When you were little, what stood out to you about your grandparents? Little kids often stand in awe of their grandmas and grandpas, and many times it’s the little things that kids notice. Their unique style of clothing, a special candy jar, something they like to bake, the way they smell… kids pick up on these things.
My Grandma Jackie died when I was seven, and I remember her in a seven-year-old’s way. I remember her taking me to get my nails done. I remember her waking me up when I would spend the night to show me the raccoons on her porch. I remember her wearing a funny hat as she rode in front of us in a convertible and how silly she looked. I remember little things that a child would have noticed about her grandma.
I collected five books about little kids and their grandparents, and I’ve noticed this same theme – little kids notice the little things – the sensory details, the little ways they interact with them, they pick up on their mannerisms, they interpret their world in little ways, and that includes their grandmas and grandpas.
So unlike normal book reviews, I want to highlight the ways in which the kids in these books view their grandparents… in the little ways.
Nonna loves to sit on her porch. It’s quiet until her grandchildren come to visit, but they notice what’s going on around them, too. They notice the sound of shucking corn, the snap of the garden peas, the quiet sounds around her porch. And they notice the steady beating of her heart and the creaking of the rocking chair as she rocks them to sleep.
Little Xiao Le knows his grandma is not well, but he loves to spend time with her, showing her his truck, and petting her cat Shadow. He notices the picture of his grandfather and mother next to Grandma’s bed. He remembers the wood sorrel game they would play, and tea time with Grandma and his mother. The smells of her home are a perfume village to Xiao Le, and after she dies, heaven gains a perfume village as well.
Abuelita came to live with José and his family when she was already old. Abuelita has a garden where José loves to eat corn. She fries chilies that make everyone sneeze. José notices Abuelita has long gray braids, she is wrinkled, her skin is soft to kiss, and her hugs are strong, though her voice trembles and she walks slowly. But José notices that Abuelita está llena de vida… Abuelita is full of life.
When this little girl was young in the mountains, she remembers Grandfather coming home covered in black coal dust. She remembers Grandmother serving corn bread, pinto beans, and fried okra. She remembers her grandmother crying at her cousin’s baptism. She remembers Grandfather sharpening her pencils with a pocket knife and shelling beans with Grandmother. She remembers the little things when she was young in the mountains.
Little Tommy had two Nannas – his grandmother and his great-grandmother. He called them both Nanna, but since his great-grandmother is always in bed upstairs, she was Nanna Upstairs, and since grandma was always in the kitchen, she was Nanna Downstairs. He remembers talking and eating candy with Nanna Upstairs. He remembers Nanna Downstairs tucking him in for a nap. He remembers both Nannas combing their long hair. He remembers them both well, and he remembers how much he loved them.
Each of these books is precious, and show beautiful relationships of little kids and their grandparents from families all over the world. So I thought I would ask my own kids to tell me about their own grandparents, and sure enough, it was the little things they noticed.
My daughter Ellie is eight, and what stands out to her is how her Grandma always takes her to Cookie Cutters to get her hair cut, and how her Nanny always would joke about Ellie always being hungry at her house when she used to pick her up after Kindergarten. My three-year-old son Micah notices that his grandpa always comes through the back door when he gets home. Ellie told me that her great-grandfather Papaw Lutz always “says lots of jokes, he’s funny”, and that her great-grandmother Gigi Potter is sweet. She remembers Gigi and Papa’s playroom at their old house with the robot dog that had wheel paws, and how fun it was.
My kids are little, and they notice the little things.
What do you remember about your grandparents? What do your kids notice about their grandparents? Take a little time to write these precious memories down. They may be little, but they are important, and they are meaningful.
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