The Farm, Part II

It used to be that corn, potatoes, squash, okra, cantaloupe, watermelon, and peas grew in this field.  Mmm, my favorite meal at the farm is the Vegetable Meal.  Fried okra, fried potatoes, fresh onion-tomato-and-jalapeno slices, pinto beans or black-eye peas, corn bread, and a big bowl of cantaloupe slices–it’s what I always request when I come to visit.

And here it is:  the kitchen, the kitchen, the kitchen.  The.  Kitchen.

My grandfather built this house with his two hands.  He told me when we last ate together in this kitchen that he had always wanted to do all the electrical in his house one day–and this was his chance.  He also did all the plumbing and built the kitchen cabinets with his son.  Only the appliances and floor have been replaced in the last 31 years.

NanNaw is always up before you putting the coffee on, starting biscuits and gravy, or setting out the cutting board for toast from her homemade whole wheat bread.  Good memories are smelling the bread cooking and then seeing pans of rolls cooling on the table.  Sometimes NanNaw gave me the job of taking the stick of butter and swirling it atop the rolls still hot from the oven.

I can see PaPaw sitting there with his signature dining style.  He sat closest to the refrigerator so he was always willing to grab something for you if you needed it.  Sometimes I’d catch him sitting at the table by himself, enjoying a snack:  a glass, cornbread, and the milk jug.  It was rare for him to go a day without his cornbread.  In fact, when he and NanNaw were teenagers and just friends (she didn’t go by “NanNaw” back then, ha), she hitched a ride with PaPaw’s father to Hot Springs, Arkansas, to get a permanent.  She bragged how she had made biscuits that morning for her parents and siblings.  PaPaw’s father replied, “Well, Johnny doesn’t like biscuits, he likes cornbread.”  Or something like that.  I know NanNaw will correct me if I’m wrong.  Anyway, PaPaw’s father must have known they were meant to be together.  And, later, for years and years NanNaw would make a dozen cornbread muffins every single morning just for my grandfather:  six for breakfast and six for lunch at work.  Every morning for years.  And she had five kids to feed, too.  But she also didn’t have blogs to read either.  Joke.

Now she has grown vegan grandkids and great grandkids coming to visit begging her to please have one of her chocolate cream pies ready upon our arrival.  It was a hard decision amongst us to have the chocolate or the coconut, but “could you please make us the chocolate pie?”  And we arrive and she has both.  I swear I saw a glint of evil satisfaction in NanNaw’s eyes when my five  year old daughter said, “I’m vegan!” as she was shoveling a heaping spoonful of whipped cream in her mouth.  There were good, sweet memories with every bite; and I’m so thankful that my children can experience the comforting flavors of my own childhood.

My husband begs me to learn how to make pinto beans like my grandmother.  Like I haven’t tried!  I asked her this last time, once again, “Okay, is it just oil and salt?  And you just let them lightly boil?”  How can I not get this?  Those hands of hers are so soft, strong, and always, always, beautifully manicured by herself.  Oh, and they give amazing back scratches, too–almost as good as my mommy’s.

All the weekends and summer weeks here, the sitting and the chatting, the eating, and if you could say something to really tickle my grandfather, there was nothing better than watching him have a good laugh.  I miss that so, so much.

And, I have logged some serious hours in those orange chairs playing Skip-Bo, Phase 10, Uno, and Spinner–or whatever the Saturday night game was.  It’s always more fun when NanNaw’s younger sister Aunt Dorothy is in town.  She can outplay you any day of the week.  “Ooo!”  I can just hear her say it.  Two years ago it happened that my oldest son and I were there the same time as Aunt Dorothy–five year old against 70-something year old in Skip-Bo.  It was a spirited game with Aunt Dorothy’s climactic misplay of her 6, which my son still talks about to this day.

In the mudroom is a phone, but not just any landline.  This phone used to hang in my grandfather’s childhood home–a long, long, short kind of party line deal.  Thing is AT&T or Bell didn’t hook this thing up back in the late 30s, early 40s.  This kid did.

A boy of 13 years, my grandfather strung up his small town with telephone wires and installed telephones in the homes.  But service didn’t come cheap–he charged all his customers 50 cents a month.

But the phone isn’t just a sentimental decoration.  It works!  It is connected to the phone out in PaPaw’s shop.  It was a good way for my grandparents to communicate to each other when he was out there working.

