I can remember spending many nights at my Grandma and Grandad Bailey’s house. During the summers we stayed for weeks at a time. We loved it. Looking back, I don’t know how she managed to keep her sanity. It wasn’t just me and my siblings there, it was ALL the cousins. At any given time she would have 7 to 8 kids running in and out of the house, sometimes more when we brought a friend.
Grandma never minded though. She loved us being there. I can not remember a single time that she lost her patience and yelled at us. That’s not to say she didn’t get on to us. I remember her chasing the older cousins around with a switch from the tree or more often, her fly swatter. I don’t remember ever getting a whipping myself, though I am sure I must have. Grandma had a paddle hanging on her wall that someone had decorated and given her. “Grandma’s Paddle” was written across it. I don’t remember the paddle ever leaving her wall. Grandma and Grandad both were easy-going, never yelling or screaming at any of us. Their patience seemed limitless…….or maybe that is why Grandad spent so much time out in the shed.
When I was very young, I can remember sitting on the couch waiting on my turn to be rocked to sleep. Shameful to think about it now, if I was old enough to have this memory I was definitely too old to be rocked….. but nevertheless, it is one of my earliest and fondest memories of Grandma. Grandma always rocked the youngest cousins to sleep first. My sister and I would sit on either side of her on the couch, waiting for our turn. I loved listening to Grandma sing. Her songs didn’t always have words to them, sometimes it was just humming. But I loved listening to the sound of her voice, feeling the vibrations against my back as she rocked herself back and forth on the couch, child in arms. Her voice was so pretty and soothing as I listened, fighting to stay awake so that I would not miss my turn of being rocked. Grandma didn’t have a rocking chair at that time, and after rocking us all I’m sure her back and arms were ready to give out by the time she carried the last sleeping child to bed, but she did it anyway.
When I was older Summer evenings were spent outside, just after the sun retired for the night. My sister and I would chase fireflies or “lightning bugs” all over the yard, capturing them and placing them into a mason jar. We used to rub their “butts” on our shirts until we learned that it killed them to do so. Later that night we would lie in bed, windows open, listening to the sounds of the crickets and frogs outside the window, as the cool night breeze wafted gently in. An oscillating fan helped keep us cool as it made a lazy path back and forth all night.
Winter nights were just the opposite. Grandma would put us to bed, then go to the closet pulling out quilt after quilt and layering them on top of us. I remember lying in bed under the many layers. The quilts were slightly stiff, and very heavy. The weight of them pressed me down against the bed, making any kind of movement difficult. I remember the squares of color on the quilts in no certain pattern, and not always matching. It was more like just pieces of scrap material just thrown together, but I loved them. Underneath them I felt safe, secure, and loved.
There were not any toys at Grandma’s house, at least not age appropriate ones. The only toys she had were baby toys that had been passed down from one cousin to another. But at Grandma’s we didn’t need toys. We let our imaginations run wild, and we created our own fun.
During our visits, when Grandad went to the garden to plow, he could never go alone. As soon as we saw him heading to the tractor, like a swarm of ants, all the cousins descended, piling onto the tractor and would ride with him all day long. We LOVED it! My sister and I each grabbed a wheel cover on either side of Grandad, and the rest of the grandkids sat lower, near where the plow connected to the tractor, or anywhere else they could find a spot. Grandad would just smile, holler “hang on”, then take off. What a sight we must have been to those who might pass us on the road. Grandad driving and 8 kids riding along shotgun. I loved looking over and watching the tracks we made in the dirt as we rode up and down, up and down the garden, plowing row after row. No matter how long we stayed out plowing, I was always disappointed when it was time to head back home.
The barn was another favorite place to play. Though we weren’t allowed there often, when we did go, it was like a huge jungle gym. We climbed all over the hay bales, jumping and leaping from bale to bale. It was so much fun. During the summer Grandma and Grandad would let us swim in the cow trough. The water was murky, and the sides and bottom of the trough were covered in thick green algae. But we didn’t care. I can still remember the feeling of the algae squishing in between my toes. My sister Keri and I would dunk ourselves over and over in the dirty water, splashing my brother and the other cousins. I don’t even want to think about how much of that water we accidentally swallowed.
One of my MOST favorite past times there was riding the ponies. Grandad had two ponies in the pasture, Blacky and Brownie. We would all take turns being led around the yard on one of the ponies backs. Around and around the house and yard we rode until the ponies got too old, and their hooves too bad to ride anymore. We fed them grass by hand daily when we were outside playing. I loved the feel of their lips skimming my outstretched hand as they scooped up my offering.
When we weren’t outside playing, I would sit in the kitchen with Grandma watching her bake and prepare the meals, begging for the scrap pieces of cobbler or pie dough. I can remember watching as Grandma peeled potatoes, the ring of skin growing longer and longer as I watched to see if it would break off and fall into the waiting bowl before she reached the end of the potato. On very special occasions (or when we begged long enough) Grandma would make us homemade Donuts. They were absolutely Delicious!! What I wouldn’t give to have one of her homemade Donuts once more………. I watched in eager anticipation, mouth-watering, as she heated the oil, then dropped the biscuit dough into the hot oil to fry. Afterwards she dipped the cooked donut into glaze she had simmering in a small pot. The Donuts were still warm when we ate them, and oh so sticky………..and heavenly.
So many more memories assault me………too numerous to get all down in writing. Such as climbing the fig tree pretending it was the ship on Battle Star Galactica, playing hide and seek with all the cousins, swinging on the porch set up in the backyard with Grandma for hours, chasing flies all around the house with fly swatters, the sound of the screen door slamming, going to the chicken pen with Grandma to collect eggs and sneaking some back into the house to try to “hatch”, hosing down the water cooler on the front porch with the water hose, rubbing buttercup flowers on my nose, making wishes on all the dandelions, sitting on the porch at night as Grandad stood watching the clouds for signs of a storm, combing Grandad’s hair for a nickel, and so many more….
Sundays are still a gathering place at Grandma and Grandads. I cherish each and every memory I have had there. I know that long after Grandma and Grandad have left us, the undying love and memories they have provided us all with will live on…… forever.