I've been realizing that I have no natural grandparents left. I don't feel THAT old, but I guess I am. Ever since 100-year-old Martha passed away, they're all gone. At least I got to know them all. But the one I knew best was Martha. Not just because she lived the longest, but because she was the most involved.
From the time I was born, Grandma Martha ("Gramma" as we knew her) lived a few blocks away at 666 E. Sierra Madre Blvd. Don't look for it, it's not there anymore.
She and Grampa (Stan Sr.) lived in the 2-bedroom house where my dad grew up. They had a swimming pool, where my brother and I learned to swim, dive, cannonball, whatever you could think of.
In their bedroom there was a piece of furniture, old, heavily-stained to almost black wood, with a compartment on each side which had a hinged lid. The compartment on the right was known to us as the "Surprise Box" and, just about every time we went over there, there was a pair of new toys in the Surprise Box.
Gramma and Grampa had two pet tortoises, Humphrey and Humphrina, who wandered the back yard. They also had dogs, little black things, named Mac and Beth (I don't know if the names were meant to go together, but I didn't put them together until adulthood decades after the passing of both dogs).
Grampa was often in his workshop out back, building things, fixing things, talking on his Ham radios (which were never tuned quite right so the voices coming from the other end sounded like twisted little cartoon characters). I also remember him making ice cream in the summer, with the bucket and the ice and the salt, in the back yard behind the pool. When he wasn't outside, he was usually either in his big tan recliner reading the paper, or he was sitting at the dining table drinking coffee and reading the paper.
Gramma made cookies a lot. There were oatmeal raisin and chocolate chip and peanut butter. The oatmeal and chocolate chip cookies seemed to be dolloped onto the pan and they stayed that way, so the cookies were little piles of oatmeal. She also made her own yogurt, which she ate plain, but would give us fruit to put in ours, which didn't save it from being the sour, watery mess it was.
The house was not remarkable. We rarely used the front door, which opened into the living room, with the old TV right there when you walk in. It had parkay floors, an old electric organ, a desk under the front window, but very little light otherwise. Gramma's chair was wooden, with wide arms and cushions. She had a footrest in front of it which usually supported newspapers and magazines rather than feet, as I recall. Between her chair and Grampa's recliner was a glass-top table made of yellow wood, which I am happy to have in my home today, serving as the coffee table in front of our recliner and loveseat.
Next to the living room was what I will call the Dining Nook. Not a room of its own, it opened off of the living room and had a window overlooking the swimming pool. A large wooden table which reminded me of a picnic table was their dining set. There were long benches on each long side of the table, and a chair at each end. Grampa sat on the left (from the kitchen) next to his recliner. Gramma rarely sat.
There was a large credenza in the dining nook, of the same dark, almost black wood of the Surprise Box. Sadly, all the antique furniture she had in the house was stolen from the Johnson Valley house in a burglary a few years ago.
The bathroom was not large. It had the kind of sink with separate faucets for the hot and the cold water, with the small spigot which barely hung over the back of the sink, so you couldn't get your hands wet without rubbing them against the back of the basin. You also couldn't mix the hot and cold to get warm until you let it run out and pool up in the basin or in your hands. I don't remember the bathing situation, but it seems like they had only a shower, no bathtub.
We spent many a summer's day over there, swimming, snacking, playing, reading, making Shrinky Dinks and all sorts of other crafts. Gramma and Grampa would take us to museums, shows, Griffith Park, the zoo. Our childhood wouldn't have been anything like it was if it hadn't been for my dad's parents. I wish I could remember more, but I wanted to write this much down while I could still remember.
We miss you Gramma and Grampa. We thank you for all you did for us, all that you taught us.