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Linda Barrett

Linda Barrett

Linda Barrett

Starting Over ~ Life in the Day Camp~WE’RE GRANDMAS NOW


I wish I’d thought of that. It’s one of those sayings attributed to “author unknown.” But I’ll confirm that the idea resonates in the day camp.  Many, if not most, of my friends here are grandmothers. Do we show off the latest pictures of the kids?  You bet.  Do we brag occasionally?  Oh, yeah. Are our grandbabies the cutest, brightest, funniest, sweetest inventions since chocolate? Absolutely.

But we’re also glad when the visits are over and all the kids–children and grandchildren–go home.


A funny thing, though.  As soon as we say goodbye at the airport, we yearn to see them again.

It’s become an all-or-nothing proposition in America over the last decade or two. Extended families no longer live near one another, so BIG VISITS compensate and leave us all exhausted. First, the scheduling. Then the waiting and crossing off the days.  Then right before, a frenzy of shopping, cooking and freezing. Most important, the planning of “what to do” with everyone after arrival. We must have fun activities!  And then, finally, the tykes arrive with their parents. And with every hug and kiss, we melt. And are reborn.


My own grandmother lived a hundred miles away from me in upstate New York. Every so often I’d arrive home from school and there she’d be!  My parents didn’t do the countdown thing. I guess they believed in surprises. A wonderful surprise. This lady was the only grandparent I had, and she was everything a little girl could want in a grandmother. Some years ago, her memory inspired me to write a story about her, and about grandmothers then…and now.  My own boys were half-grown at the time. I’m sharing my memory with you today–a story of family–so this blog post will be longer than most.

~~~~~Real Grandmas–A Family Story~~~

A real grandma has big jiggly arms. My grandma did, and when I cuddled up to her on the couch, my head fit perfectly against her unique pillow. She’d read to me in her Yiddish accent, “Vee, Villie, Vinkie vent through the town…”  It sounded just fine.

A real grandma knows how to knit. My grandma did and when she started a sweater, she actually finished it. Long after I’d go to bed, she’d continue to knit and leave her work-in-progress where I could see it first thing in the morning. I was always amazed at how red or navy blue string could turn into a bulky garment, a thing of substance, just by moving two long needles against each other. It seemed like magic, but Grandma could do it.


A real grandma also fills the house with scrumptious aromas, and needs the special assistance of a ten year old granddaughter. Those apple pies, those rugelahs–rolled out dough cut into triangles and re-rolled into crescents with sugar, cinnamon, raisins, nuts, jelly, anything delicious would do. And the strudel made from dough so thin, you could almost see through it. They are all in my mind’s eye as clearly today as when Gram and I shared my mother’s kitchen on one of Gram’s visits so long ago.

“Lindala, you’ll scrape the orange and lemon like this,” she said as she gave me the “rebvison,” the four-sided metal scraper used for such work. I took it proudly. This was not a baby job! She crushed walnuts, set aside raisins and kneaded the dough. The finished products looked like miracles to me, but Grandma just nodded at her efforts and brushed the flour from her hands.file2391298506940

Those delicious fragrances filled my childhood home, but no recipe was written down. How could she write: a pinch of this, a little of that with enough of the other until it was right?  Grandma’s kitchen methods did not end with baking. She made chicken soup in exactly the same way. This artstic style continued until I was about twelve years old.

Whether I had a flash of insight or whether I slowly forced myself to acknowledge that Grandma was old, I don’t honestly recall. But I do remember thinking and worrying about her dying some day. After my initial grief at this realization, I took action.

“Grandma,” I said, while holding pen and paper in my hand, “exactly how do you make rugelahs?” And she told me. Slowly, we worked the amounts out together. A written recipe was finally born in our family, and it was perfect. Anyway, that’s what my boys tell me.

My boys have two grandmas. One does aerobics and one plays catch wtih them using a hard ball and a baseball glove. Their grandmas are in their seventies, in the same decade of life as my grandma was when I grew up.

My sons think that real grandmas are athletes, that real grandmas work full-time until forced to retire at 75, and that the only food grandmas know how to cook is chicken, the quintessential low cholesterol choice. They have never seen either grandma bake as much as a cookie or knit the ubiquitous scarf.  But if you’d ask them about their grandmothers, as I did, they’d tell you that those ladies were absolutely perfect and that they were very real grandmas. Just like mine was.



Leave a comment to say whether you enjoyed this type of memory and if you’d like to try writing some family stories of your own. I’ve taught others how to do it, and I can get you started right here on my blog. It’s a lovely way to pass down memories without saying, “When I was your age…”  which no child likes to hear!

