Canandaigua, NY

Growing Up with Grandma

Dr. Donna L. Roberts

Teaberry Gum, The Waltons & Nursery Rhymes in the Rocking Chair
Canandaigua, NY Daily Messenger, 1969

There’s a Facebook site dedicated to the town where I grew up. Recently someone posted this:

Does anyone else remember the husband and wife cab company that operated out of their house on West Avenue? He drove a spotless black Buick and every time he dropped off a fare he'd drive back home and pull into the driveway. Instead of investing in a radio his wife would come out on the porch and shout the next address to him. I always found that humorous and a little endearing.

A smile came to my face as I read that. The husband and wife team? They were my grandparents, who I lived with throughout my childhood.

Actually, I remember a black Pontiac Catalina. I learned how to drive in one of those Catalinas.

Another relative posted:

Uncle George bought a new Pontiac or Buick every year for as long as I can remember. All black 4 doors. You could also set a clock by his schedule starting around 4 a.m. when he started picking up nurses, bakers and other professionals and taking them to work. He dropped Mrs. G. off at City Hall at 7:50 A.M. every morning. George would often pick people up walking on bad weather days and give them a ride home or whereever and not charge them. George and Florence also ran a Tourist home on West Ave for years.

Having others remember these special people warmed my heart and brought back a flood of childhood memories.

Her name was Florence, but Grandpa called her Toddy.

She liked Teaberry gum, the color yellow and rides in the country.

In her purse she carried a comb, her wallet and one of those fold-up plastic rain hats.

She loved her rose bushes and took great care of them. Not because they were beautiful flowers, but because they were a Mother’s Day gift from her son James. James was in a wheelchair (and sometimes an iron lung) after contracting polio at six months old. He died young. Those rose bushes were all she had left of him, so she was fiercely protective of them.

She liked the Lawrence Welk Show, The Waltons and Murder She Wrote.

She was afraid of thunderstorms but she hid that so I wouldn’t be.

She ironed everything, even socks and sheets, while she watched the soap operas. Every day when I came home from school I sat in the overstuffed chair next to her and told her all about my adventures.

And she loved her granddaughter (me). She is a big part of the reason I had a great childhood.

My mother tells the story of coming home from work each day for lunch and still finding the breakfast dishes in the sink – something previously unheard of in Grandma’s kitchen - because my grandmother had spent the morning singing nursery rhymes to me in the rocking chair.

Every Friday was shopping day. We went to Star Market and Woolworths.

Once she gathered up old blankets and draped them over the swing set to make a cool fort in the backyard. It was the envy of the neighborhood.

She taught Smokey the dog how to play hide-and-seek with me.

She saved H & S Green Stamps and let me stick them in the saver books – even though things sometimes got a little messy. When we went to the Green Stamp store, there always seemed to be enough left over for me to choose a treat.

She prayed the rosary every night.

She was a good wife and business partner.

She was a good fort-maker.

She was . . . Grandma.

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Writer and university professor researching media psych, generational studies, addiction psychology, human and animal rights, and the intersection of art and psychology.

Canandaigua, NY

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