That’s me in the lovely red and yellow outfit fit for a child of the early 80’s. I am standing in the kitchen of the house that my great-grandfather built on the farm that he started in central Texas. I don’t remember much about the time around this picture, but I remember quite a bit about Grandma and the house she lived in and the farm that she helped build.
After church we would head back to my grandparents house and pick up whatever had been made on Saturday night to share at the Sunday potluck at Grandma’s. We would load back into the car and make the fairly short drive out to the country to the farm. The old county road was well kept and exciting to drive with all of its twists and turns. Eventually we would make it to the gravel turn-off and head down the bumpy driveway past another farm, and the stock tank.
We’d pass my great uncle’s house on the hill and head down past the old house that was gray, rotten wood at the bottom. There was another sharp turn there that broughtthe tires what seemed inches from the cliff that overlooked the bend of the river that bordered Grandma’s farm. We’d continue, past the field where the Easter egg hunts always took place and the pit where the trash was burned. At the end of that long gravel driveway stood the house where my great-grandparents lived, worked, and rasied their family.
It was small and painted white. The porch was always painted blue-gray. There was a chain-link fence that surrounded the house to keep the cows out of the yard. Poppy, the old farm dog would come off the porch wagging every inch of her body and roll over as you stepped near, panting and wiggling, looking for a good belly rub. Up the steps, onto the porch, where the old metal lawn chairs stood like thrones, flanking the two front doors.
The screen doors were wooden and creaked when they opened. Walking into the dim interior, your eyes adjusted to find any number of relatives on couches, fold-out chairs, perched on the edge of a bed, sitting at the dining table. Like Cheers, everyone knew your name. Exclamations about how much you’d grown, haircuts, outfits. Hugs, back pats. All the sounds of coming home.
And in the very back of the house, in the tiny kitchen that cranked out meals like nobody’s business, perched on her stool just so where she could see out the back door to her left and the front door at the same time was Grandma. Always welcoming. Always with an apron on for drying hands that had been washing dishes, rolling chicken in flour, or making biscuits, or shelling peas. Hands that were always busy. But never too busy for a hug.
When everyone arrived we’d start grabbing plates and filling them with fried chicken, casseroles of every design, corn, mashed potatoes and gravy, green beans (home grown), and so many other side dishes you’d lose count. Then a whole side table filled with cakes and pies and cookies. The aroma was overwhelming, warm and sweet.
After a too big lunch that lef you uncomfortably pulling at your waist band the family would separate into different areas. Some might wander down to the pecan bottom to see the cows and check on the enormous pecan trees that grew there. Others would retire to the couch and recliner to watch and snore through golf on the television. Some of the men would clear the old, well-worn card table and pull out a box of dominoes and a small notepad to play 42. The kids would head outside or pull down one of the few games – a heavy metal ball that rolled uphill between two metal rods, or get into the huge pile of old Sears catalogs to cut out paper dolls.
If we were lucky, one of Grandma’s farm cats would have a batch of kittens on the back porch just the right age to play with a piece of string recovered from the phone table in the dining room.
After the dishes were done and the naps were over the good-byes would start, always ending with a stop in the kitchen to tell Grandma that we’d be back soon, that we loved her. She’d kiss my cheek and hug me tight and smile warmly. We’d pile into the car again for the drive home, back to town.