Thursday, December 11, 2008

Sometimes it skips a generation

I grew up in a multigenerational household. Shortly after I was adopted, my mom's parents sold their hardware store in Connecticut and moved up to Maine. We lived in a big 200-year-old farmhouse and my grandparents moved into the apartment which took up one-third of the downstairs. For a child, it was the best of all possible worlds. It was like having four parents, all in the same house.

My mom was not a domestic goddess. She was not domestic at all, in fact. She had a career - she was a teacher - and wasn't all that into housework or cooking. Mom was the queen of packaged food. We had dinner every night - meat, potatoes, vegetables, but they were likely to be instant potatoes and frozen veggies. She loved anything instant - I remember eating a lot of Minute Rice. She played the piano and organ, and knitted like nobody's business, but that was about the extent of the domestic arts for her.

My grandmother, on the other hand, was the very definition of domesticity. She had never worked at a job in her whole life. She cooked the most amazing things, all from scratch. She did calligraphy, sewed all her own clothes and tatted lace (something I used to know how to do.)

I ended up somewhere in the middle. I love to cook (baking is my specialty!) and like a clean house, but I'm not psychotic over it. I know how to sew, but I don't do it that much anymore. I knit, but it's socks and scarves and afghans more than intricate sweaters. I make cards, and often think how much Grandma would have loved rubber stamping.

I think the best thing you can do is expose your children to a lot of different things, and see which ones develop. I was certainly lucky to have extra adults in my household to expose me to things I might not have known about otherwise.

Mom - thanks for teaching me that a woman with a career can be a terrific role model. Thank you for my love of music, and every time I snuggle up under that beautiful Aztec Sun afghan you made and pick up my own needles, I think of you.

Dad - thanks for showing me that a strong man can still be gentle. And thanks for the twisted sense of humor. I couldn't get by without it.

Grandma - thanks for all the time you spent with me teaching me how to cook and sew. I learned more than just those skills from you - I learned that those things were important and they could be used to show love for your family.

Gramps - thanks for all the gardening lessons. I can still remember helping you plant, and then weed and water the huge garden, and I learned to be proud of the hard work and the payoff at harvest time. And thanks for showing me how hands, rough from working the land, could still cuddle a little girl while you read me the funnies.

I haven't had much luck teaching my sons the domestic arts, but I haven't given up hope yet. I expect it might skip a generation, and I might have some grandchildren someday.


Sue said...

Oh, I bet you have taught them lots. Sometimes when you are so close to something/one you can't see the effects. You said yourself that you were proud of them, so you must have done something right! Just teach them how to sew on a button. It makes my girls laugh that their dad can sew on a button, but their aunt can't!

kim-d said...

Oh, Mary Ellen, that sounds SO wonderful. As a kid, I spent most of my off time with my grandparents since my Mom was divorced and working multiple jobs. My family didn't have a lot of money--although I didn't know it--so they couldn't be throwing cash at my Mom, but they could help take care of me--and did. I loved growing up that way. My uncles are more like brothers to me, and I learned so much from my Grandma and Grandpa, too.

I cannot wait for you to have grandchildren. Seriously, there is nothing like it. They are the people that I love unconditionally, without limits, no matter what--and they know it. As you know from your own childhood, there is no replacement for the grandparent/grandchild relationship, and that is just as it should be.

Your parents and grandparents sound amazing, and I'm so glad you were the recipient of so much love. All of us, your friends, get to reap the benefits of it now, in the form of the special person you are! :)

Andrew Scott Turner said...

I wonder the same with my own children. I adopted a good sense of humor from my father, and the value in standing up for what you believe in from my mother. So I often finds myself thinking about how Fallon, Harrison, Gabrielle and Griffin will all turn out.

Laura ~Peach~ said...


KimandCo said...

Your family is lucky to have you, too!

Corrine said...

Your grandchildren will be incredibly lucky. And, don't forget the daughter-in-law you may aquire. I have learned a bunch from my Mother-in-law.
I am sure that your sons have learned a thing or two about hard work from you.
: )

TattingChic said...

Oh, this is a sweet tribute! That is neat that your Grandmother tatted lace! Do you have any of her tatting left?

Liz said...

I'm new to your blog... but forget how I found it.

I love this entry. I often feel the same- there are things my kids are getting and will get from my mom that they won't get from me. I wish my parents lived in our house or next door... that would be awesome. And I also took a moment... calm... from reading a positive POV about having a career mom. I work full time and I often struggle with that decision.

Great post!

justlori2day said...

That brings happy tears from my eyes. I got that from my mom. Smiles. Tears. Compassion.

Not a stick of creativity/artsy-ness came from her or my dad. Or my grandmothers for that matter. My aunt Mary (one of her 5 sisters) and myself as well as my cousin Sarah (daughter of a different sister) are the only three that were bitten by that creativity bug. Stamping, jewelry making, scrapbooking, graphics - we all have it. Sewing, knitting, crochet? Not so much. Although I desire to learn it all some day.

My grandma Gaga (Olga) taught me how to cook from the soul - no measuring (except for when baking), just add what makes your heart and pallet happy. My mom was a good cook when it mattered - but she didn't love it like my gram did. Her mother cooks, but she still believes in handling raw chicken and pinching cheeks without washing first, so often, unless one of her many children or grandchildren (over 40 of us) help her, we often make sure it was over cooked to be sure the nasty germs cooked off!

My dad would tell you I learned nothing from him. Not how to save, not how to do technical math, nothing he found important - and two things I suck at!

We take the good and the bad and roll it into the people we are! And then we hope we pass enough of it on to our children so our legacy will be remembered some day too.

Lynn said...

What a great childhood you had !

We had my Nana with us during my growing up years and when I was a baby, we lived in my grandparents 3family house in Boston. When we moved to California when I was 5, Nana, a widow by then, decided to come with us and start fresh. She was my friend, confidant and mentor...what fun we had together !

Hope everything goes well with your search for your roots.

It was great to open my blog today and find a nice new face and comment ! LOL, Lynn

Sarah Laurence said...

It sounds like you were adopted into a wonderful, loving family. How lucky you were! You don't see many multi-generational households in these times. It might be the antidote to busy family life.

Midwest Mommy said...

I so want to be that perfect SAHM who does everything right and still has time to watch soaps. And then I realize I am way cooler than that :-)

katy said...

Ok, I'll tell my secret, my favorite show is Ghost Hunters. I am completely addicted.

Kellan said...

What a sweet tribute to your family - this was so nice!!!

Take care - Kellan

Vegas Princess said...

I love to see the differences in the generations and what we have taken/learned from each. Me, I bow down to my mother and grandmothers because I am no where near the domestic goddesses they are. Perhaps it will change when I have kids. But I did take other things from them like my mother's love of reading and my grandmother's love of cards.

Shellie said...

There are so many things I wanted to teach my kids but they are not interested. I hope the same thing, it skips a generation and I'll teach my grandkids. Your family sounds so wonderful.