“Granddad!” Missy yelled as she ran to meet the old man walking out the old screen door onto the wrap around porch. The creak and slam of the screen door was the best sound Vivian had heard in a very long time, bringing back great memories. Vivian stopped as she climbed out of the car letting her legs get accustomed to standing after driving straight for seven hours. Stretching her arms up and out to the sides she closed her eyes and breathed deeply.
The air smelled like spring. It was early so the dew was still on the grass and there was a soft fragrant breeze blowing through the trees behind the barn. The air smelled like freshly turned dirt and felt moist on her skin. The sound of the trees rustling was like a lullaby. She could still hear some of the tree frogs from the night before and spotted the crickets hopping through the small dirt hillocks in the field. She could feel grass growing up in the gravel drive and tickling her ankles as she stood leaning on the open door and watched as her father scooped Missy up and gave her a big hug. Missy’s four year old face was wreathed with a huge smile that looked just like her Granddad’s.
Just as she had every single time she came for a visit Vivian smiled and said “thank god I’m finally home.” Instantly tears sprung to her eyes as she remembered why she had taken vacation time and come for a visit. Turning her head around, she looked past her father,Vernon, and saw that the porch was stacked with boxes.
Ever since her mother Lillian had called her to tell her they were losing the farm she had mourned as though she was losing a member of the family. Actually she was losing a member of her family. This house was her heritage, her safe place; her best moments of her life were here. Every inch of this place held special memories for her.
Turning back she saw that her father and Missy were sitting on the porch swing and Lillian had come from around the side of the house carrying a tray of lemonade and cookies. She looked like a Norman Rockwell painting with her grey-blonde fuzzy hair in a bun, wearing a hand made dress with a frilly apron over it. Lillian had just set the tray down on the table forVernonto pour and she stood on the porch with her permanent sun squint and her beautiful tan face looking sadly at Vivian in the front yard.
Shaking off the memories Vivian stepped back and closed her car door as her mother moved slowly down the porch steps to greet her. They met in the middle of the front yard in a long, hard embrace while Missy and her father sang nonsense songs and swung back and forth on the porch swing swigging lemonade and eating chocolate chip cookies. Half a dozen barn cats moved around the porch rubbing their furry bodies on everyone and everything they could find.
“This is not going to be a funeral Vivie” her mother said as she pushed herself out of the hug and took Vivian’s face in her red calloused hands. “We have lived a good life here and now it’s time for us to make a new home. We’ll be close to the stores and to the doctor’s office and your Aunt Dorothy is only down the block” her mother said as she rubbed her hands down Vivian’s arms briskly and turned a bit too quickly to head back up the porch. Tears dropped down Vivian’s face knowing that her Mom was fighting back her own tears.
Vivian had only seen her mother cry twice in her life, at her own mother’s funeral and when Vivian’s cousin Frank had died overseas in the armed services. Frankie had been more like Vivian’s brother really her parents took him in when he was only eight years old because he was getting into trouble in town. Aunt Dorothy’s daughter Lynnette had given birth to Frankie when she was still in high school and had left him with Dorothy when she was eighteen years old never to return. Dorothy or “Mama Dot” as Frankie had called her had tried her best but was no match for Frank and his rebellious streak and was more than happy to let him come and live with her sister and brother in law.
Vivian squared her shoulders and marched across the expanse of the sun baked front yard and up the porch to kiss her father on the top of his shiny head and proceed into the house in her mother’s lavender scented wake.
The house had been her father’s childhood home. Her Pop-pop and Granny Fletcher had built the house with their own hands and raisedVernonand his nine siblings here. Vernonbeing the oldest had inherited the farm and loved it and tended it just like his father. The house was sturdy and beautifully decorated with original dark paneling in the dining room and wallpaper over the walls.
Vivian followed the sound of the old radio on the kitchen counter and let out a sigh of gratitude as she shuffled in just as her mother poured two cups of tea in preparation for a long kitchen “sit and talk session”.
“The packing can wait until tomorrow” Vivian thought as she sat down at the gouged and well loved table her father had built with his own father many years ago. Today she was going to just take time to enjoy the house, her parents and the farm. Tomorrow she and her mother would finish packing while her friends Marty and Grant from town came over to help carry them down and stack them on the porch with the other boxes. All of the boxes would be shipped to storage along with most of the furniture. Most of it wouldn’t fit into the new house. The furniture and boxes that were going to the new house would be packed last and moved next Saturday.
“So Ma what’s new?” Vivian asked as she shifted her chair back and to the side to watch her mother slicing lemons in preparation for more lemonade. “Don’t call me ‘Ma’ Vivie you know I hate that!” Lillian said with her funny giggle, her apron strings bouncing a little on her matronly backside. “Okay okay I know, come sit down, leave the lemons, let’s talk I’ve missed you” Vivian said while patting the wooden chair next to her.
Lillian’s hands stopped slicing and she lay down the knife. Placing both palms flat on the counter Vivian’s mother lowered her head and her shoulders shook a little as she made a valiant attempt to stave off the emotions. Fingers splayed on the counter she lifted her head and turned to her only daughter with red eyes and tears on her cheeks.
“Well did you hear whatRandolph’s son Jeremiah did to Mr. Genevieve’s barber shop pole?” she asked in a loud conspiratorial whisper as she hustled to her chair and wrapped her hands around the tea cup.
Today would be like any other day, tomorrow and the sadness would come soon enough. Vivian settled back in her chair with a soft smile on her face and listened to her mother’s town gossip as her daughter and her father played checkers and drank lemonade on the front porch.