All too often, a road trip down memory lane reveals the erosion of time on the rural landscape of our childhood: abandoned houses shrouded by trees and old barns standing sentinel on razed farmsteads. It’s often best to recall these beloved places only in our mind’s eye.
Through the years, I’ve been fortunate to visit the farm where I grew up. My grandparents began their married life here in 1902 when they built this house (shown above) at the base of the Loess Hills, overlooking the Missouri River bottomland.
My mother was born here. When she and my dad were married, they moved the hired man’s house there from my great-grandparents’ farm up the road and began farming with my grandparents. Three generations, including mine, lived there side by side from 1942 until 1978.
The old households treasured memories. Many of these revolve around family gatherings hosted by Grandma and Grandpa. Sometimes my birthday fell on Thanksgiving, and it was a treat to enjoy pumpkin pie there.
The preparations leading up to Thanksgiving whetted us kids’ appetites, especially when Grandma began setting food items on the round oak table in the unheated sunroom entrance from the porch. The leaves were added to the dining room table, Grandma’s good silverware was removed from the buffet, and her best dishes were brought out of the china cabinet.
Grandma was a wonderful cook. So was Mom, who contributed to the menu of turkey, dressing, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce, scalloped corn, dinner rolls, gelatin-and-whipped cream salads, and an array of homemade jams, relishes, and pickles.
The dessert menu featured pumpkin, mincemeat, and apple pies. At Christmas Grandma made date pudding, suet pudding, and sometimes her favorite, gooseberry pie.
Grandma’s house was a house for all seasons. On a hot summer day, it always seemed refreshingly cool as I pushed open the swinging door between the kitchen and dining room to find Grandma reading in the rocker, with the floor fan humming nearby.
As a child, I loved exploring the drawers of the dining room secretary and asking Grandma to identify the people in the old photographs. My sister and I spent hours practicing on Grandma’s piano in the living room. I loved the glass figurines on the wall shelf above the couch.
Upstairs, we had fun trying on the vintage women’s hats stored in the attic. We tried to imagine our mom, her sister, and brother as small children tucked into the beds upstairs.
During the month of October we celebrated Grandma and
Grandpa’s 50- and 60-year wedding
anniversaries there with family open houses.
The holiday dinners continued after Grandpa died. Grandma eventually outlived most of the relatives who had gathered at the table.