I am a kid again as I trudge along to the creek where my gramps taught me how to fish and then cook the catch. Illustration: David Shaw
It is such a lovely day, I decide to park my car on the shoulder of the concession road, slip on my backpack and walk the half-mile or so to my grandma’s house. (For some reason, even though I was very close to both my grandparents, I always thought of their home as my grandma’s house.)
As I make my way along the dusty gravel driveway, the sound of rustling leaves is music to my ears. The herd of Holsteins grazing in the meadow looks my way briefly, then goes back to a lunch of high, dry grass. Passing the swimming hole, I am struck by how little everything has changed since I ran wild here in my childhood days. A sad contrast, I think, to my old home in the city where high-rise condominiums have replaced all the houses on the street where I once lived.
Being in this beloved place after all this time, I feel the years falling away. I am a kid again, coming to stay with my grandparents. As I trudge along, I can hear the distant gurgling of the creek. That’s where my gramps taught me how to fish and then cook the catch to perfection.
After cleaning the fish, he would coat it with thick mud and place it in a log fire. When the mud was rock hard, he’d remove it from the fire and let it cool. Then, he would crack open the hardened mud with a heavy stick. It was the best tasting fish I have ever eaten, to this day.
As I approach the old house, I notice that the blue spruce outside the kitchen window looks much smaller. The rusty blades on the antiquated windmill, however, peppered with the bullet holes of irresponsible hunters, are still turning idly in the breeze. Rotten rope strands trailing from the bough of the big maple tree are all that remain of the swing where I spent so many happy hours swinging in the sun. Ferry, the big German Shepherd, used to jump around like crazy, barking his head off while I swung merrily above him. He is long gone.
Pushing open the rickety screen door of the porch, I find my grandma asleep in the same old cane rocker where her mother loved to take naps. I am shocked at how small and frail she looks. I half expect to see my gramps snoring away on the ancient sofa with a newspaper spread over his face, but he has passed on. The sweet smell of freshly squeezed lemons tells me there is a jug of lemonade in the icebox, as always.
Sitting on the old sofa, listening to the ticking of the big clock on the living room wall, I am lost in reverie when my grandma wakes up. She gives me a big hug and tells me I looking a little thin. Then she invites me into the kitchen for lemonade and home-made blueberry pie.
We sit at the kitchen table, chatting about old times until late afternoon. After a tossed-salad supper, we stroll around the old homestead until it is time for bed. The weekend passes in a flash, and then it is time to return to the big noise. I can still picture my grandma waving to me as I head back to my car in the twilight of that summer evening. Little do I know it is the last time I will see her alive.
They say you can never go home again. But I did. Even if my childhood home seemed different, the fond memories never change. They comfort me on sleepless nights and during hectic days. That’s why, no matter what else may slip my memory as the years roll by, I hope that I never, ever, forget my grandma’s house. Ω
William Bedford lives in Toronto.