In a previous blog, I described memories of my Grandmother Martin. Recently, when reading an excerpt from Richard Foster’s Freedom of Simplicity, I was reminded again of the simple life my grandmother lived. Yet in that simplicity, there was profound meaning, joy, and peace. The world we live in could use more of that.
One example of Grandmother’s simplicity was how she entertained the grandchildren and great-grandchildren who came to visit. She had a wooden footstool with an upholstered hinged lid, and a storage space inside the footstool. It only measured 15” by 15”, but it held a few basic items that all the youngsters who came to visit played with contentedly, sometimes for hours.
An empty wooden spool for thread, an aluminum teacup, a baseball, a ball and jacks set, some scattered marbles . . . those were some of the toys we found inside. The stool was on wheels, so it was moved to different places in the living room of Grandmother’s tiny house—but each child who walked through her front door instinctively knew where to find it, and would be drawn to it like an invisible magnet.
I remember crouching down on the linoleum floor, lifting the creaky lid, and finding all the familiar, modest toys inside—“playthings” or “play-pretties” as Grandmother called them. I would pull them out, one by one, and enter into imaginative play while the adults talked. Sometimes, there would be a new item inside the stool—a yo-yo or a top, or some other small trinket. But always, there were jacks and marbles because those were prized toys to children in earlier generations, and Grandmother knew they would be a hit.
On occasions when I stayed overnight with Grandmother, I was entertained by other simple joys. She had an old stereograph and a series of photo slides that I would sit and gaze through for hours. They were a precursor to the Viewmaster pictures, and perhaps the ancestor to Powerpoint presentations or iPad slideshows.
Young folks today enjoy handheld video games, and other games on iPods and iPads. Grandmother entertained me with a game of dominoes or a trip outside to the well-house in the back yard, where I would hold the fuzzy yellow baby chicks she raised. We picked up pecans under the huge trees in her yard, or harvested fruit and berries in her garden. Often we sat, looking at old photo albums, with her telling me about the people in the long-ago photos, recalling stories from her past.
Grandmother never owned a television, but read books instead. She didn’t own a car and had never learned to drive, preferring to walk wherever she needed to go. An unpretentious life, filled with simple joys and pleasures.
“Sure, but it was another time and place, and that’s not realistic or even possible in the 21st Century.” Really? I believe we can still find ways to simplify our lives and establish priorities based on the things we value most. If we truly desire a simpler life, there are ways we can be intentional about achieving the balanced life we want. Do you crave a simpler life too?