Yesterday's Magazette

4 – To Grandmother’s House

To Grandmother’s House

By Sheron Donahue

One early morning in late August, 1950, my parents and I set out from Illinois to Missouri to visit my grandmother. I was eleven and excited to finally meet this matriarch, the only grandmother I had left in the world. However, she lived far away. I sat in the backseat wiping perspiration from my neck and listening to the old Chevy chug and sputter, wondering if we’d ever reach our destination.

It was nearly 100 degrees as we drove south without air-conditioning. Laying my chin on my arm that rested on the windowsill, I allowed the wind to blow my hair in all directions. Flat land stretched to the horizon. The nearly barren fields were all but stripped of corn stalks, occasionally interrupted by a plume of dust followed by a farmer’s tractor.

We stopped at gas stations often so Dad could add water to the radiator. I jumped out each time and Mom handed me change from her purse. She said, “Only because it’s blistering hot today, okay?” I dashed to the nickel pop machine and bought an orange soda or Coca~Cola. I tried strawberry and Dr Pepper, but didn’t like those. Sometimes, I had enough to buy a Milky Way candy bar or a bag of peanuts, too. I drank at least ten bottles of pop and devoured six candy bars that day.

A mechanic at one of the stops fixed the fan belt in our black sedan and we finally completed our journey to Grandma’s house. By the time we arrived, my stomach gnawed at me and churned. I guess, partly from the heat, but mostly due to too much candy and too many sodas. As soon as we greeted Grandma, she realized my discomfort and pointed me toward the washroom, where I found some relief, but my tummy continued to roll the whole time we stayed.

A snapshot taken of us, which included Mom’s sister and brother-in-law, shows the family sitting around a white linen covered table with fancy goblets and an extra fork by each person’s place. The waiter was dressed as if he were attending a wedding, except for the white cloth napkin draped over his arm. Dad and Mom sat across from me. Mom wore her pearl earrings and Dad sat with his embossed napkin folded neatly on his lap. Everyone wore their Sunday best. I sat next to my grandmother in my pink silky dress with lace sleeves. In that black and white photo, Grandma looks like my own reflection in the mirror today.

Looking at the picture now, I see discomfort in my face. Grandma seemed to understand as she wrapped me in her arms before I left. She hugged me tightly, and I breathed in her warm, lilac scent. She said, “You are a fine young lady.” I didn’t feel so fine. She added, “I know you’ll look back on our visit one day with fond memories.”

She was right. I will always treasure the memory of our visit. It remains a special moment in time—a time I spent with my grandmother, and a time I discovered a connection to my past. Now, whenever I spot a lilac bush, I breathe in the scent and remember my gracious grandmother Flynn.

Vol. 37 No. 3 – Yesterday’s Magazette – Fall – 2010

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