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.