The summer of fourth grade my family and I traveled by car to West Virginia. We visited my great-grandparents who lived on a once thriving farm in the Blue Ridge Mountains of West Virginia. We had never met my dad’s grandparents before and never saw them again, but I will never forget that trip.
My great Grandma Jean was especially remarkable. She tended to every need of my bedridden great-grandfather, preparing his meals, changing his sheets, giving him sponge baths. And every morning, using a big black, cast iron stove, she would start a fire and feed it all day long with wood. She used it to boil water for cooking and laundry! She cooked every meal using that stove. But what I remember most were the pies and biscuits that Grandma Jean effortlessly baked in the oven.
In the mornings, she sent us out in search of ripened blackberries to fill metal pails we carried into the overgrown brush, thorns scratching our legs as we walked. The sounds of bees buzzing nearby and crickets chirping in the distance mesmerized us as we approached the vista of dewdrops gleaming from the tops of the leaves and berries.
With buckets and bellies full of the round, dark blue, berries, we made our way back to the farmhouse. The sun felt warm on our backs as the heavy pails thumped against our legs, arms feeling stretched from the weight. Approaching the now-gray building, slanting slightly from age and disrepair, Grandma Jean would be waiting on the sagging porch as we approached. She would herd us into the kitchen and wash the berries in the big cast iron sink where they sat in a metal colander.
While she worked on the pies for supper later that afternoon, we would enjoy floury biscuits, still warm from the oven. Fresh preserves and creamy butter were spread on the flaky discs, and we savored each bite, the reward for a morning of hard work that we saw as adventure.
There were many memories from that special week in West Virginia, but none more precious than those mornings spent picking the bountiful fruit and spending time in the kitchen with Grandma Jean.
My husband and I started a new decade of our lives earlier this year and our children bought us tickets to see Earth, Wind, and Fire and Chicago last Friday night. We “grew up” during the heyday of these two groups and loved their music and its messages.
We were like two teenagers as we moved through the line to enter the arena. Gone was the relaxed atmosphere of that era. Instead we entered through the security arch, emptying our pockets of phones, keys, and anything else that might set off the alarm. It was much like going through security at the airport minus removing your shoes.
But this would not deter us from enjoying our evening, It is just a fact of living in the 21st century and we could hardly wait to be whisked away to days gone by.
The two groups did not disappoint. Playing together and then each featured separately, they played and sang all of their popular standards with a twist, when they performed together. A solid two and a half hour show. Where do the original members, now in their seventies, get the energy to play so emotionally for such long periods of time, never missing a beat?
What a wonderful trip down memory lane. And I even remembered the words!
You touched my heart many years ago
my childhood friend
We shared laughter and tears
my childhood friend
We shared secrets and dreams
my childhood friend
We went separate ways
only to come back again
My childhood friend
I am spending part of my spring break with my mom in Pensacola, Florida. I will be heading home to Michigan’s frigid spring temperatures tomorrow.
Part of my visits to Mom’s are spent helping to do little chores that for her, at 87, are big things. Yesterday we drove to the hardware store and purchased a new mailbox. Her’s has become corroded and holey from being exposed over the the last twelve years to the salt that permeates everything and, if not regularly removed, eventually eats away at materials like metal.
We were lucky to find a wheelchair with a basket at the entrance, making the walk through the large box store much easier for Mom’s unsure footing and wheeled our way through the hardware section.
As we perused the large selection of plastic versus metal, ornate versus plain, and black, white, or gray, Mom asked what I thought of plastic. Although cheaper and probably able to withstand the elements for more than ten years, the plastic seemed chintzy.
“Well Mom, they don’t seem very durable. Let me put it this way. In fifteen years you’ll be 100! If you need a new mailbox by then, you’re entitled to it!”
We both laughed! Mom’s family has a history of longevity so that is a good possibility. But what made us laugh was more the reality that she probably won’t be in that house in fifteen years and it will be someone else’s problem to deal with.
Like the Florida salt, life and age continue to permeate everything we do. It’s just a matter of time. Another fifteen years? I sure hope so.