since Molly Moo had the biggest voice, she MOOOOOed to get Jazz’s attention. “Will you push us, Jazz?” she asked. Then all three sad faces turned into smiles and laughter. Molly Moo told Peaches about playing with you and how much fun they had. Ollie Owl told Peaches about the time you put him in the secret compartment of the clock for a hide and seek. Ollie was so glad when you came back for a visit and opened the door! That was a very long time to hide! Peaches cannot wait to meet all three of you!! He wants you to know that he is very happy at Simplicity with his new friends!
Books on shelves – waiting to read
Books on tables – off the shelf and freed.
Books that are favorites with pages undone,
Books that are new – inviting some fun.
Books hold adventures about places to go.
Books introduce us to people named FLO.
Books have words and pictures to share
Our imagination gets excited – ideas with flare!
Some books we read for “information only”
About events in the news or people who are lonely.
Books are like friends, very special we say.
We read them at night and in the day.
At bedtime books are an extra treat
They come before dreams ever so sweet.
What books are your favorites and why would you say
makes this book special while that book ‘no way’?
Being a grandparent home is an important part of Simplicity’s story. When the grandchildren come, sleeping spaces are re-arranged, night lights are inserted in the wall sockets, the toys and books come out from their place in the basement, activities are planned, favorite foods are made, and surprises are in readiness. Mostly it is about spending time together and living our stories side by side. As I think about Simplicity’s history, it is only the second time she has held grandchildren and that was so long ago. How wonderful to gift her that experience once again.