Grandparents – a kids sidekick

Grandparents are there to help the child get into mischief they haven’t thought of yet – Gene Perret

I love this quote about grandparents. There’s something very special about the love grandparents have for their grandchildren and something about that relationship that’s very different from any other you might have.

As a child, my grandparents seemed to me, the oldest, wisest people in the world. I spent a lot of time around their house while I was growing up as my parents both worked full time and it was quite a magical time to look back on with no worries or exams, just freedom. Before I started school, my grandma and I would fill the days baking and reading and having adventures. One of my most prominent memories is of the pond my granddad kept at the bottom of the garden. I used to love helping him fish the pond-scum out to clean it up. The best time was just before the spring when each year we would get the pond ready for its new tenants – the frogspawn and tadpoles.

frogspawn

There were stepping stones in the middle of the pond and one time as I was jumping across I fell in and got pond scum all over me. At the time my granddad fished me out and my grandma wrapped me in a towel and put me in a bath. They both laughed about it and thought it was hilarious. My grandma had warned me about playing near the pond so many times it was like a broken record and I was sure she was going to shout at me but she didn’t. If my parents had been there, I’m pretty sure I would have had a right telling off!

That’s the thing about grandparents, they’re full of wisdom but they let you make mistakes. When you get in a fight with your parents you know your grandparents will always be sympathetic. As Sam Levenson said: “The reason grandchildren and grandparents get along so well is that they have a common enemy.”

As you get older though and become a teenager, that close bond with your grandparents fades. You’re too busy making and breaking friendships, having your first kiss and generally growing up to take the time to slow down and value your grandparents. The things that made you so in sync with them when you were little, like how they never told you to hurry up or got impatient with your never-ending questions are now the reasons you’re so out of sync. Now you’re the one telling them to hurry up, and they’re the ones asking questions about this new fast-paced world filled with strange things they don’t understand.

Photo 22-04-2014 17 11 04

But when you get older still, especially after having children of your own, you look back and wish you’d been more patient, wish you’d listened to every word – even that story you’d heard a thousand times. Because family stories and memories are always fondly remembered, but often the details get forgotten and blurry and you find yourself wishing your mum or your grandma was there to tell it to you again.

They say a picture is worth a thousand words, and it’s true, but what about voice? There’s nothing quite like coming across an old voice message from a friend you haven’t seen in years or your now all ‘grown up’ daughter from when she was four. Hearing the voice of someone you love or someone who inspires you is incredibly powerful. It can transport you back in time to a moment or a place and make you feel connected to a person or a situation. There’s so many interesting things about voice – dialect, language – everything about the way we speak is moulded from our roots and who we are.

mouseMy granddad used to make up little stories about a mischievous mouse called Ferdinand that allegedly lived in my grandparent’s house in a hole behind the television and came out while I was away to wind my grandma up. I remember being so excited to get home from nursery and primary school to hear these little tales about what Ferdinand the mouse had done today. I remember sitting on his knee giggling away but I can’t remember for the life of me what the actual stories were. I wish I could remember, I’ve even thought about turning it into a children’s book.  A couple of years ago I asked him about the stories, but he had started to suffer from mild Alzheimer’s in his later years and couldn’t remember them. I’d give a lot to have a recording of him telling one of those stories.

That’s why capturing family stories and those moments that make us smile and feel connected to the people and things that we love are so important. A photograph is an amazing way to do that, but adding audio as well brings the photograph to life and gives us the power to reawaken the memory.