My grandparents owned a television. It was too small. The picture was usually fuzzy–a problem no contorting of the rabbit ears could completely resolve.
It didn’t matter. We weren’t allowed to watch it. The set was for the evening news–then it went off.
Growing up, it was hard to understand this restriction. At our house the TV was large, and usually on. Of course us boys would attempt to get Grandma and Grandpa to let us watch their set–but they stuck to their prohibition with remarkable consistency.
It had to be harder on them than it was on us. We were three very active boys. They were old. How could they possibly withstand our triumvirate?
And there were hardly any toys. A half-dozen puzzles–you know the kind–some of which you can play while you wait at Cracker Barrel–wooden blocks and golf tees. I played for countless hours–trial and error–until I discovered and memorized the solutions. You probably don’t want to play me at Cracker Barrel.
We played Checkers and Chess (on a set Grandpa made). Finally Beating Grandpa at Chess was a milestone–the kind you dream about, but are strangely sad to accomplish.
There was a tape player and a stack of tapes of Old Testament stories–must have listened to them a hundred times (I can still hear the reader’s voice–she was amazing at bringing the Bible to life). There was a copy of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. I read it more times than I can count–easily my favorite childhood book. I read for hours in the brown swivel rocker by the window in the room with the built-in bookshelves and the ancient staircase with a tiny closet underneath–a cozy nook with orange shag.
We played outside. We helped in the garden. We crafted homemade kites with Grandpa–we each had our own spool with handles (again, Made By Grandpa) with more rolls of string than you’d think possible. We flew them so high we could barely see those long-tailed diamonds. Could we reel them in before dinner? My arms ached as much as my grinning cheeks.
Wintertime, we played in the snow. Grandma made hot chocolate on the stove. It took forever, and tasted better.
Lunchtime included Grandpa’s concoctions–Americanized versions of Indian street snacks from their missionary days. His baritone laugh and dancing eyes assured us that we were deeply loved and enjoyed. Sometimes Grandma made our favorite–her homemade macaroni and cheese. That too, took forever–you actually have to bake it in the oven and smell it for a long time before you finally get to taste it.
An overnight always included Family Worship after dinner and jammies. Grandpa would read the story out of an ancient Illustrated Bible Storybook. We’d sing hymns, but also missionary praise songs in Bengali. We prayed on our knees. Grandma and Grandpa each prayed. A long time. There was passion in their voices. It was very real. Our beds were cozy–the rooms had stories. I slept in “Aunt Ruthann’s Room.”
“Grandma, can we watch cartoons?”