Mattias, my grandparent situation was a lot different than yours when I was a kid. For one thing, I only had three instead the crowd you have. Grandmother and Granddaddy Robinson (my dad’s parents) were still married to their original spouses, and Granny Hagan (my mom’s mother) was a widow. Her husband died several years before I was born.
My grandparents had strange names. Mom’s father was Ralph Charles Hagan which wasn’t too unusual, but her mother was Alva Lee (Cox) Hagan. Dad’s father was Oscar Lee Robinson and his mother was Iona Florence (Yandall) Robinson. Not quite the same as David, Linda, Mark, Mary Kay, Suzie, and Russ. It didn’t matter that much because we didn’t call them by their first names anyway.
My grandparents were also a lot older than yours, and I’m not just saying that because I old now. My dad had 3 older sisters and 3 older brothers, and his oldest sister was 20 years older than he was. Older people dressed different then. Grandmother Robinson had hair down to her waist, and she wore it up in a bun. Both grandmothers wore “sensible” shoes, black lace-ups or “Mary Janes” with wide 1” high heels. Granny Hagan dressed in a fairly stylish way, but Grandmother Robinson wore simple shirtwaist dresses. I never saw either of them in pants.
We saw the Robinson grandparents at family reunions every year, and we occasionally visited them at their small home in Abilene. When we arrived, Jim and I went in to say hello and give hugs, and then we went outside to play while the grownups visited. If it rained and we had to stay inside, there wasn’t much to do. There was no TV and no toys. Grandmother did have a collection of empty wooden spools that had once held thread. We used them as bubble pipes by wetting one end, rubbing it across a bar of soap, and blowing through the hole in the other end. The spools also made good building blocks for kids with an active imagination.
The only other “toy” was Granddaddy’s magnifying glass. He got it when his sight began to fade as his diabetes got worse, but after he lost his sight altogether, it took its place on the shelf beside the spools. We weren’t allowed to take it outside where we could fry ants with it, but we had fun looking at the big version of everything in the house.
Granny Hagan lived in Dallas, so we got to see her more often. She worked as a live-in housekeeper and caregiver
for a woman and her invalid mother. The first place I remember visiting her was in a big, old house in Highland Park. Her living quarters were in a large room off the kitchen, and she had a fascinating Murphy bed on one wall. Her employer liked jigsaw puzzles, and when she finished one, she passed it on to Granny. Her work in progress was always spread out on a card table in the corner, and I loved try and find a piece or two when I visited.
Then they moved to a more modern house, and she had her own apartment with a standard bed. It wasn’t nearly as interesting, but we never stayed very long. We usually picked her up on her day off and took her home to spend the afternoon with us. Once we were home, she visited with Mom and Dad while we went about our usual business as kids, but I always wanted to sit by her in the car on the way home.
Even though she didn’t play with us, she took a more active role in our lives than the Robinson grandparents. She didn’t have much money for gifts, but she was an excellent seamstress. She bought fabric remnants and made custom outfits for the granddaughters’ dolls or smocked throw pillows for our beds. I’m not sure what she did for the boys. When we went away to college, she wrote letters each week and enclosed a dollar.
My grandparents never took me to Disneyland or showered me with gifts, but I have fond memories of good cooking and warm hugs. They were simple people with simple lives, and those lives included a simple love for their grandchildren.