We spent a lot of time at my grandparents’ house as children. They were strict, old-fashioned, retired, school teachers who obsessively corrected our grammar. The rules and level of expectation they imposed were unfamiliar. We dared not revolt. Our parents divorced so we were not collared by the restrictions, enforced in two parent families, when we were at home alone with Mum.
Gram and Gramp’s house was connected to the barn by an ell. The barn smelled of freshly cut wood, where the woodpile and chopping block were positioned next to the screened ell door. The door had a nice, tight spring so it expressed a satisfying bang every time it closed. The ell housed a deep freeze, which stored bags of chocolate chip cookies more valuable than gold.
As very small, obedient children it never occurred to us to remove the cookies from the freezer. Later on as medium-sized, more independent, children who were tall enough to reach the latch of the lid and strong enough to actually lift the top and lean over to peer into the frosty depths, we were inspired to remove the occasional large bag of chocolate chip cookies. I have a recollection of being caught in the theft, once we’d eaten our way through several bags. I imagine the punishment was mine. Possibly because at that age I had a chipped front tooth that was forever incriminating me in food crimes due to the distinctive bite mark. That bite mark that was better than DNA evidence.
My grandparents were caring, civic-minded, disciplined people. They insisted on a certain polite decency which we did not fully appreciate. They were self-sufficient and not given to fanciness. I think Gram had an inclination toward fanciness but she was predominantly sensible and overruled by Gramp.
At their house in Marshfield the days were endless, evening television was limited to PBS, Cronkite’s news, and Lawrence Welk. Along with valuable chocolate chip cookies we had pies, cakes, pickles, jams, jellies, bread and muffins galore and every bit of it was homemade. We were not idle children so we were constantly exploring and finding hidden treasures and secret hideouts. They gave us luxurious, innocent, childhood comforts by imposing limits and respecting rules.