My sister and I spent many summer days and nights at our grandparents’ home.
The morning routine included word games and card games with Gramma. We’d wrap up midday in time forThe Young and the Restless and Days of Our Lives, with lunch prepared during commercials.
Early afternoon was naptime. Well, naptime for Gramma. My sister and I would read, rifle through photo albums, forage for snacks, occasionally venture outside to brave bugs and the Central Texas heat.
We’d resume games in the late afternoon. Maybe work on a craft project.
As afternoon shifted to early evening, Melane and I would change from play clothes into swimsuits, wrap our bodies in towels, and perch on the sofa at the front of the house.
Grandpa would walk in the door, weary from a day of managing the parts department at a car dealership in town. He would say hello to Gramma, fix himself a drink, then climb back in the pickup to drive his granddaughters to the community swimming pool.
My sister and I would practice underwater somersaults and handstands, play Marco Polo and sing all the words to “Jack & Diane.” Grandpa would sit under an umbrella, read, sip his adult beverage and return our enthusiastic waves.
He’d eventually wave us out of the water to return home, where dinner and Wheel of Fortune awaited.
I’m certain that we thanked them often for the meals and outings. I’m also certain that we didn’t fully appreciate what their time meant until we became adults and then parents.
Gramma drew from a deep well of patience to explain the intricacies of Scrabble and Skip-Bo and then play those games over and over with young children.
Grandpa sacrificed deserved air-conditioned rest at the end of the day, instead sitting in brutal heat, surrounded by a bunch of loud kids.
We were showered with love, in the form of triple-word squares and sun-drenched afternoons, homemade fried chicken and listening ears. We could measure the love in time and effort and tender care. There was no extra money for lavish gifts — and we didn’t suffer a smidge.
How do my children know that I love them? I tell them so every day, but words are hollow without action.
It’s easy to trick myself into believing that they can measure love in the value of Christmas and birthday gifts (bigger is better, right?). My budget won’t allow for reckless spending, though, and my warm memories remind me they don’t need it.
Maybe they know they’re loved because they wake up to breakfast every morning or because we forge adventures around town on the weekends. Because we read books together at bedtime or because most Fridays end with movies in the family room.
As they become adults, I hope that they’ll know they are loved because they grew up in a home with rules and structure — and a whole bunch of grace. I hope they recall home as the place they were safe and accepted without reservation.
I hope they remember evenings at the neighborhood pool and homemade (not fancy) dinners at home — and that they re-create the same for their own children.
Tyra Damm is a Briefing columnist. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.