Eight feet away the door creaked then, rattled open and suddenly bright morning sunlight cascaded across the room. All I could see in the bright light was a pair of dark brown work shoes that had seen better days and many miles, as he sauntered into the little house. The floor boards creaked as the man’s weight pressed them as quietly as possible. As the door closed, I remembered. This is Grandma’s house and the man is my step grandfather. He stands tall, but slightly hunched in his shoulders. His clothes are always the same in summer and winter; a long sleeve white shirt that’s yellowed with age. Regardless of the season as the pigmentation in his skin was a mix of brown and white, as the sun would burn the white skin and he would become ill. He had a brownish jacket which smelled of snuff and was too short in the sleeves, showed the cuffs of his white shirt. Always he had hat perched on his head, brown with a brim and hat band and at the top was a hole. I never heard any one ask how the hole got there. His suntanned face is kind and had wrinkles of character around his mouth and nose. There is dark dried snuff juice at the corners of his lips that is evident when he gives his easy smile. His hair, which had once been the color of chestnuts is now streaked with white and silver gray. When he spoke, we would giggle and grin, as his southern backwoods dialect sounded so peculiar to our ears. In his right hand is a large pail filled with water drawn from a spring more than 1/2 mile away. His name is “Punch,” as he is called in this small rural, tobacco community.
Mama brought us here late last night and would not return until time for school to start in September. This is not the first summertime visit to Grandma’s house and certainly not the last. We would romp and play, being free to explore the woods that surrounded this small house. I vaguely remember sleepily watching last night as Grandma gathered homemade quilts and blankets to make a pallet on the floor for us to sleep in as a makeshift bed. The quilts are comfortable, handmade of material from many dresses, shirts and pants as they became too worn out to be serviceable to my grandmother’s household.
My sister, to my left, is 9 years old and my brother, to my right, is 8 years old. They are still sleeping, but not me. I am always awake. Mama says that I don’t sleep much, because I don’t want to miss anything. I am a 4 year old redhead and very small for my age. I also get stuck in the middle every time just because I’m the youngest. Being the youngest does have advantages, but not when it comes to where one will sleep or eat.
Grandma’s house is a safe haven; a home filled with warmth and love. The house is an old log cabin, built in the late 1800’s. Although the outside is covered with aged wood siding, the inside still bears the plastered logs and the white wash they get every spring. Originally it was just one room and a loft until the kitchen was added at sometime many years later. There are three windows in this room, two in the front on either side of the hand crafted front door and on the side of the house to the southeast, above which there was a shelf. That’s where Grandma kept her bible and all other important stuff.
I can hear Grandma out in the kitchen humming as she scurries about to get breakfast cooked on an old woodstove sitting in one corner of the room. Beside the stove is a window facing the northwest and below the window is a wood box filled with wood for the stove, then an old blanket for the dog to sleep on and sometimes a box of kittens. Next there is a white Hoosier cabinet with a flour bin on the right and a sparse display of dishes to the left. The bottom is filled with with cast iron skillets and pans for baking and cooking. Mugs are hung on a mug tree in the middle right next to canisters of sugar and other baking supplies behind a roll top cover. There is a small ice box on the other end of the room by another window and a large table with benches on both sides, is parallel along the wall. The table is adorned by an oil cloth table cover, which is decorated with grapes and plums or sometimes one with red and white checks. The other wall is used for storing things in a makeshift cupboard with oil cloth drapes of red and white checks. Beside the cupboard there is a hand hewn back door, left open to cool the kitchen, and then a small table place strategically near the stove, where Punch places the bucket of fresh spring water and puts the dipper into the water. The dipper would serve as a drinking vessel to the entire family throughout the day.
I can smell the fatback cooking and the biscuits are in the oven. The eggs, from the chickens Grandma has raised out back, are sizzling in a skillet and the edges are rimmed with a bit of golden lace from the hot fire. The fatback is carefully lifted from the pan and placed on a plate, now it will sit on the warming shelf above the stove until the rest of breakfast is readied. Suddenly, there is the noise of a splash and sizzle as fresh black coffee is added to the fatback grease. This was Grandma’s coffee gravy, it would be used to spoon over the eggs and sop up for the buttermilk biscuits. The butter softened from the heat of the kitchen sits in the middle of the table and beside that was a jar of Grandma Molasses, one of the few things purchased from the little country store nearby. Butter and molasses mixed together makes for a tasty treat to spread on biscuits. If it happens to be the right time of summer then red ripe tomatoes or delicious cantaloupe made their appearance on the table for breakfast as well as other meals.
Boy! Life at Grandma’s house is going to be delicious. It’s also going to be adventurous.