Saturday, August 1, 2009

The Little White House Down The Long Gravel Road

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Some of my best memories are of days I spent on my grandparent’s farm. They lived outside Hopkinsville, Kentucky in a little white house down a long gravel road. My grandfather built the house and updated it through the years but the whole house consisted of two bedrooms, a living room, a large kitchen with a small parlor, and the bathroom. It was such a contrast to the large Victorian home that my dad’s parents lived in.

My brother and I lived with my grandparents during the week while our parents were in college. And when my dad was in Vietnam, my mom, my brother, my sister and I spent weekends and most of the summer there. As we moved around the world, our vacations were spent visiting with both sets of grandparents but my favorite was when we were at my mom’s parents on the farm. There was so much freedom there. The dangers that the city held were non-existent on the farm. We could roam to our heart’s content.

And we did. We chased crickets and frogs around the pond. We climbed into the corn crib and up the ladder to the hay loft. We swung like Tarzan on vines across the large flat rocks that led down to the lake. We picked blackberries and sucked the nectar from the honeysuckle blooms. We fished and caught crawdads.

Our imaginations ran wild as we played on the tractor and explored the barns where the “old stuff” was stored, reading the yellowed books, examining old photos, playing house with the old furniture. We caught fireflies on the lawn and picked apples from the tree. We scratched the pigs backs and mooed at the cows and chased the chickens.

Early in the mornings, we would wake to the smell of my grandmother frying bacon or sausage and making biscuits and gravy and coffee. It was the best smell in the world. No matter how sleepy you were, you ignored the fact that it was still dark outside and you rose to join them at the table for a huge country breakfast. And I have been drinking coffee since I was about 3. Of course it was more milk and sugar than coffee back then but I thought I was so grown up, sitting at the table with the adults drinking coffee.

Dinner was at mid-day and was the main meal of the day. There were tons of vegetables – corn, peas, green beans, white soup beans, potatoes, tomatoes, and more coupled with a fried chicken or pork chops or roast or ham. And there was always corn bread, biscuits, and sweet tea. It was my job to put the ice in the huge glasses. My grandmother’s ice trays were metal with the dividers where you had to pull the handle to loosen the ice. My fingers always stuck to the wet, frozen metal.

We always ate too much, necessitating a nap afterwards. There was no air conditioning in their house until I was in high school so all the windows were open and there was the perfect cross-breeze blowing throughout the house and they always had a fan to help it along. As we sat in the small parlor, the rocking of the chairs, the soft breeze, the sound of the birds outside, the hum of the fan, and the full belly all worked together and it never took long before we were all sitting with our heads nodding.

In the afternoons, my grandmother would sometimes let us help shuck corn, snap beans or peel apples or peaches for cooking or drying. I remember thinking it was genius that she would put the slices on the roof to dry and then be able to save them all winter to make dumplings or pies.

There were not really any toys but I don’t remember needing any. Once my grandmother gave us several large bowls and put water in them. She added a squirt of dish soap in each bowl and handed us some old egg beaters. Once we learned how to turn the crank, we had bubbles everywhere. And it kept us busy for what seemed like hours.

My children got to experience the farm only briefly when they were young and I’m not sure how much they really remember. My grandparents sold my aunt part of the farm and she built a house down the hill from theirs. Then as they grew older and became ill, they passed the farm on to my aunt and my mom. Mom sold her half to my cousin who remodeled the little house and lives there now. The smokehouse is gone and the barn is starting to fall in. The animals have been gone for since I was in high school. We have gone back to visit a few times but it is just not the same. So now I choose to hold on to the memories in my heart rather than face the reality of the present.

I hope that one day I can provide my own grandchildren with the same kind of precious memories my grandparents gave me.

4 comments:

Andie, aka Andemonium said...

Keep in mind that I asked Bruce and Elwanda to pass the farm on to me if they never had any children...

And I saw your twitter - if you buy the farm, I'll work the land and share the profits with you!!!! But it has to be out here, and it has to be organic. You can come visit and all of our grandchildren will get to experience these things! :)

I love reading your stories about the farm. They're so different, yet so similar to mine.

Tere said...

I think creating a new homestead for all the children and grandchildren would be perfect right here in the mountains. So you would have to move here girl.

I love that we have similar memories even though they are almost a generation apart.

~JarieLyn~ said...

This is one of the best stories I've read in a long time. Most of my best memories are with my grandparents. The lived on small acreage for a short time and they had cows, and horses, and chickens. I used to love going to the horse auction with them. It was so much fun. Biscuits and gravy is still my favorite breakfast, but not in restaurants, because they don't know how to make real gravy.

Thanks for sharing. I loved going back in time with you. It was awesome.

Ruth D~ said...

Sounds a bit like the Maine breakfasts my relatives served when we went on vacation. There's nothing like memories and nostalgia, is there? And because that's important I'm sure you'll be alert to providing memories for your grandchildren... in due time.