We’d pull into the driveway, chickens squawking and scattering across the barnyard, while the lingering dust followed us in from the gravel road behind. I’d unlatch the picket fence gate, walk past an old water pump, and head up the wooden steps of the big, white farmhouse. Almost always, a fat yellow cat snoozed on the top step, requiring a firm scoot before we could push open the squeaky screen door.
“Come on in,” Great-grandma’s shaky voice would call. She’d walk over to greet us, drying her freckled wrinkly hands on her apron. Then she’d dig out her white enamel pan and reach for her flowered bonnet hanging by the back door. Aprons and bonnets were part of her, like her gentle smile or thinning gray hair. Like a real pioneer woman, she’d tie her bonnet securely under her chin. Peeking out from under the brim, she’d stroll out with us to the strawberry patch.
My mom, brother and I would pick the plump, ripe strawberries and listen to the clatter of chirping birds, and the occasional crowing of an ill-tempered rooster. Of course, some of the juicy berries ended up in our bellies instead of the pans.
After awhile we became bored. That’s when my brother would start thinking of ways to make his own fun, like flinging strawberries at me when mom wasn't looking, or shouting “snake,” just to see if I’d shriek. I’m sure we fussed about aching backs or sweaty foreheads, but when the job was done, Great-grandma gave us a special treat that made it all worthwhile – an ice-cold bottle of Mt. Dew from the bottom of the fridge.
But Great-grandma’s life wasn't easy. In her lifetime she’d scrubbed clothes on a washboard, pumped water from a well, and even baked cakes in an iron cook stove. Oh how I appreciate modern conveniences like microwaves, washers and dryers, and air conditioning!
My great-grandma never ventured far. She lived in the same small community all 95 years of her life. But she loved her neighbors and her family. She was humble and kind - and her faith got her through the hard times. Though she lived a difficult life, she handled the hardships with courage and strength. Thinking of her life inspires me to strive for the best in mine.
Join the conversation! I'd love to hear about your childhood memories. Did you visit your grandparents (or great-grandparents) over the summer? What's your favorite summertime memories?