After a car ride adventure, we arrived at Grandma's gate. We knew that freshly baked cherry, peach and apple pies were waiting for us. Dad stopped the car at the end of the lane by the rural farm delivery mail box, and got out of the car. He walked over to the big wooden gate, and unhooked a metal latch that caused the gate to lurch to one side. He pulled at the latch again, and the gate started to swing open. He pushed it to the side of the lane, and came back to the car. He put the car in drive and drove forward over a wooden bridge that crossed a brook. The brook emptied into a small pond that was near the front gate. Dad put the car back in park, and opened the car door and got out. He went back across the bridge to the wooden gate. He swung the wooden gate back and forth until a metal bar on the end fit in the latch. He refastened and locked the gate. Mother, Barbara and I sat quietly and watched. We could hear the water in the brook moving over the rocks below.
We weren't there yet, we still had to travel the sandy gravel lane around the corner, and up the hill to the white farm house on the hill. It was dark and Dad drove the car slowly and carefully keeping it in the two deep groves in the lane. As we drove around the bend I could just make out Grandma's fenced in garden in the darkness below us. The garden had tall corn stalks, tomato plants heavy with fruit, and pink flowers and white daisies.
As we got closer I could see the twinkling lights of white farm house on grassy hill. We knew from past visits that there was a barn down another lane at the bottom of the hill. Dad parked the car in the grass in front of the house. We could see Grandma behind the lace curtains looking out the window. A big collie dog came running and barking up to the car. We waited until the barking stopped, and then we could see by the slow waving of his tail that he was happy to have us as his company. Grandma came out the front door and she and Mama hugged.
"Get your bags and come on inside." Grandma said. "How was the drive?"
"Not bad, but we had some traffic around Indianapolis." Said Mama.
"I am so glad to see you! It's been awhile." Said Grandma.
We didn't get there very often. Mama used to say, "I went away to Michigan one summer to get away, and after I graduated from high school I moved away."
"What can I get you? Cherry? or Peach?" Grandmother whispered not to wake, Grandpa, who was sleeping on the couch in the other room.
"I want peach," I said, "Do you have ice cream?"
"No, now you don't need ice cream," Mama said, "You had peppermint sherbet at Howard Johnson's, and you shouldn't have pie this late."
"I'll cut them little pieces," Grandmother said reassuringly.
"Don't spoil the girls, or they'll not want to come back home," Mama giggled.
Mama finally gave in, and Grandma dished my up peach pie with vanilla ice cream. I took the plate along with a glass of sweet tea and headed toward the front porch swing. Tiptoeing past Grandpa, who was on the couch sleeping, a tin bowl of apples cores and peels resting on the floor by his feet. I pulled the latch on the screen door gently trying not to make any noise as to wake him as he snored.
The screen door pushed away, the hinges made a creaking noise that seemed in tune with the katydids singing in the yard. Grandma's broom was leaned up in the corner away from the door beside the dust pan, just as she had left it when she swept the porch earlier in the day. The porch swing was wide enough for three people, but usually only two sat down together, side by side if you wanted to cuddle up, and wide enough if you wanted to swing. Red, white and deep blue flowers bloomed in clay pots, a red humming bird feeder hung from a hook, and musical wind chimes tinkled in the breeze. After the long car ride down the two lane highway, the front porch and pie were our welcome reward.
The sun started to set behind the pink clouds in the western sky. We sat on the porch swing, eating pie and drinking tea. Grandma and Mama must have finished their pie in the kitchen. Mama opened the screen porch.
"Come on in, Grandma wants to get your bed ready. I am tired."
"Put your plates in the kitchen by the sink, get your suitcases, and don't wake Grandpa."
"When did you all get here?" said Grandpa.
"Not too long ago." said Mama.
"You were really sound asleep. The dog barking didn't wake you up?" asked Grandma.
"Well, I'll be, you girls have really grown! Come here." said Grandpa as he kicked the apple bowl back under the couch where it belonged.
Barbara ran to him, jumped up and threw her arms around him causing his wire frame glasses to fly off his face.
"Hi, Gramps." she said. "What have you been up to?" he asked, glancing over at me as he straightened the glasses on his face.
"They are getting ready for bed now, you'll have to talk to them in the morning."
Mama said as she rushed out of the room, looking back to see if we were doing what we were told to do, and following along.
