Hush Grandma!

By Roberta (Bobbie) Johnson

My grandfather, a prankster, was a kind and loving man, good-natured and playful.  In my mother’s memoirs of her childhood, most all her memories are of him. Very little mention is made of Grandma.   She was strong, hardworking, and the backbone of the family. But like many women in her day, stayed in the background.  It wasn’t until I was an adult that I realized how much of an influence she had on me and how grateful I am for what she instilled in me.

“Grandma and me at Bluff View”

Here it is, retirement – my golden years.  And for the first time in my life, every day is my own.  No parent telling me what to do and when to do it.  No teacher expecting me to be at my desk and do my homework. No child demanding my time and attention.  No employer requiring my presence on the job.  I can get up when I want to get up and go to bed when I am tired, be it 8 o’clock in the evening or 3 o’clock in the morning.

If I want to sit at the computer and play games all day, I can sit at the computer and play games.  If I want to spend the day reading that book, I can do just that.  If I want to clean my house, I….well, I may get to it, or maybe not.  With few exceptions, I can spend each day doing exactly what I want to do.  So, what’s the problem? The problem is my Grandma Swiggum.

Grandma may have worked outside the home long before I can remember.  I think she may have worked at the paper factory in Eau Claire. Or the powder plant in Sauk County. But in my memory, she was always a homemaker.  And she managed to make that a full-time job, keeping a small home and cooking for Grandpa.  When she wasn’t cooking or cleaning, she was sewing.  We still have some of the quilts she made, though they are falling apart from use.  She was known for her cute clothespin bags that looked like a little dress.  She was always getting requests for them and always answered the requests.  I still have the pattern she used, made from a brown paper bag.  She made so many, she probably tore the original to pieces.  She gave me the last bag she was making that was unfinished.  After her death, I finished the bag and gave it to a sister I knew would appreciate it the most.  I already had one of my own.

Grandma playing solitaire

The only leisure activity I remember her engaging in was playing cards.  Playing solitaire, it was how she started and ended her days. Years ago, solitaire was played with real cards, not on a computer.  I lived with Grandpa and Grandma for a while when I was in seventh grade. The sound of cards being shuffled and laid down on the table was what I woke to most mornings and fell asleep to each evening.  Except for a few games of solitaire, Grandma managed to keep herself constantly busy with the daily chores of homemaking.  And she instilled in me the need to remain busy and productive.

That dear old lady who passed over 50 years ago still talks to me today.  She still tells me things like “anything worth doing is worth doing well.”  Or I you are not being productive; you are wasting your time.  Not her words, but the point she makes.

If I’m doing yard work, she’s telling me I should be cleaning the house.  If I’m cleaning the house, she reminds me the laundry is piling up.   If I sit down to watch TV, she suggests I could be clipping coupons or paying bills while I’m watching.  I have so many projects going at the same time; I almost never get any completed.  Every time I start working in one direction, I feel her tugging at me to be doing something else. 

But I am so grateful for my grandma and the things she instilled in me.  And I am proud that in many ways, I turned out much like I remember her.  She was hardworking, loving and giving and that is what I continue to strive to be.   But sometimes I just want to say, “Please Grandma, just be still and let me just waste the day away.”

© 2022 Roberta Johnson

Roberta (better known as Bobbie) Johnson had a difficult childhood lasting through her teens. Each month, she would take some of her lunch money, buy a True Story magazine and devour every story. While not the best reading material for a teenager, it gave her comfort knowing her experiences were not unique and life would get better. Through her working years, she discovered she had a bit of a knack for writing. Now Bobbie writes her own true stories. Not about the pain, but about the people in her life who gave her cherished memories. Memories to remind her that through it all, life was and still is good. 


About first person productions

My blog "True Stories Well Told" is a place for people who read and write about real life. I’ve been leading life writing groups since 2004. I teach, coach memoir writers 1:1, and help people publish and share their life stories.
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1 Response to Hush Grandma!

  1. DCC says:

    This story reflects exactly how I feel about my retirement activities because of the similar personality of my mother to the author’s grandmother. A lovely read that explains why I might be so restless when watching tv with my husband!


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