Over the past few months, I have had some wonderful conversations with a dear friend’s Grandma. Laughing and sharing stories about farm life, listening to her no-nonsense approach to life, and farming tips like how to grow an apple tree simply from the seeds of an old apple core have warmed my heart. It has brought back sweet memories of my own Granny. Here’s a piece, originally written as a poem many years ago, about one particular childhood memory.
SAND BUCKET MEMORIES
These days, audiences of all ages are mesmerized by various electronic devices. Video games, movies, music, and even books are played, viewed, listened to, and read via laptops, cell phones, digital players, and e-book readers.
Childhood play did not always involve such high-tech gadgets. Once upon a time, youthful joy came from fresh air, inexpensive tools, and simple outdoor fun.
As a young girl, I visited my grandparents’ farm in Virginia on many occasions. Cattle grazed in the pastures, and the chickens roamed freely just outside the hen house. Granny clucked at the chicks as she doled out feed corn from her apron pockets.
With thirteen children and numerous grandchildren, family members visited often. She always insisted on feeding her guests, hungry or not. No one could make homemade bread and fried eggs like my Granny.
Relatives often stopped at the farm entrance to pick up mail from the family mailboxes. On one particular visit, some of us grandchildren walked with Grandpa to get the mail. Each of us took turns carrying an empty five-gallon bucket which constantly banged against our legs. We skipped, ran, jumped, and walked beside Grandpa as we followed their country lane through the pine trees, past the clearing, and around the corner by the big oak tree. Opening and shutting those creaky, metal gates and maneuvering our way over uneven river rocks was quite an adventure. We enjoyed our walk, asking a thousand questions. Grandpa’s answers matched his slow and sauntering pace. When we dawdled, he’d remind us of the reward that would soon fill our bucket. Scary-looking grasshoppers jumped across our path, frightening us city girls with their speed and power. Butterflies fluttered from one place to the next while bumble bees buzzed all around. We occasionally stopped to pick roses, black-eyed Susans, daisies, and wild strawberries found growing alongside the road. The cows stared at us, chewing methodically and using their tails to swat at flies. Grandpa assured us that we were safe from the bull as long as we stayed close beside him.
After retrieving the mail, we headed back to the house. Along the way, we stopped where the road rocks gave way to the sparkling white sand. It was powdery and slipped right through our fingers. Grandpa shoveled the sand into our bucket and carried it back to the yard for us. He went quietly into the house to take a hard-earned nap, having satisfied both grandchildren and adults.
Our parents primed the hand water pump just outside the front door. The youngest grandchild caught a short ride, hanging onto the metal handle as it went up and down. Ice cold water gushed out, full of red iron flakes. It was perfect for homemade mud pies. We retrieved acorns from the base of the oak tree, where we had hidden them during previous visits to help the squirrels’ through their next hard winter. With Granny’s contributions of old forks and spoons, we dug up the rich dirt and mixed in the hot sand, water, and acorns. We poured our concoction into discarded pie tins and rusty baking pans, mimicking Granny’s bread making. We made fancy swirls on top with our magical sand frosting. Once our pies and cakes had finished baking in the sun, we begged our parents to come and see our creations. Before long, the creamy mud and tiny jewels lost their charm. The sand no longer glittered and gone was the desire to feel the cold soil move through our fingers and toes.
We battled those large, flying insects, endured the sun’s heat, and journeyed that long distance with an old plastic farm bucket in tow, all for pure, white sand and a few precious moments with Grandpa.
Things have changed since those days of innocence. Grandpa and Granny are gone now, as is the original farmhouse and buildings. All but a small portion of their farm remains in the family, having been divided and passed down to different family members and generations. I confess that it makes me sad to see the farm split up by so many property boundaries. But I am grateful that when we visit, my children and I can still take long walks. I think of a time when childhood play required imagination, sand buckets, and mud pies; not all this high-tech equipment.