Ellsworth’s Room

My brother and I had the best possible babysitters – our two sets of grandparents. Sometimes we stayed with our grandparents who lived in town, but more often we would stay at the farm. Our parents dropped us off before dinner on Friday evening, and we stayed until Sunday.

When I was eight and my brother almost four, our parents went to Florida for a week. My brother stayed at the farm, but I went to our town grandparents because they lived closer to my school. They did their best, but I was unhappy. I missed my mom and dad, and because I’d been reading a book about an orphan, I was convinced they were dead and never coming back. I cried every day. I cried at breakfast, I cried in school when I tried to recite the Pledge of Allegiance, and I cried at night in the little bed in my father’s old bedroom. Because I was afraid to tell them what was wrong, my bewildered grandparents took me to the farm at the end of the week to be with my brother. There, soothed by the familiarity of the place and by my Grandma Hall’s ample lap, I told her my fears. After reassuring me that my mother and father were coming back, she fed me dinner and sent me upstairs to bed in Ellsworth’s room.

This small bedroom at the top of the front staircase had been my grandfather’s bedroom when he was growing up. The bed was in an alcove and sported an enormous number of blankets – I once counted ten. When I snuggled under them to read my comic books, I was pleasantly stuck in one position by the weight of the covers. The pillows were soft, and there was a light over the bed that I turned on and off by pulling a long string. I don’t think I’ve ever again slept in such a comfortable and comforting bed.

But the two attic doors at the opposite end of the room were not comforting. There were rat holes in both doors, and I was scared that the rats themselves would come out while I slept. It was a legitimate worry, but minor compared to the fear of losing parents.

"Attic Doors with Rat Holes," Carol Crump Bryner, 2013

“Attic Doors with Rat Holes,” Carol Crump Bryner, 2013

It’s hard to tell what children are thinking. When my daughter and son-in-law spent the night at the hospital after the birth of their second son, I stayed at their home with my four-year-old grandson. We read books, took a walk, went out to eat Chinese food, brushed our teeth, and put on our pajamas. But as we were climbing onto his bed to read stories, he began to sob so hard that it caused a “spill” (his word for throwing up) of the wontons and the soy sauce all over the bed covers.

While my lap is nowhere near as ample as my grandmother’s was, I try to be a reassuring presence for my grandsons. So after the cleaning-up, and the drying of the tears, and the calming-down, I asked my grandson if he wanted to sleep with me in the big bed. He did, so we went upstairs, tucked ourselves in, and watched a cheerful cooking show about making cupcakes. He was fast asleep before the cupcakes came out of the oven.

Carol with Aubrey and Henry, 2011

Carol with Aubrey and Henry, 2011

On Wednesday:  Farm Cats

8 thoughts on “Ellsworth’s Room

  1. Bonny Headley

    Grandparents are so valuable in children’s lives. The idea of “my mom’s mom” or “dad’s dad” is a powerful concept for children just beginning to grasp the passage of time. You captured that wonderfully in the stories of grandparents then, and now. Rat holes remain terrifying, I am sure, through all eras.

    1. Carol Post author

      Thank you Bonny. You’re right about grandparents, and also about the rat holes. They were a little unsettling, as were the pans of rat poison in the attics behind those doors.

  2. vagabonde

    What a lovely story about having grandparents and being grandparents. I only knew well one set of grandparent and my granddad was very important to me as I grew up in France. Now I have 4 grandchildren (7,5,3 and 1 years old) and I’ll see them all in a couple of weeks hopefully. They change so quickly – I know they will have grown since I saw them last March. Rat holes – that must have made such an impression on you and it’s good that you did not see any.

    1. Carol Post author

      Thank you vagabonde. Oh, yes. They do change quickly, especially when they are really young. It sounds like you have four young ones, and it’s wonderful that you will get to see them soon. Being a grandparent is the best job ever.

  3. Katy Gilmore

    I think you are the most grandmotherly (in spite of your slim stature) of grandmothers, always reassuring. And I love the last paragraph here – about Henry being asleep before the cupcakes came out of the oven (suspect you were as well!). Thanks for the tribute to grandparents!


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