Sunday, June 27, 2010

Grandma and the Iron Curtin

A recent sibling weekend brought to mind how differently you remember your childhood. Those nearest and dearest are happy to burst your bubble, usually in front of your husband and children and recount those discrepancies with glee. Of course Mommy never broke curfew, why she even came home early so as not to worry her own dear parents. Underage drinking? She wouldn’t think of it, that would have just been so wrong.

When I was in 4th grade, my Aunt passed away suddenly. Overnight we went from a family of four to a family of eleven. My parents adopted my five cousins and brought in my grandparents for reinforcements. We moved into the biggest house in a nearby town with a small separate apartment. Grandma and Grandpa moved into the apartment and put the two littlest boys in the connecting dining room.

My folks were young adults in the sixties, let’s just say they had a pretty laid back approach to kids. The innocent grandparents never knew what hit them. As retired schoolteachers they expected us to use our indoor voices, never run in the house and clean our plates. We of course behaved like we were raised by wolves playing wild made up games involving danger. The favorite was Dark House, a warped game of hide and seek. You’d turn off every light in the house and wait to be found. Best hiding places, the top shelf of the linen closet, and the built in clothes hamper, that is if the seeker didn’t lose interest after the first hour. Those spaces seem impossibly small now, I have no idea how we squeezed in.

If we wanted to go over to the inner sanctum of their side we had to knock politely and wait to be invited in. We referred to this as going behind the Iron Curtin. We had to show our passports and our clean hands in order to cross the border. The little boys seemed impossibly polite and tidy, the five oldest looked like we’d been running wild in the neighborhood, playing in the creek and rolling in mud. Likely we had been. My grandparents had to protect them from those hooligans, hmmmm….I think they mean us. It goes to show it nurture versus nature. The boys have grown up into fine sensitive men, essentially ads for

Grandma baked fresh bread every week for the family. My parents didn’t do dessert, but the grandparents liked a little sweet after dinner.

Grandma’s Apple Crumble
Fill a shallow, buttered baking dish with thinly sliced apples. Blueberries, peaches are other fruit may be used instead. Sprinkle lightly with a tablespoon brown sugar mixed with a dash of cinnamon. Combine:
½ cup flour
½ cup sugar
½ quick oats uncooked
1/3 cup butter.

Mix until crumbly and spread over fruit. Bake at 350 degrees until apples are tender. Serve warm with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream. Blueberries, peaches are other fruit may be used instead.

But we know they loved us, admired our crummy art projects, came to our off key choral concerts, made sure we didn’t burn down the house when our parents were at work. Taught us that thank you notes and hard work will take you everywhere. So thank you Grandma and Grandpa for being just the way you are.

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