The 10-minute drive to see Grandma Rose on the farm was as exciting as the 15-minute drive to Lake Geneva for a day at the beach. She had dogs, cats, chickens, cows, horses, a swing-set, a hammock under large oak trees, and a deep freezer full of every ice cream treat available.
When my older sister and I were born, our parents lived in an apartment on the upper level of the farmhouse. Our fraternal grandparents lived below us, on the main level, along with Uncle Teddy. He was 5 when my sister Melody was born; 7 when I showed up.
Melody remembers living on the Zimmermann dairy farm in Harvard, Illinois, playing with Uncle Ted, and being chased by geese. I only have photos to prove I lived there; our parents moved us into town when I was 2. Even so, as we grew up, we spent every moment we could, making memories in the fresh country air surrounded by fields of corn and beans.
After raising three boys, Grandma relished having the company of little girls. She let us do whatever we wanted – supervised, of course. We did girly stuff, like lining up her many nail polishes, perfumes, and hair brushes on the ledge of her screened-in porch as we played Beauty Parlor.
We played Soda Fountain in the kitchen, making our own ice cream sundaes and root beer floats. We expanded it into a Restaurant. With pencil and paper in hand, we’d ask our grandparents, “May I take your order?” Our limited menu included pancakes: a mixture of flour and water, uncooked and poured onto a plate. And coffee: water and molasses, or whatever we could find in the cupboards to make it look like coffee. Thankfully, our customers did not eat or drink any of the concoctions we served.
When we were older and didn’t need supervision, we ran wild outside with other cousins our age and sometimes with Ted and his friends. We played hide and seek in every nook and cranny on the farm: the barn, tool shed, behind the water trough, the tractor, the chicken coop, and even the old outhouse. Once, when playing tag, we left a gate open and two cows escaped. Oops!
In junior high, Grandma let us have a small slumber party in her living room. She didn’t blink an eye at the mess on her carpet when we tossed popcorn into the air, trying unsuccessfully to catch it in our mouths. We cleaned it up. In high school, Grandma would stop by our house to watch us get ready for prom or the homecoming dance.
Grandpa died in 1965. A few years later, the farm was sold. It saddens me that my little sister Julie and our younger cousins (there were ten of us) didn’t get as many memories of the farm as we older ones did. Some of the youngest didn’t get any at all.
In 1990, I wrote about Grandma Rose. I didn’t intend for it to be in rhyme, but when I sat down at the typewriter, that’s what came out. I sent Grandma the poem. She had it framed. A year later, she passed away.
To this day, whenever I hear the rustling sound of oak trees dancing in the wind, I’m taken back to those magical summers on the farm. I reread the poem, make a few changes, and, if inspired, I add another verse, which I did this week when an oak tree whispered to me. “It’s time to share Grandma Rose with others.”
Grandma’s lap was like a nest,
a shelter from a storm
A place where we felt safe, secure,
comforted and warm.
Many scenes come flooding back
of time spent on her farm.
Fudgesicles on summer days
dripping down our arms.
Watching Grandpa tend the cows.
Their milk, pinging the pail.
The rooster crowing, “Rise and shine!”
to chickens in their jail.
Chasing kittens in the barn.
Playing tag, “you’re it!”
Riding Smokey, two by two
on the horse, we’d sit.
Bubble baths with toy boats,
owned by Uncle Ted.
And pulling out the sofa
to watch TV in bed.
Family dinners, Christmas day,
uncles, aunts, and cousins.
Summertime reunions, too.
Relatives by the dozens.
The rustling sound of summer winds
caressing large oak trees.
Our hammock swaying underneath
a canopy of leaves.
The red barn crouched behind her house.
The windmill stretched above
as we sat on Grandma’s lap,
nestled in her love.