With baby number one we followed the Boy Scout method of travel--be prepared. On our first trip to the great grandparents home we carried it all. We had the pack-it-up bed, the walker, the swing, the stroller and a variety of toys and picture books. We wanted to be ready with our boredom busting arsenal if our baby started to whimper.
We rolled into the driveway of the small clapboard house in a car that resembled the Thanksgiving turkey. It was stuffed to the tire rims. The seventy-year-old couple burst out onto the porch and greeted us warmly. They had been watching the clock and the driveway with anticipation. They lost no time in snatching up the newest member of the family. This was their first great-grandchild.
We felt pretty smug as we carted in the mobile nursery equipment. The great grandparents sat on the couch holding the baby as an entire Babies-R-Us showroom sprang up around them. They simply asked they we leave room among the toys to walk through the small living room--they didn't want to break a hip from a fall.
That week we watched our little one give the elderly couple hours of joy. They told stories about my husband as a baby, stories about their own daughters' antics when they were little and stories about raising a family during the Depression era.
I found myself wanting to record some of the tales for my daughter to have when she grew up. I began asking questions about life when they were young.
They told about hand wringing the laundry and ice delivered to their icebox on the porch. They shared tales of the cow and the chickens that my husband's grandmother kept during the war so she could sell the butter and eggs. The house that we sat in was their first and only home. It cost less than a month's salary today but they had to take out a loan back then to purchase it.
"What did you do for fun as a child? What were your favorite toys?" I asked.
"We didn't have any. I had a shoebox once and my mother cut out paper dolls from the Sears and Roebuck catalogue. That box could be anything or take me anywhere."
If the grandparents thought we were silly carting all of our baby gear halfway across America for this visit, they never showed it. They preferred peek-a-boo and pat-a-cake when they played with our daughter rather than the windup swing or talking board books.
We came to show off our little one but they showed us a few things. You don't have to have stuff to raise a baby. Children in any generation want what any parent can give--love and relationship.