“Tell us a story about when you were our age,” three of the grands clamor as we help put them to bed.
“Well, OK. When I was 6 years old I walked twelve blocks to school every day.”
“That’s a long walk.”
“It didn’t seem long, although as I remember it was uphill both ways.”
“Did any adults go with you?”
“No. Just other kids.”
They gasp in horror.
“No, that was all right back then. Lots of kids walked to school.”
“Uphill both ways!” one adds.
“Exactly. And at the start of school a voice would come over the public address system and announce what would be served in the school cafeteria for lunch. Then the teacher would ask who would be buying lunch at school and who would be going home for lunch.”
“Kids got to go home for lunch? No way!”
“Yes, way. You could go home for lunch if you didn’t live far and could walk fast.”
“But you lived far and it was uphill both ways.”
“Yes, but I had three elderly great aunts who lived only six blocks from school. If I didn’t like the school lunch, I would raise my hand that I was going home for lunch.”
“Who walked with you?”
More looks of disapproval.
“Tell them kids did that back then,” I say to the husband.
He shakes his head as though he’s never heard of such a thing.
“So I would walk to my great aunts’ house, knock on their door and announce I was there for lunch.”
“Were they surprised?”
“I think so. They often let out little screams, which were probably squeals of delight. One would race to heat soup, another would ask if I wanted crackers and a third would start cooking chocolate pudding. They’d sit me in a tall chair at the long dining room table and watch me eat. As soon as I finished, one of them would walk me to the end of the block and watch until I turned the corner to go back to school.”
“That’s a scary bedtime story, Grandma.”
“It is not a scary story; it’s a wonderful slice-of-life story. But one day my great aunts told my parents what I had been doing and that I shouldn’t do it anymore in case one day I came and they weren’t home.”
They shake their heads in agreement, siding with the voices of caution and disapproving of Grandma’s actions as a 6 year old.
I am quick to tell them they should never, ever do anything like that today, even though it was OK for me to do it a long time ago. And they should also eat whatever the school is serving. Bedtime stories with grands should not end with strong caveats, but mine did.
They turn to Grandpa and say, “Tell us a story about when you were our age.”
“Well, he says, thinking. “I always did what I was told and never disobeyed.”
At least my story was true.