Late summer brings on a flush of morning glories in odd and random spots all over the farm. And, I never see a morning glory without thinking of my grandparents, particularly my grandfather.
Amidst the dysfunction and abuse that was my childhood, my grandparents provided the bedrock foundation of love in my childhood.
While I am almost certain I never heard either one of them utter “those three little words”, there was no need. There was never any doubt as to the depths of their love for me. Or anyone else. Any time there was a family tragedy, my grandmother had packed a care package and was boarding the next train bound for the southland to lend care and comfort. Nine times out of ten, my grandfather had already written a sizable check. They were pretty amazing folks. (you can read more about them HERE and HERE)
They have both been gone far longer than I remember them, but the impression they left on me has not faded with the passage of time.
As a small child, the best part of summer vacation was that week spent in the “city” at their house. For a little country bumpkin, visiting their house was like going to another world. My grandmother didn’t drive, her transportation was generally provided by taxi or city bus. After a day of department store shopping, we would stop in a tea room for refreshments. And, in the evening, we all dined out at a local restaurant. I thought this was the height of sophistication.
But, every morning would begin the same way. My grandmother would advise me of our daily adventure, sometimes allowing me to “help” as she did my grandfather’s bookkeeping. Then she would dispatch me to retrieve my grandfather for breakfast.
My grandfather would be sitting on the front porch drinking his coffee and perusing the morning paper.
His greeting was always the same...
And then he would launch into his rendition of the poem “little orphant annie”
Little Orphant Annie’s come to our house to stay,
An’ wash the cups an’ saucers up, an’ brush the crumbs away,
An’ shoo the chickens off the porch, an’ dust the hearth, an’ sweep…
(James Whitcomb Riley 1885)
I honestly have no idea WHY he always recited that poem. Maybe because my middle name is Ann? Maybe my red hair reminded him of the cartoon character? It doesn’t really matter now, it was just part of the morning ritual. It was hokey and it was silly, but it was one thing he did for me, and me alone. He would tell me about the news of the day or share a funny comic strip. I had no idea just how much I learned from this dear man until many years later.
We had some good times there on the porch. After a hot day of shopping, my grandmother would serve fresh fruit as a treat and we would talk about anything my childish heart desired. Often in the afternoon, the mailman would stop by with the mail and stay for a chat and a cool glass of water. In the evenings, at least one of the neighbors would come over to visit. One summer my grandfather trained a wild crow to visit and eat peanuts when offered. Each evening, after dark, he would turn on the colored lights in the bottom of the amazing fountain he had built. I loved listening to their tales of the old days as we sat quietly in the ever-darkening night, watching the water dance with color until drowsiness forced us inside once more.
The amazing memories of summers in a different world come back whenever I see the brilliant magenta-blue flowers nodding in the breeze.