Grandma was headed down the dark wooden hallway toward the end bedroom that contained a twin size oak bed and a roll-away. Barbara ran into the room and jumped on the oak bed.
"I get this one!" she shouted.
"But Mom," I whined, "I'm older than her."
"Oh, be quiet, maybe you can take turns, and one sleep in one bed one night and the other the next." said Mama.
Grandma just shrugged her shoulders as she struggled to unlatch the side bars of the roll-away bed.
"Isn't this bed comfortable?" asked Grandma.
"It's o.k." I said, not wanting to hurt Grandma feelings, but still miffed that Barbara would stake her claim to the best bed in the room.
"She's so spoiled, I hope 'that' bed has bed bugs." I whispered to myself.
"What did you say?" asked Mama.
"I didn't say anything." I said innocently.
"You can put your suitcases on the sewing cabinet, and hang your clothes in the closet." said Grandma. She opened a door in the room that had a mirror on it. The room had three doors, baskets of clothes, an ironing board with an iron on it, and an old treadle sewing machine.
"Let me open a window for some air, these windows have screens to keep the bugs out." A big horse fly was buzzing around the room, and bumping the ceiling light.
"Now I'll keep a light on for you girls in the hallway, in case you need to get up during the night." Grandma shouted back as she left the room.
"Where are you going to sleep?" I asked Mama.
"On the pull out couch in the living room." Mama said, "Now go to the bathroom and get ready for bed, before Grandpa gets in the bathroom."
"Why do I always have to sleep on the roll away?" I asked.
"Oh, be quiet, and go to sleep. It won't hurt you to sleep there one night." She said.
Grandma didn't need to come in the room in the morning to wake us up, the roosters did. The big red one started to crow first. I looked up to see a brown cow with big brown eyes looking at me through the window.
"Oh!" I shouted. Barbara screamed, "You woke me up!" "What are you girls doing in there?" Mama shouted from the kitchen.
"Nothing!" I shouted back.
"What's wrong?" Mama said as she came running into the room through the door.
"Now what is going on in here?"
"Cows." I said. "A cow was looking in the window."
"So what. Things like that happen in the country." Mama said. "It sounded like arguing."
"We weren't arguing." I said.
"She yelled at me." Barbara said. "Did not." I said. "Did too." "Did not." "Yes you did." "Not." "Now girls!" Mama said, "I don't want to hear about you fighting this week when you are here."
"Well how come she got to sleep in the real bed?" I asked. "Get dressed and come on out for breakfast." Mama said as she slipped back through the door. The room suddenly started to smell like fried bacon and eggs, and my stomach that was full the night before suddenly started to feel empty. I was hungry for some of Grandma's bacon and eggs.
"Good morning!" Grandma sang at us as we went into the kitchen. "What do you girls want for breakfast? How do you like your bacon and eggs?" We soon forgot the night before and our disagreement about the beds. Grandma's smile and attitude could brighten any one's day. Grandma was a cuddly little lady, with cheeks that looked chubby when she smiled. She smiled a lot too. Her laugh was contagious, and you could hear it start in her belly and grow from a small gurgle into a big hoot that would rock the room from the floor to the ceiling. When it was time for quiet, Grandma knew how to entertain the little ones with soft pink and white peppermint candies she kept in her big black pocketbook purse.
Mama said, Grandma "knew hard work," being the oldest of ten children she was expected to help out with her younger brothers and sisters. Mama said, "They were expected to work on the farm. When other families drove by to go to picnics or the parade on the 4th of July. Her family would be in the field, and grandpa would say, 'Shake your hoes at them, and keep on working.' Grandma said, "I'll never let a holiday go by when my own family can't take time to enjoy themselves."
Breakfast over, we were soon out grandma's kitchen door down the stone steps, and running the wooden plank boards, and on out to the bubbling brook behind the house. In the creek there were tiny tadpoles, and pretty stones. We took our sandals off, and waded in the cold clear water. Playing and laughing, we sat down on the slippery stones that lined the brook. Mama had told us about the gypsies that came and camped in the clearing on the hill nearby. They would get water, and wash their dusty feet in the stream. Then they would wash their soiled clothes and lay them on the sandstone rocks in the sun to dry. Later they gathered twigs and sticks for a campfire. They would eat, sing and dance late into the night.
"Do you believe in gypsies?" Barbara whispered. Silence followed, and then faraway across the prairie we heard a bell ringing.
"Girls! Time to come in!" Grandma shouted from the house.