I grew up in Maryland just outside of D.C. It was only two miles to RFK Stadium and we could hear the ballgames at our house when they were playing.
When I was very young we lived in Waldorf for a year and my mom's parents lived in Acquasco. Grandpa was working as a caretaker on a tobacco farm. He and grandma lived in the old house on the farm. And, I do mean old. It was a four story frame house which I think was at least 200 years old. The farm was owned by Priscilla Dyson and had been in her late husband's family (Mende) for a very long time. Her youngest son, Mark Mende, was a year older than me and we always played together and got into mischief when I came to visit my grandparents.
Just about every Sunday we'd come to visit and Grandma would fix a beef roast, ham or fried chicken on the wood cook stove. There was always corn on the cob, a mess of green beans, mashed potatoes and some kind of salad. My favorite was sliced cucumbers in vinegar. Yum!
Mom's brothers and sisters were always there along with their families. It was a big gathering for dinner and I loved every minute of it. Uncle Jack and Aunt Dot were there with their three boys Mike, Gary and Tony (this was before my cousin Laura was born), Aunt Nancy and her husband Tommy with Steven, Aunt Geraldine and Bobby with little cousin Shelah. Uncle Larry and Aunt Wanda were still in high school.
Inside the kitchen was a large nook with a table where all the adults ate while us kids ate our meal at a table on a covered porch off the kitchen. There was a long hall from the kitchen with a bedroom to the left and then a staircase past the bedroom also to the left. Straight ahead was a large room which had to have been a parlor at one time but my grandparents had a bed set up in there because grandma couldn't go up and down the stairs.
There were lots and lots of lovely rooms in the house. All full of furniture and clothing. Mark and I used to play dress up and grandma would tell us to put all that stuff away because she didn't want Miss Priscilla to get mad at us for playing in her things. As far as I can remember, there was only one bathroom in the house and it was on the second floor. It had an old claw foot tub and I remember when we would stay overnight with grandma that mom would bath me, my sister and brother together in that tub. Then after baths we would be tucked into bed under a pile of covers and quilts. It didn't matter if it was summer, you still were swaddled into bed under that pile. I always wondered later on if the pile of covers was so large because they didn't want us kids to be able to get back out of bed?
I think because we saw our cousins, aunts, uncles and grandparents every weekend that made us so much closer. I think the happiest time in my life was back then. I'd lay awake in bed and listen to the grownups talking downstairs. I could sometimes pick up a word or two of what they were saying but most often not. They always watched the Lawrence Welk show on tv on Sundays after dinner. I thought it was the most boring program on tv.
I wouldn't change anything about how we grew up except to say it ended too quickly. A few years later my grandparents would move back to West Virginia and my grandma would pass on at the young age of 54. Things were never the same after that. My favorite Aunt Wanda died in 1983 from colon cancer. She was eight years older than me. We were very close. Aunt Nancy died in 2002 from a lupus related illness. Aunt Geraldine lives somewhere in Mexico. My dear Aunt Dot passed away this past August and Uncle Jack himself is not doing well. Uncle Larry is home recuperating from surgery. I pray for my living family members every day.
I have the best memories of growing up. I had the best parents anyone could have wished for. They were strict all the time but loving and kind although we were disciplined when needed. I remember mom would paddle us and then we'd get the belt from dad when he got home from work. No getting around that. We learned to be good or receive the consequences. None of us liked the consequences!
I remember family devotions after dinner. One of us kids would read a story out of the devotions book and then dad would ask us questions about what the story meant. A lot of the time the story was about attitudes which I had plenty of as a teenager. I don't know how many times I heard, "Carol, you better work on changing that attitude of yours!" Thankfully, I finally did.
I wish I could have given my children the kind of life I had growing up although when my parents lived in Pittsburgh we were close enough to see them and visit. But my sister and brother lived in Maryland and we didn't visit with them often. Now my sister is in North Carolina and my brother is in Florida. Thankfully, we have Facebook and also cell phone texting so I can keep in touch. I talk to my mom just about every day on the phone. Still, it's not the same as still living at home and seeing your parents, sister and brother every day. It's hard when you grow up and move out and away. It changes the family dynamic. Things aren't the same. It's sad. I can only hope that one day my granddaughters will have memories of me and can look back and be happy they knew me and that I was part of their life.