Grandma’s house is the stuff of fairy tales; but in my case, my grandmother’s small bungalow truly was a magical place for a little girl to visit.
Although my grandparents lived in a small town elbow to elbow with neighbors, their quirky little house was set on a long, narrow double lot. You can take the family from the farm but not the farm from the family… a chicken house filled with Road Island Reds sprouted smack dab in the center of their urban oasis. The adult in me is curious how they managed to raise chickens in the center of town, but all I remember as a child is the bliss of playing in a mini farm. My grandmother babied those chickens. They rewarded her by living long lives, laying eggs well-past the normal production age of chickens. We called them grandma’s girls.
Bolting from the car as soon as it stopped in the cinder driveway, my brothers and I would run to the backyard garden to see the chickens and check for new kittens in the shed. My grandmother didn’t have the heart to turn away stray cats. We were on our best behavior in the fenced in vegetable garden, careful not to tread on June strawberries or tender seedlings.
In the summer, we played hide and seek in all the nooks around the house. Her small side yard was shaded by trees and shrubs and scented with sweetpeas. The apple trees in the front yard were perfect for climbing. The small garden shed was a charming backdrop for grandpa’s tall red cannas and grandma’s purple cleomes. Behind the hen-house, a tall plum tree dropped crimson fruit in summer to the delight of the hens.
Grandma’s garden supplied bounty that she canned and preserved. Ruby red jars of strawberry preserves and plum jelly lined the kitchen windows, cooling. Freshly baked bread and pies filled her white kitchen with wonderful sights and scents.
My grandparents were not well-to-do, but their table kept hungry grandchildren happy. Eggs, hot bread, preserves, fresh seasonal vegetables, berry pie and rich whole milk delivered to the door were common on grandma’s table. In the morning, we had buttered toast and thick oatmeal with whipping cream, the way it was eaten on the farm.
At times, I treat myself to slow-cooked oatmeal with heavy cream and brown sugar. The years seem to slip away and I am that barefoot little girl in feedsack calico again.