Prairie Pondering

First overnight away from home . . .

 Grandparents' Day was on the calendar again and I didn't see anything about it. In fact, I didn't realize they HAD a day until my first and second grade when grandkids dutifully made and sent notes about it. Now, they are long past such little art projects.
 But grandparents can be among the most treasured memories. Who baked the best sugar or molasses cookies? And let us have big spoons to scrape the mixing bowl? And had a big rocker by the kitchen window, so the youngest could listen to an old lullaby and watch the kittens outside at the same time? And who would carefully light the Aladdin lamp, put down his pipe and read to us? Or bait the hooks on the fishing poles and brag on the fish his grandkids sometimes managed to be still long enough to catch?  Or walk slowly, so as to share the bugs, worms, butterflies, turtles and everything else in the fields, hills and woods? Or stop everytime there was an interesting window in town, especially the drugstore with the ice cream in choices?
 It's been a long stretch through the years since I begged to stay when it was going home time after a family birthday gathering for my granddad and me. I did not want to leave, and my mama and daddy had never left me before. Finally, they were reassured by the uncles, aunts, and grandparents that I could borrow clothes, go across the creek or down the bluff or through the fields to play with cousins and listen to my grandparents' new Victrola with the family records (like “The Preacher and the Bear.”) and the fiddlers who didn't play any better than my uncles. Or records with words and music I loved but didn't understand.  The voices and the strange, lovely music ran shivery chills down my back.
 Uncles, aunties and cousins promised picnics and gentle old mares to ride, the colts to pet and the old gander to avoid! I could go with them to pick wild strawberries and swing on the grapevines and maybe climb more trees.
 Well, as evening came and the sun was setting, I had trouble swallowing and home seemed so far away I thought I couldn't bear it, but knew I must. I cuddled in Grandmom's lap after supper and Granddaddy lit the Aladdin lamp to read to us.
 I was to sleep upstairs, and the other rooms were empty. I could hear the bull frogs and the others too. The whipporwills called back and forth; I thought each was trying to persuade the other to come. Far away, a hound bayed the moon and night birds joined in. A lone goat called sadly, caught in the wire fence with the others gone elsewhere. I cried for the little goat and listened to the big clock downstairs which even had a claendar and had been  in some big flood in St. Louis.
 Morning was much better. I got to have what I was not allowed at home–buttered homemade bread, BUT with coffee, sugar and cream poured on top of it! I ate an egg and bacon so I could have a second helping of coffee.
 A second cousin who lived a little farther said she would meet me at the creek if I would come stay all night, so Grandmama put together a wardrobe for me,  and Granddad went with me through the woods to the meeting place.
 We cut paper dolls and clothes from the catalogues, and Aunt Lucy let us take chocolate cake to bed with us!  As if that wasn't enough, next day at noon I watched Uncle Hugo draw long, tall brown bottles from the well and ,when I asked what was in them, he said lemonade that could put some pounds on my skinny little body. He laughed, so I knew he was teasing. He was the baby of the three boys who finally all got to America and settled on adjoining land.
 While my granddad was slim and quiet and only waltzed my grandmama around the room the night there was a square dance at my uncle Richard's, great-uncle Hugo never missed a faster dance, nor any dance for that matter! 
 I think it was the third or fourth day when I said I really thought I should go home. Even with everything happening every day, I was homesick.
 Grandmama got on the party line and said if anyone was driving in to the county seat, would they take me along?  A third cousin by marriage said he was and he would.
 I missed some things young cousins had planned and I felt guilty when I kissed everyone good-bye, but I never had been so delighted to get in a car.
We chatted all the way, but I thought the car would never reach our house and I couldn't hug Mama enough!
 My paternal grandparents lived on the West coast, and times were hard. But I have letters from my granddad, some with poetry he scribbled, and Grandmama once sent me a little beaded purse, just right for a little girl. Letters went back and forth from the time Mama helped me print them.
 Grandparents have a difficult job; they must keep quiet and never say anything when parents make bad decisions. And sometimes that is quite difficult.
 But they are necessary for every youngster to have a good stock of memories to take along in growing up and beginning the rest of what life is really all about.


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