Every summer, two of my best friends spent almost every Monday-Friday at their grandparent's house; which was right down the dead end road from my house. The only thing separating us was a quarter-mile of beat up asphalt, 3 hay fields, and a corn field (which sometimes rotated to an oats field). We would take turns riding our bikes or walking to the other's house in the morning, come home for lunch, (sometimes spending that time together too), and then doing it all over again in the afternoon. I loved visiting them most. Their grandparent's had a farm and I loved feeding the cows and the pigs, playing with the kittens, laying on our backs, legs crossed, on bales of hay chatting about boys and our dreams on hay wagons in the hot summer sun. We also made "deer beds" in the hay field and played hide-and-go-seek in the corn fields. I remember how sweet the air smelled when the alfalfa was in full bloom on the hottest summer nights. It was intoxicating. (That smell still makes me smile today). We also caught tadpoles that hatched out in the big water tanks outside for the cattle.
Sometimes we even got dirty and did some work. Baling hay was actually FUN. And the best part was, they hired a really hot boy my age and his dad. As soon as the hay fell, I knew it was a matter of 2, maybe 3 days, and I would see him. He'd come out and spend all day baling, and then we'd all spend the evenings unloading. After we were finished, the farmers had a FABULOUS lunch that we all enjoyed. All of us kids, (me, my two girl friends, my little brother, and "the hot boy"), would opt to eat outside and chase lightning bugs and talk about "summer stuff". The days it rained, I was truly sad because I knew I wouldn't be seeing that boy and his dad cruising down that dead end road on their way to work on the farm. And that would be a day I didn't get to see him smile. Or hear him laugh. Or see his sparkly brown eyes.Tonight as my Beloved and I were taking our ritual drive around "the country block" looking for furries and enjoying the sunset, I was telling him how when we were kids, we only watched TV when there was nothing to do outside. Summer seemed to last forever; I never counted down the days and I was able to enjoy it so much more. We used to pick these weeds out of the ditches and when you put them in a bonfire, they made a Snap! Crackle! Pop! sound like Rice Krispies. Pop Rocks were a scientific marvel. We would take a stick, and some string and put a hook on the end and let it hang in my grandparent's creek all day long and never get bored. We'd catch minnows in that same creek, just to watch them swim around in our bucket for awhile and then we'd let them go. We'd climb their maple tree and lay up there in silence for hours, content just to be above the world and watch it turn. We'd run in the hay fields and catch butterflies to study their colors while they sat quietly in a jar. Then we'd let them fly away.
Lightning bugs didn't get off so easily though... *laughing* My brother and his friends would catch them, pinch them til they popped and swipe the juice on their face like war paint. It only lasted a few seconds, but if you were good, you could do two at the same time and make both cheeks glow at once! Although I couldn't do the actual "popping", I did let them paint me. *shakes head* Why I let them smear bug guts on my face is beyond me! *laughing*
I remember walking in my grandparent's house in the evening while Grampa was watching Brewer games. (I can still hear the commentary in my head). But he would always stop watching and give me his full attention. Sometimes I'd even sit and watch with him, while he explained the finer points of the game to me. (And sometimes he shared his *a-hem* "expert opinions" as well). Gram was usually in the kitchen baking, or going through recipes deciding what she was going to bake the following day. There was almost always fresh watermelon cut, and some delectable dessert to sample, and she was always willing to sit and chat at her giant oak kitchen table. Gram's kitchen was ALWAYS open. You could never leave hungry.
I loved watching her do laundry. She had one of those old-school wringer-washers with the 2 rollers that squeezed the water out of your clothes and flattened them like a pancake, until about 1999. And that's how she liked it. They didn't have a telephone until the 90's either. They just didn't see a need for it. But as they got older, their children insisted on it, for their safety. So they gave in.
I loved spending the weekend there. I'd wake up to the sound of "AM 1360 WOZZ" old country and breakfast was always worthy of a blue ribbon. I'd spend the mid-morning coloring or playing the piano or exploring the upstairs and all the old photo albums and antiques. When lunch rolled around, we'd all sit together and Grampa would read the paper. The afternoon was spent outside, playing in the garden or the tree or by the creek. Dinner was excellent. I always walked away stuffed and pretty much ready for bed. I'd snuggle on the couch and watch TV, or back in those days I'd listen to my "Walkman" with musical selections like Bon Jovi, White Lion, GNR, Martika, Debbie Gibson, New Kids On The Block or Milli Vanilli. (Yes, messed up, I know). But the cool night breeze cruising through the living room window carrying the scents of summer along with the chirping of crickets and frogs was the ultimate country lullaby.
As hard and as often as I wish for it, and hope for it, and pray for it, I know I'll never get those days back. Grampa is in heaven, Gram is almost 95 and can no longer live at home. My girl friends are all grown up and have moved away. The neighbors quit farming, one has passed away. My brother doesn't want to chase lightning bugs anymore. "The hot boy" is still hot *laughs* but doesn't work for the neighbor anymore. I DEFINITELY don't listen to Milli Vanilli anymore.
I'm trying to continue Gram's culinary legacy, practicing (screwing up) her recipes on a daily basis. I'll never have the magic touch that she did, but maybe I can create a little magic of my own.
The one thing I can do, is continue to enjoy the moments that still occur, like the sweet smell of alfalfa in the air...the sound of the frogs and crickets...And I might even climb that maple tree before this summer is over....