Grandpa's "Ungins" and
Make Believe Memories

The Grandpa Project is a gathering place for stories that inform, inspire, celebrate and serve our readers. Some stories are solicited. Some are contributed. Some are stumbled onto quite by chance. This story is of the latter type. Quite by accident, we found this personal and heartfelt story by searching for our hashtag – #TheGrandpaProject. Imagine the surprise when our search presented a young photojournalist and the memories she was documenting about her grandpa. It is an inspiration!

My grandpa built this swing set for me when I was around three to four years old. It honestly doesn’t look that old, except for the fact that the weeds and kiwi tree has taken it over.

It looks so lonely and grown up. But it wasn’t always like that, my brother and I played on this thing almost every day, beating it up and abusing it, climbing on it like monkeys. That’s what it’s for, right?

I have so many memories attached to this hunk of wood and nails. Falling off the swing, trying to climb up the slide upside down, backward in my new white Sunday dress before church. My border collie chasing me through the swings and down the slide. Or better yet, Grandpa pushing me on that swing or the two of us having a picnic on the platform.

Grandpa was a craftsman and loved to play

He was a very handy man and worked at a lumber yard, so he knew how to build things that would last a long time. He also built me a small little building that I dubbed ‘The Play House’. Just a small one-room building with a small front porch, where I could have my toys everywhere and make a mess.

Inside this cute thing, I had a toy kitchen set where I would make Grandpa his hamburgers with ‘ungins’. I could not say ‘onions’ to save my life at that age. Even up until right before he passed away he always reminded me of those make-believe hamburgers and ungins. He’d sit on the front porch as I screamed to ask what he wanted on his burger and if he wanted coffee or cake. He was the best make-believe partner ever! He really got into it.

We had this running joke for years, my Grandpa, brother, and I. We all had make-believe horses we would ride through the yard and around the house. Grandpa’s horse was named Lightning, mine was Thunder…not sure what my brother’s was. We’d gallop around everywhere and Grandpa would bounce around like Lightning was bucking him off and he’d fly to the ground, huff and puff, then get up and have us help him chase Lightning down so he could climb back on and try again. I’m pretty sure he was a bigger kid than I ever was.

Story and photos by Amanda Renay Rose

I know these pictures will mean nothing to most of you who read this, but these mean the world to me. I glance at them and memories and happy feelings flood out of every corner. That’s why I want to share them and explain why they mean so much to me. My hope is that everyone will get a small glimpse into my Grandpa’s wonderful life and see how much of an influence he had on me and the things that I do.

I have many more pictures to share but I don’t want to throw them all out there at once. Things are much better and more appreciated in small amounts. Except when Grandpa wanted triple the ungins on his burger, which he ordered every time I cooked them.

Submitted for use by The Grandpa Project by Amanda Rose, Wheeling, W.V.

You can see more of her work at 

Categories: Family, Legacy
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