Sleepovers at Grandma’s House

For the first twelve years of my life, I was the lucky cousin, because our grandmother lived in the house next to ours. (My siblings had her for only 2, 4, 6, and 8 years respectively.) After my grandfather died in 1959, my grandma became a regular at our dinner tables—seated at the head of the table opposite my mom.

She loved her role as a grandmother, often bragging about her thirty grandchildren to whoever she met. As the mother of six children herself, she was accustomed to a full house, so she solved the loneliness of her now empty home by opening it up for weekend sleepovers. Hers was the first B&B.

As I recall, she usually allowed at least two of us to spend the night. It was usually two cousins or siblings near in age—Billy and Alan, and Janice and Rosemary are two pairings that come to mind. A funny memory regarding Janice and Rosemary (Uncle Rich’s oldest and Uncle Larry’s second oldest daughter) is that they liked to play dress-up, but not at all in the conventional sense. It did not involve my grandma’s old dresses, hats, and shoes. Not at all! Those two girls enjoyed dressing up as nuns. Don’t ask me why, but it is true!

My grandmother had two favorite shows which she enjoyed watching with us, both of which were musical in nature. The first was called “Sing Along with Mitch.” It was like a YouTube video on television, in which a singer would sing a song, and the words to the song would appear at the bottom of the screen, complete with a bouncing ball to help the viewers “sing along with Mitch.”  It would never last today, but oh, how my grandma loved Mitch!

The other show had a musical theme as well—The Lawrence Welk Show. The star of the show, who had a thick German accent, acted as the conductor to his band, which played music targeted toward his older viewing audience (usually involving an accordion), as well as vocalists and dance routines performed by his cast. To accompany what he called his “champagne music” was a bubble machine which sent bubbles flying across the stage. While watching the shows, we would assist my grandmother with her beauty routine, which was to help pluck stiff black hairs from her face. I think Aunt Ar was the real expert with that task and continues that skill even today with your grandma.

My grandma was not a thin woman. I recall her being such a good sport in allowing us to play with her underarm flab. It was so much fun watching it jiggle! When we would awaken the next morning, and before she would emerge from her room, we would turn on the television, snuggle under the covers on her sofa bed, and watch Saturday morning cartoons. Some of my favorites were Gumby, Magilla Gorilla, and Rocky and Bullwinkle. I can probably still sing most of the theme songs today. Those were the days, but then she sold the house, and moved in with the Palazzo family down the street. That is when the grandma sleepovers ended, and they became the lucky cousins!

Grandma with 14 of her grandchildren - 1957. On couch: Rosemary, Janice, Lois, Laurie on Lois' lap, Bobby on Grandma's lap, Nancy holding Gaul, Alan, Tommy, Billy. On floor: Tricia, Timmy, me , Maureen
Grandma with 14 of her grandchildren – 1957. On couch: Rosemary, Janice, Lois, Laurie on Lois’ lap, Bobby on Grandma’s lap, Nancy holding Gaul, Alan, Tommy, Billy. On floor: Tricia, Timmy, me , Maureen

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