"A Visit From Grandma," Sharon DeMartini (2002)

A very strange thing happened to me the other day; my grandma came to my house for a visit. This may not sound strange until I explain that she has been dead for quite some time.

Perhaps she heard me speaking with my mom about her childhood home, or saw me reading the book my cousin wrote for my grandma’s 80th birthday celebration. Maybe she knows I am actively researching my family tree and can sense my trying to connect with her. Whatever the reason for her presence, I am going to invite her to stay and experience life in our home for a day to see that while technology has drastically changed the family home, certain other things cannot be changed, they simply transcend time.

After composing myself from the amazement of her presence, I take her on a tour of my home. We start in the family room that joins the kitchen. She tells me that her kitchen was much larger than mine but they never had a "family room" so the space is about the same size. She remembers her kitchen as the center of her home, which is the same for my home. Grandma explains her sawdust stove "It had a big hopper that held two or three buckets of sawdust," she says "which fed into the stove and had to be kept dry. Sometimes, the sawdust would get stuck in the hopper and fill the house with smoke, so we had to be sure to bang on the hopper to get the sawdust to drop." She is, of course, amazed at my modern stove, oven & convection that, with a turn of a switch, raises the downdraft vent to pull smoke out of the air, filter and blow it outside of the house.

We move down the hall to the dining room. My dining room is currently a staging area for our bathroom remodeling project. Grandma laughs and remembers what it was like to live in a house under construction. Many times they would move into a home just after the floor, walls & roof were completed. They would live in it while all the finish carpentry was taking place. Funny that my husband & I are doing the same thing that my grandparents did with their homes.

There have been a few occasions when I have cleared out the dining room & actually used it for dining and entertaining purposes. Grandma says she has been to a few of my parties and that is when my home reminds her the most of hers; filled with family & kids, eating and sharing a good time, laughing & telling stories, remembering the good times and looking forward to new good times. She tells me it is worth the extra effort of putting out the good China and cooking a wonderful meal to make my guests feel special. She is happy to see her beautiful China in use again. Even with all our modern appliances, it is still a big project to plan a dinner party.

We move out to the backyard to take a look at the garden. "Now this feel like home" she says as she sees the tomatoes, corn, pumpkins, squash, carrots and many kinds of fruit trees on the property. She tells me that she came to visit one day while I was canning tomatoes. "I remember how much work it is to can & preserve fruits & vegetables, I did it all the time but I didn’t have to, I liked to, the food tastes so much better when you grow it yourself." Grandma had an ice box for her perishables so canning wasn’t a necessity. She also visited the local farmers market every week and sometimes sold their excess produce there. She would also visit the dairy & butcher for the other items they needed. Grandma’s schedule has more drive time than mine because I only need to go to one place. However, we will often go to our local farmers market rather than the grocery store for the freshest items if we don’t have it growing in the garden.

I think that grandma would be surprised at how I fuss over my child. If she arrived earlier she would have seen me get him ready for school and then drive him to school in the car. She would wonder why he can’t just walk the few miles to school along a country road with no sidewalk, just as my mom and aunts & uncle did. I would tell her that today, unfortunately, parents have to be very careful & watch their children more closely than before. Every parents’ nightmare has become reality for many parents in today’s world. She would come along in the car with us & be surprised that almost ALL the parents drive their kids, and not one child was walking alone. The older kids walk together and the younger ones with their parents or siblings. I think she would feel very sad for us & our children that the world is becoming such a dangerous place for little ones.

We watched the news and wonder together if there will be another attack on the US or will we be the ones to attack? She remembers my grandpa going off to war and how hard it was to be alone with all the kids. "I got $79 a month from the army for his service, when he became a sergeant I got another $20 a month". They faced some hard times then but got through them together as a family. So far it doesn’t look like my husband or anyone else in my immediate family will be directly impacted by terrorism or war, but no one can know for sure. What about in another 15 years or so, will my son be faced with terrorism & war?

The stock market report came on next. She sees my fear that the stock market just doesn’t seem to be coming back, and may never be as it once was. We hear the "expert" say "It’s a paper loss, don’t sell now" and we wonder; when does the loss become "real"? it sure feels "real" right now! Grandma tells me "Sharon, the best thing to do is to just keep your money in a bank and don’t touch it. That way it will be there when you need it." She is right & I wish that is what I would have done. My grandma went through the great depression which was far worse than what we are experiencing now. She got through it with hard work and the help of her loved ones around her. I feel that we will get through this much less serious downturn too, only time will tell us when it is over.

There is, however, something that remains true for both homes; something that time or technology cannot change. Both places have experienced the raw energy of a growing family. Sitting there, thinking about how precarious the world has become, we remember together the things that never change. The celebrations and routines of a family going through life as best we can with the tools that we are given in that space in time. We remember together the joy of a newborn baby and the unbearable loss of a loved one. We remember together a world shocked at the reality & ugliness of war. We remember together bad economic times and have celebrated a promotion or financial windfall.

I think Grandma will visit me again soon to see how life is progressing in my home. I think that life is easier for me than it was for her. However, I also think that concerns of the heart will never change, no matter in what time we live.