The Four Most Awesomely Relevant Lessons My Grandmother Ever Taught Me

Vintage lessonsWhen you spend a lot of time around older people, you pick up their quirky little older people mannerisms. And their lingo. And their habits. My Nana was a big influence on me and Girl Child, and like most of her silver-haired compadres, she was distrustful of a lot of newfangled concepts and ideas, so we grew up under the auspices of old-school thinking.

Now that I’m a grown-up and mom myself, I appreciate her teachings more, even though, to borrow one of her own sayings, I’ve had to learn to “eat the meat and throw away the bones” on some things. I probably haven’t worn a slip or a pair of pantyhose since the second Bush administration because I vowed, when I got older, that that would be one of the first of Nana’s insistences to go. Most of her old school ways are, well, old—let’s call them “vintage”—but they’re still effectually relevant. 


Good home training. Manners were a big deal in our house, so if someone bought us a gift or extended some other gesture of kindness, you whipped out one of the blank thank you notes Nana kept on hand in the hallway closet for just such occasions and write a handwritten note of gratitude. Still do. Facebook posts are easy, emails are convenient, and texts are virtual lifesavers (especially when you aren’t feeling particularly chatty towards that particular person) but it’s that personal touch that really shows how gentile and well-raised you are. Oh, and how thankful, too.

In cases of emergency. Whenever a storm was a-brewin, the little bit of technology that lived in my grandmother’s house was indefinitely shut down. Televisions, radios, gadgets, even the ones that clearly operated on batteries, were cut off as a precaution. It was a real bummer when you were in the middle of The Cosby Show or playing your best round of Mario Brothers yet, but it’s a tradition that lives on, even post-surge protectors. We just sit quietly and let the Lord do his work. And if I so happen to be a little too slow about closing up shop, Girl Child will certainly remind me, which means she’ll probably do it, too.

Obscure home remedies. Medicine was a luxury that my grandmother apparently didn’t have when she was a little girl herself—except for castor oil, which she told nightmarish stories about and thankfully never imposed on anyone else—and she in turn raised five kids, seven grandkids, and six great-grands without turning them into a small nation of Advil poppers. (Except in the case of emergency, of course.)

But she had a rack of things around the house that would set you right if you were injured or under the weather. Peppermint oil for an earache, soap in the bed for cramps and charley horses. As an added bonus, Nana believed ice cream would soothe an upset stomach, and hey, who was I to put up any protest? Maybe my mind is trained, but even outside of my pudgy little kid greediness, I still feel better when I indulge in a bowl of Breyers vanilla bean.  

Classic boy/girl behavior. Chivalry may be dying a slow death now, but in our house, gender roles were very clear. Most of that has wafted away since I’m a single woman raising a daughter on my own—I mean, there isn’t a man around and this trash ain’t gonna take itself out—but Nana’s beliefs have definitely undergirded my dating life. In fact, Last Boyfriend got the green light because he opened car doors, walked on the side closest to the street when we were out, and insisted on pumping my gas. I think both my grandmother and my grandfather would give two thumbs up to that one.

Nana passed away five years ago on Sunday and I still think about her every day. But her legacy plays out in so many different ways in our lives, including carrying the torch for her old school beliefs.

What vintage lessons or traditions are you passing down to your kids?

Image via dullhunk/Flickr

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