The laundry room is where I would hear the clank-clank of PaPaw’s Big Smith overalls flipping in the dryer–that is, until he started drying his overalls out in the shop to spare “Mama” the noise.  This is where we come to wash up after loving on the donkeys or before meals.  NanNaw’s bras always hung on the doorknob to dry–but I haven’t seen this in recent visits.  She must be getting modest with how she delicately cares for her lingerie.

I also gave PaPaw his last haircut in this room.  I’ve given him a lot of haircuts over the years–an unfussy super-short ‘do, since he was bald on top.  I remember kissing him on top of his head after I finished with the clippers that last time, not wanting it to be the way it was.  It had been an effort for him to walk down the hall to sit for his barbershop appointment–that same strong man who had waterskied well into his 70s.  He was so handsome.

My grandparents’ bathroom always fascinated me as a girl with its facing mirrors, infinity style.

Their bedroom is known as the peach room.  NanNaw has a separate closet just for her shoes–and for years she had magazine photos of Tom Selleck hanging in there.  Not sure whether those are still there or not!

NanNaw wanted for years a little sunroom off the back of the house.  Finally at her 80th birthday, PaPaw, along with their sons and grandsons, built the little sunroom she always wanted.

The living room was always after-hours central.  We would watch Love Connection together at night, or my sister and I would take turns rubbing their feet after a long day of serving up food and fun for us.  Before the family got too big to fit in here, we would have the Christmas gift exchange in the living room.  PaPaw liked to take well-deserved naps in his recliner here, as well.

He could play the best Mark-Twain-making-ruckus-in-San-Francisco-saloon piano music you ever did hear!  Every weekend he played the piano for church.  There is nothing like singing the gospels while thinking a saucy barmaid may sidle up at any moment.  He had a song for any and every occasion or thing a person said.  There was always a song…and always played by ear.

I’ve eaten in the dining room maybe twice or so.  Mainly it is where the homemade fudge and pralines and peanut patties are kept at Thanksgiving and Christmas.  If you are sneaky enough, no one will notice if you quietly slip in and lift the plastic wrap for just one piece of candy before it was officially served.  It won’t hurt anyone.

Thank you so much for your kind comments about this very personal place for me.  Thank you also for sharing your own special memories about your own grandparents.  Grandparents are wonderful treasures; and really while these series is about my own, it is a celebration about all of ours, those who have passed on and those who are thankfully still with us.  I hope you’ll come back for the final tour.

Comments

  1. Angela, this post is really giving me the warm and fuzzies..isn’t this what life is all about. What special memories. I smiled @ you watching love connections, playing uno, skip bo and phase 10..ditto..and Tom Selleck is a hunk:-)

    I want pinto beans now and I want to be more like your Grandma. I wonder if she still would be the same if she would have had blogs to look @ too. I know it was a joke but kind of true too:-) We are so inundated with technology.

    xx

  2. Cella says:

    Well, boo. You made me cry with both postings. I even cried twice for the 1st one as I cried all over when I read it to my husband. Midway through I couldn’t even finish. It reminded me so much of my grandfather who had a wonderful shop to work in. It also made me think of my father-in-law who just passed away. Especially the part of how weak your grandfather was in the end. My father-in-law was always so thoughtful of others – when you wrote about your grandfather sitting by the fridge so he could get you something if you needed it – oh boy, sweetness all over again. Living for others, that is what is all about!
    I don’t think I can bear a 3rd installment…but of course I will be back.

  3. Peggy says:

    Beautiful post, Punkin. You captured the unique beauty that belongs to that special couple.

  4. Lovely words. I’m looking forward to coming back and seeing the photos once I move to civilization. Some of us don’t have grandparents now…or even many memories. Thanks for sharing yours and giving us a little love and warmth and joy.

  5. Karen Tyner says:

    Once again, I’m sitting here crying! Loved the young picture and story of your grandfather starting his telephone business at such a young age. And those pies…..and your warm recollections give me a great start to my day!!!

  6. Melanie Scott says:

    Just beautiful…..I loved this. Thank you again for sharing such wonderful and personal memories and experiences. Your Grandad sounds like such a wonderful person – they just don’t make em like they used to! Looking forward to your next post. P.S. Would kill for those pies. 😉

  7. What a pleasure it has been to read these memories (in both word and pictures). Thank you for sharing them with us.

  8. Pinto beans, a gristmill, hot bread and rolls, pies… and all homemade! I am salivating!!! It’s just amazing that our grandparents made so much by hand along with raising children (including the hubbie – ha!) It’s also amazing (not really) that our grandparents ate all that food (no fat free, no reduced fat, no substitutions but the REAL stuff) and were thin, healthy and lived to have long lives. I think that tells us all something. Eating fresh foods and working hard are the key. None of the processed foods we eat and none of the extra workouts on treadmills etc were needed for the older generation. Maybe we should all take note but our generation is so different but I haven’t a CLUE how to make homemade bread!!

