Sunday, March 3, 2013

Bits and Pieces

Bits and Pieces:
Memories of Grandma and Grandpa G

     A house is just a building... walls, ceilings, windows, doors, nails, boards, shingles, and glass.  But a home is much more than that.  My home is made of people, objects, smells, sounds, and memories.
     One thing I like about going home to Minden, Nebraska, is that I am going "home."  A place that is familiar and comfortable.  A place that feels like one of Mom's warm, soft afghans wrapped around my body.  A place that is love.  So many things at Mom and Dad's hold special meaning for me.  These objects trigger memories from my childhood, from times in Minden and from times in Hebron, Nebraska, at Grandma and Grandpa farm.
     Each time I'm at Mom and Dad's, I can sit on the living room couch and look at the oval wood-framed photograph of Grandma G and her four sisters.  I often wonder what Grandma's life was like when she was so young, in her late teens to early twenties, so many years before I was born.  Even though the picture is in black and white, I smile when I think of times when relatives have told me that I have the same hair color that she had when she was young.  I try to imagine the photograph in color, seeing Grandma's soft, slightly wavy hair in shades of dark strawberry blonde.  I remember how the color of her hair had deepened to a reddish-brown with very little gray in her later life.  I wonder if my hair color will change in the same way as I grow older.
     By running my hand over the smooth, polished wood of Grandpa's secretary, his fold-down desk, I can see the inside of Grandma and Grandpa's farm house.  I can almost sense how Grandpa used to sit at the desk to write letters and take care of business matters.  I imagine the weight of his arm on the wood as he wrote, with pen on plain white paper, to his children about the farm.  He wrote about the cows, calling each one by name, which he designated for his grandchildren.
     Whenever I look out the window above the sink in Mom and Dad's kitchen, I can look at two photographs which hang by the window.  One picture is of Grandpa, pitchfork in hand, giving hay to the cows in the corn field.  The other picture is of Grandma smiling contentedly, hands folded in front of her gingham dress, as she stands surrounded by gladiolus and snapdragons in her garden.  The photographs are faded now from being in the sunlight for so many years, but when I look at them, I travel back in time to another place, another home, a warm feeling, Grandma and Grandpa's farm.
     Perhaps my memories have faded a little, just like the photographs.  They come to me in bits and pieces, but they are still pretty vivid.  I remember. . . the chickens scattering as we arrived at the farm, driving the car out from under the canopy of trees into the farm yard. . . standing next to the cow tank, looking deep into the murky water trying to see the gold fish. . . walking into the kitchen to smell Grandma's chicken and dumplings cooking on the oven, smelling her dinner rolls after she took them out of the oven, watching Grandma or Mom rub a stick of butter over the golden brown top crust of the rolls.  I remember. . . watching Grandpa milk the cows in the barn, the pinging sound of milk hitting the sides of the metal pail, the kittens creeping out from the shadows into the light to get a squirt of the milk. . . helping Grandma get a bucket of water from the pump underneath the windmill, standing with my face to the sky, looking up and up. . . playing cowboy and indians with Becky and Rod, hunting for tracks down by the pond to see if any indians had been there before.  I remember. . . the swing under the cedar tree in front of the farm house, the wooden board for a seat always a little crooked, sliding the rough rope so the seat would be level. . . the soft folds of Grandma's purple cotton apron with flowers on it. . . the watermelon rind throwing contest over the chicken coop, the seed-spitting contest for those of us who were not big enough or strong enough to throw that far.  I remember. . . walking out to the pond, being careful not to step on any cow pies. . . playing in Grandpa Hammer's room with the organ and record player, climbing up next to the wood columns in the entry way, stretching my arms to see if I could reach  around them, listening to the old 45 record of "Too Pooped To Pop" and trying to sing along like Dad did.  I remember. . . riding on the tractor with Grandpa and Dad, the gray fender shaking beneath me with every rut and bump on the path. . . flying down the slide on a piece of wax paper, the wind blowing the hair back off my forehead. . . watching Grandpa at the sink in the corner of the kitchen washing his dirty hands with green soap, cleaning up before dinner. . . the sweet smell of Grandma's molasses cookies.  I remember. . . sitting on the glider swing of the front porch, looking through the screened windows at the farm yard. . . watching the dogs and chickens in the yard and the cows grazing in the pasture by the pond. . . rocking back and forth, resting my hands on the glider's arms, feeling the prickly brown paint that was peeling off.  I remember. . . Mom and Dad lining us up outside the bathroom, waiting with Lanette, Lori, Rod, and B.J. for our turn before the long car ride home to Minden. . . Grandma reaching into the white cabinet, lifting off a cut glass lid to a candy bowl, giving me a lemon drop. . . the soft words, hugs, smiles, and waves goodbye.
     All of these images, and so many more, come back to me in bits and pieces, splashes of color.  When I focus on the pictures again, Grandpa feeding the cows and Grandma in her flower garden, they seem brighter, not so faded, and I can't help smiling to myself.


  1. This is such a sweet tribute to your grandparents. I lost my grandmother last September, and I know that there is a piece brewing inside of me, too. So many things you wrote about reminded me of parts of my own childhood. The 45 records, for instance. I used to listen to my mom's over and over again. How sad I am that I was so careless with them. Lemon drops (back when candy was still a special treat). And kittens in the barn trying to get some milk (though for me, it was goats). Thanks for sharing.

  2. Perhaps my memories have faded a little, just like the photographs. They come to me in bits and pieces, but they are still pretty vivid.

    Thank you for sharing your bits and pieces. For a few minutes I was there with you. For a few minutes I was back on my grandparents farm.