Growing up, we lived about 10 minutes' drive from our maternal grandparents' house.
Generally that meant one thing: we spent a lot of time with our grandparents and we were completely spoilt!
A wicked sense of humour
As the family legend has it, on leaving the house to go to work, my Mum would say to my Grandma, “No ice cream or lollies for the kids, please Mum.”
And as soon as the door was shut, Grandma would look at the three of us with a wink and say, “But she didn’t say no cakes!”
To which we’d all burst out laughing and knew by day's end, we’d be gobbling up cake with glee.
That kind of secret in-joke was part of the joy in having our Grandma so close.
The most loving of all babysitters
We’d spend regular Saturday nights at Grandma's place and it wasn't uncommon to come home from school to find her ironing my Dad's business shirts and making us afternoon tea.
School holidays were also spent with one week with my Mum’s parents (just up the road) and another week with my Dad’s parents (about half hour away).
Memories of those times included learning how to polish silver(!), baking biscuits from scratch, playing dress ups with my grandmother's extensive wardrobe, spending endless hours in my paternal grandparents' pool, and bashing away on the piano in the granny flat at the bottom of their garden.
As simple pleasures go, it was all completely idyllic in every sense of the word.
Now a parent myself, I can see what great benefit that close proximity would have been for my two working parents, as well.
Allies in arms (with great memories!)
They had instant babysitters who were reliable as anything and of course, they loved us all just as much as our parents did.
Aside from the very practical stuff, having my grandparents live so close also meant we kids had a firm set of allies in the inevitable clashes with our parents.
I’ll never forget coming home one day with an unusually bad report card. While my mum stood lecturing me with concern, my grandmother helpfully piped up with, “Well, you had a similar report years ago too, Louise!”
Not sure my mum was so happy with that kind of 'helpful' gesture!
Studies link positive mental health to strong grandparent relationships
As it turns out, all the help our grandparents gave us also helped them.
A recent study in the American Public Library of Science found that older generations who spend time socially have longer life spans.
Both my grandmothers hit the 90 mark and were in great shape physically until the very end.
A 'village' made from family
We all talk now about the importance of a village when raising children, for the sense of community and support they provide, especially in the younger years.
I think for my family it was our grandparents, particularly my grandmothers who provided this sense of unity, love and support - especially when my parents and us kids needed it the most.
I’ll never forget them.
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