My Aunt Carol reminded us via Facebook that today is my grandparents’ 80th anniversary. I still remember the celebration we all had for their 50th, and I found it hard to believe thirty years had passed since then. It was a wonderful, warm gathering, complete with a renewal of their wedding vows and a decorated car to drive away.
I remember thinking to myself how special it was that they’d been married all those years, though they’d had plenty of hardships. Even back then, I admired their commitment. And I have no doubt that if they were alive today, they would still be married. So, why not celebrate this anniversary, too?
|Grandma and Grandpa and their children|
|Grandma and Grandpa and their grandchildren|
Here’s a story I wrote several years ago about one of my best memories of the time I spent at their house:
Each summer my parents piled us five kids and our dog into the station wagon for the long trek across country, from California to my grandparents’ farm in Kentucky. Arriving after our long journey, we rushed out of the car to the welcome of Grandma’s and Grandpa’s hugs and wet kisses.
Their house was small, with three little bedrooms, one bathroom, a living room and a kitchen. But it was warm, and as filled with love as the lingering smells of Grandma’s cooking – coffee, biscuits, bacon, fried chicken, cookies.
Every evening, Grandma made beds for us on the living room floor. She spread her handmade quilts over sun-dried sheets and goose down pillows. We’d lay our heads down and quickly fall into slumber, our bodies exhausted from days filled with hiking in the woods, chasing cows we weren’t supposed to chase, and getting muddy catching pollywogs in the pond.
Morning arrived with the sound of a rooster and the mooing of cows. Grandma hummed softly and her slippers swished as she walked across the kitchen floor.
I closed my eyes again and snuggled under my quilt, savoring the feel of the morning. The smell of the coffee and bacon. Grandma cooking in the kitchen. My siblings and cousins on the floor next to me, snoring quietly in their sleep.
Grandpa came into the kitchen next, and I heard Grandma greet him with his cup of coffee on the table. The chair scooted out, and his newspaper ruffled. Slrrrp — his first sip of the hot brew.
Over the next several minutes, the procession of Dad and Mom, aunts and uncles entered the kitchen. They talked quietly at first, and their gentle mumbling was often hard for me to hear. But this was their time, and they didn’t want us to waken! Soft laughter mingled with slurps of coffee.
There was something wonderful about being in this secret world of my own, while the other kids slept, and the adults sat around the table sharing conversations and coffee, while Grandma cooked her famous biscuits and gravy. I lay there quietly in my cocoon spun of comfort and love.
The chatter from the kitchen crescendoed, as everyone shared stories from the past. Muffled laughter was broken by an occasional guffaw, quickly caught and quieted at its first escape. I knew another round of coffee was on its way when I heard the percolator gurgling and smelled the fresh roast drifting from the kitchen.
When sunlight began to dance on the curtain sheers and the talk and laughter from the kitchen rose to full volume, I knew it was okay to get up. Although hungry to eat biscuits and gravy, I also loved my comfortable world under Grandma’s quilt. So I lay there indecisively for a moment. Then the special feeling that came with being the first grandchild to rise drew me to the kitchen.
I walked in sleepy-eyed, to the chorus of “Oh, look who’s up,” and “Bless her little heart.” What a glorious welcome to my day.
Daddy opened his arms to me, and I sat on his lap. My sleepy energy level was not yet a match for all of the adults who were now on their second and third cups of coffee, so I laid my head on his shoulder and watched the happy scene in the kitchen.
“Jan, you want some orange juice?” Grandma asked, pitcher in hand. Her hair was still wound in curlers, her pink cotton house dress dotted with the flowers of summer.
“Yes please, Grandma.”
She handed me my juice and smiled, her dark brown eyes warm and soft. Then she walked around the table pouring more coffee for everyone. I watched the steam rise from each newly poured brew, and the smell whipped up my hunger.
“Come over here, you little corker,” Grandpa said in his mischievous tone. Still in a half-awake state, I wasn’t sure I wanted to leave the comfort of my dad’s lap, but I knew if I didn’t go to Grandpa, he’d come after me, fingers itching to find something to tickle. I walked to the other side of the table and Grandpa put his arm around me and planted a wet kiss on my cheek. I wrapped my arm around his neck and stood next to him while he sipped his coffee and read the paper.
“Grandpa, can I have a taste?” The coffee smelled good, and I was hungry.
I saw Mom give Grandpa a look that said, “I don’t think so.”
But, Grandpa was never one to take a hint, especially one he saw no need for. “It’s hot. Just take a little one.”
I was excited to make the sound of the delicious slurp, like an adult. Slrrrp.
Yuck! It was hotter than I expected on my upper lip, and the bitter taste lingered on my tongue. What in the world did they see in that stuff?
Many years have passed since the days of those fondest of memories, and today I’m one of those adults sitting around the table sharing stories over coffee, early in the morning while the children sleep. Grandma and Grandpa, their farm house, and the voices from the past are gone now, but they’re all part of the best I hold inside me.