June contest ends today. If you leave a comment, you have a chance of winning a choice of two books shown below plus a $25 gift certificate to Amazon or BN.

As always, thanks for stopping by. I hope to see you for the next edition of Starting Over.






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8 thoughts on “Starting Over ~ Life in the Day Camp~WE’RE GRANDMAS NOW

  1. Lovely blog.
    My parents were in their forties when I was born, so I never knew any of my grandparents. Thankfully, though, I have been blessed with tons of “moms” through the years, as my husband (10 years my senior) belonged to many families before he met me. These moms have been called Grandma by my kids for many years, and they have seen firsthand the bounty of love grandmas have. I am very grateful.
    As for writing my stories, I don’t write books but I do write poems. I have been mailing/emailing a “year-in-review” poem at Christmastime to friends/relatives for several years now (at their request, as I said it would be done one year only, because it was so difficult/time consuming, and then dozens of people begged me to continue, which was sweet, so I relented), which I place in my scrapbooks, where I also write “stories” to go with the photos. (My scrapbooks are only up to June/92 – beginning in the late 1800s, as I’ve been converting old magnetic photo albums I started in the seventies. I’ve learned to save the best pictures and chuck – sniff … – the rest, as we really don’t need a dozen pictures of the same person at the same time – at least in the recent photos, but I would never chuck any of the limited pictures from before I was born!)

    • Hi Laney – Glad you liked the blog. Poems and scrapbooking are wonderful ways to share memories and feelings. I also treasure the family pics from before I was born. My dad is uniform, my mom as a single gal on the beach–very modest bathing suits. It always comes back to family. Thanks for stopping by.

  2. Linda,
    I loved reading your blog. It’s so real, and it’s so you. I didn’t have either grandmother. My mother was the age of most of my friends grandmothers. My grandchildren live long distance from me. Getting to see them is a treat. Now that they’re getting older and are busy with so many of their own things in school and athletics it’s hard to work out visits. My big thing to bake when they come are chocolate chip cookies. The grands look forward to them. One time when I didn’t make the cookies, my grand-twins asked their mother if I was okay. I used to sew for my daughters. I made most of their school clothes. I did sew some for my first granddaughter, but didn’t for the later kids. I guess I’m more of a modern grandmother, and in many ways that’s sad.

    • Hi Roz! So glad you took time to visit me. My grandkids are still small, but many of my friends are in your boat. Their grandkids are busy, busy, busy and it’s hard to fit those visits in. When they’re small, they race to the door when grandma arrives for a visit. Now other things interfere. But the family ties are strong, and my friends really accept that this is the way it is. And then they make other plans for themselves. Like a trip. So, it’s not only about the sewing and baking; I think life has changed for all of us. Modern, indeed! Take care.

  3. I can see my maternal great grandmother sitting at the kitchen table teaching me and my sisters to play solitaire. She would read our fortunes with cards too. I always wanted to know who I was going to marry when I got older. She would have these board games for us to play with too. (remember hi-ho cherrio). My paternal grandmother was always in the kitchen cooking. Her and my grandpa were caretakers of 2 lodge houses on a big lake, so there was
    acres and acres for kids to roam and play on. She would make us salmon patties to eat on our adventures. We could romp and play to our hearts content there and in the house too, she never yelled at us for tracking dirt in or getting on the furniture like my maternal grandmother did. Oh those were the best of times.

    • So glad my post brought back such beautiful memories for you, Earlene. Your childhood does sound wonderful. What could be better than playing card games and roaming around all day and playing in the woods? And all without being yelled at. Now, there’s a treat. Thanks so much for taking time to visit. Hope to see you again.


  4. Your wonderful and special post was heartwarming and beautiful. My grandmother who lived with us for 7 years was a natural born cook and baker. She made rugelach, chicken soup, wonderful brisket, baked challah every week and was always interested in how we enjoyed these treats, and meals. What an experience to have a kind and warmhearted bobbeh living with us. We all spoke and understood Yiddish since she was not fluent in English. But when she taught us to bake and cook no translation was necessary.

    • I’m glad I was able to bring back lovely memories for you, Sharon. Grandmas are special people, whatever language they speak, because they all speak love. Have a great weekend. A rugelach with a cup of coffee wouldn’t hurt 🙂


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