(Flickr: Creative Commons–dfirecop)
I was about five years old when I had my first bus ride–not on a school bus, but a Greyhound bus. It had big cloth-covered seats. (Our car had vinyl seats.) And it had a bathroom at the back of the bus!
My mother took my two-year-old sister and me to see her parents in northern Wisconsin. We lived in Minnesota at the time (the closest we’d ever live to my mother’s family). And we hadn’t seen them since they’d come to see my newborn sister. My mom took the opportunity and was brave enough to take us on the bus. I have no idea how long it took. I vaguely remember being in the dark, so maybe it took us a day and night. That’s a long time on a bus. We must have had patient traveling companions.
My grandparents lived next to the Wisconsin River. My two vivid memories of their house was the view of the river from a bedroom window (when I was supposed to be napping) and my grandmother’s wringer washing machine.
I had never seen one before. It had the washing machine side, a wringer, and a tub for rinse water. If I remember right, Grandma would take out each clean item of clothing out of the washer, run it through the wringer into the rinse water, then run each rinsed piece through the wringer again before drying them. But I don’t remember if she had a dryer or if she hung the clothes on a line.
My other memory of that trip was visiting my great-grandmother in the nursing home. She was senile. That’s what they called it forty-some years ago. I’d bet she had Alzheimer’s. I don’t remember her talking much, if at all. My mom said she had reverted back to speaking German.
German was Great-Grandma’s first language. She came to America with her parents when she was about three. I wonder if she remembered the boat ride to America? Did she remember how they travelled from the East Coast to Wisconsin? Did she remembered my mother?
Great-Grandma is the only relative for whom I have an immigration date. It’s ironic that as much as I like history, I know very little about my own family history.
Do you remember the first time you met a grandparent or great-grandparent? Were you able to communicate and get to know each other? Did they teach you about the past? Your family history? How did your grandparents do laundry?