    I remember when I was growing up and being at my grandparents house (either grandparent). Both grandmothers were avid and fabulous cooks, just as your NanNaw. Both grandmothers made homemade foods and lots of it. Homemade pork chops, fried chicken, biscuits, cornbread, soups, pasta sauce, desserts…. there’s nothing like that homemade food. One of my memories as a child was also watching my grandmothers as they got up early to make the dough for breads, biscuits and watching them kneed the dough over and over again (I got to help lots of times), place it in a huge bowl and put it by the fournace or a hot place in the house so that it would rise. We’d run around and play and sneak a peek under the towel on top of the bread to see it rising and getting puffy. The most agonizing part was smelling it and having to wait to eat it but once we got to eat it, oooohhhhh – heaven!!

    I can not believe your grandmother made a dozen cornbread muffins for your PaPaw every morning for so many years and mostly, that he ate 6 in the morning and 6 at lunch!!! Most of our generation couldn’t eat like that and not be overweight but the old folks were certainly active so they didn’t have to worry. But they also didn’t snack on goldfish and other processed snacky foods either!

    I wanted to reach out and grab the pies your NanNaw made! Seriously, I wish I could have a piece or two shipped to me! Or, directions to the Farm would suffice (he he)!!

    Amazing how that generation never changed much in their houses either and they were completely content having things remain the same for years upon years upon years. (Kind of like your neighbor – Mrs. B or P or whatever initial she is) What a great attribute to have – to be comfortable with what you have forever! Not like us gals these days that change things in our houses, re-arrange things, change out furniture, lamps, carpets, look at magazines with the intent to put that decorating idea in our own house, etc etc. I LOVED the “time standing still” aspect of my grandparents houses just as you do. I’d say that generation definitely got their moneys worth out of whatever household items they bought!

    LOVED your post and being a part of your grandparents lives via the blog. What a special place and what special grandparents you’ve had and what a blessing that truly is!!!

    (Ok, why are my posts lately the longest of everyone else posting?!! ha Can you tell these posts have conjured up lots of memories of my grandparents for myself or what?!)

  9. Donna Aitken says:

    I wish we had taped your Nanaw and Papaw singing those songs they use to sing. Thank you for taking these pictures for us all to have forever. You are somthing very special Miss Angela. Oh and tell the kids I got their mail yesterday. So precious!

  10. Beautiful stories. Beautiful writing. Thank you for sharing these sacred memories and the wonderful legacy of your grandfather that will live on in your family.

  11. Oh…and I couldn’t help but smile at that thought of your NanNaw’s satisfaction at serving those tasty looking pies to her favorite vegan great grandchildren!

  12. WOW! Such wonderful memories! I can only hope that my children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren think of me in such a special way. I love your grandparents and have never even met them! Love the knobs on the cabinets and that green hammer!! Thanks so much for sharing these special people in your life!

  13. So beautifully written. The memory of you cutting your grandfathers hair and ending with a kiss on the head….oh my eyes filled with tears. Such great memories…
    Also, wanted to let you know that I nominated you for the Stylish Blogger Award. You can check it out here: http://shannonberrey.com/_blog/Shannon_Berrey_Design_Blog/post/The_Stylish_Blogger_Award/

  14. “But she didn’t have blogs to read either”. I love this and what a treasure this written record of your vibrant memories will be for your children, as well. I guess that is something very unique about blogging, it chronicles the small moments that add up to the big things. The picture of the potholders in the drawer, the hammer, the pinto beans-it’s really remarkable.

    And thank you, Lady for your dear alliterative (no less) comment on my DD post. What an honor to invoke such (lol).

  15. beautiful, once again.
    your vivid memories paint such a detailed picture, as if I am there with you.
    mostly, I can tell there is much love.

  16. Angela, these words are just so beautiful.

  17. Jan Tucker says:

    Oh such sweet memories. My Gama was VERY strict. I actually thought she was really mean when I was living with her. Only after I was an adult with a child of my own did I realize how much influence she had on me and she was a sweet person through and through.

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