"Grandma," I heard my young granddaughter calling.
"Yes, dear. I'm here in the family room," I replied.
I heard the sound of feet rushing down the stairs and towards my temporary refuge from the hustle and bustle of life, followed by Sarah arriving breathlessly in the room, as only a 10-year-old can.
As she plopped herself down on the old brown overstuffed couch next to me, I looked at her, with her golden blond hair, and her sky-blue eyes, and was reminded so very much of my mother, after whom Sarah was named.
"Sarah, you look so much like the photos of my mother when she was young!" I said by way of explanation to her.
Her eyes rolled around their sockets, and she rocked her head, making fun of me and laughing.
"Grandma, you tell me that ALL the time."
I had to laugh a little too. She was right about that, I did say it quite often.
"Just because I say it often doesn't mean it is any less true," I insisted, smiling, "So there!"
It was obvious that Sarah was not just 'passing through' on her way out to play, so I set aside the book I was reading, and got up, walked across the room to the television and turned it off. I hadn't really been watching; it was just President Kennedy giving a speech at some university or another. The television was nothing more than noise in the background to me when I was deeply engrossed in a book, although the whole concept of seeing someone speaking thousands of miles away, in color, in our own living room was still amazing to these old eyes.
When I sat back down again, Sarah tucked herself under my arm, snuggling up to me. I welcomed her affections, and knew I should take full advantage of them now, because in a year or two she probably would regard herself as 'too grown up' to be caught being overtly loving towards her Grandmother.
"Tell me the story," she demanded.
"Heavens, child, haven't you heard it enough times?"
She shook her head, now with a completely serious look on her face.
I smiled down at her, and truthfully, I couldn't blame her for wanting to hear 'the story' again. It was one of my most treasured memories of my life as well.
As I closed my eyes, my mind was going back in time, back to the year 1910, back to the farm where my parents, my three younger brothers and I lived.
I could almost smell the pungent, earthy smell that rose from the ground after a rain shower on the freshly turned fields that my father still plowed with his team of Belgian horses. The smells of my mother baking bread for the family. See the pristine blue skies above vast fields of golden ripe wheat, dotted here and there with white clouds.
As I recall it turned out to be a day shortly before my sixteenth birthday and only days before my parent's eighteenth wedding anniversary.
That period in a young woman's life is so fragile and so fleeting. A time when she is no longer a child, but not completely a woman. She develops physically, and is beginning to feel the needs of adulthood, yet, at least in my case, is still happiest and most comfortable in the warm bosom of her family where she is protected and cared for. She looks out at the world, and is both attracted and repelled by what she sees.
For me, my choice in books illustrated the point. I had begun reading books like "Jane Eyre", "Wuthering Heights", and "Ivanhoe", but I had also just finished "The Emerald City of Oz", which was the sixth book in the Oz series by Mr. Frank Baum.
My fantasy life was divided between Dorothy and the creatures of Oz, and increasingly with thoughts of dark, romantic and mysterious men like Heathcliff, or Mr. Darcy.
In other words, thoughts of romance and love, and of a future that in an abstract way involved men, were becoming central to my imagination.
That Saturday morning, I was looking for my mother, but as I roamed from room to room, she wasn't there. In the front room, I found my brother, Daniel, who was thirteen at the time, looking out the window at the road that crossed in front of our farm.
"Have you seen mother?" I asked, almost sure that I wouldn't get any useful information from him. My brother, when he was at home at all, and not out with his friends from the adjoining farms, almost always had his nose in a 'Tom Swift' boy's novel or a Zane Gray western. I think it was 'Tom Swift and his Submarine Boat' that I'd seen him reading most recently.
"Nope," he answered succinctly, "but Doc Haldermann just drove by in his new automobile. It's a Ford." He made a dismissive sound. My brother was very opinionated about motor cars, and thought that Buicks were vastly superior to Fords.
After confirming to myself that mother wasn't hiding somewhere in the house, I went out to the barn. It only took a minute to conclude that she wasn't there either. There was really only one other place that she would possibly be.
Our farm was 160 acres, made up of two adjacent 80 acre parcels, one parcel from each of my grandparents. It was their wedding gifts to my mother and father. Of the acreage, 120 acres were flat and tillable; there was about twenty acres of timber that could be harvested for lumber, and the remaining twenty acres had large rock outcroppings and a pond. That was the most beautiful part of our farm because it was left wild. It was slightly higher than the surrounding land, and was isolated enough that you could feel like you were completely alone there.
As I expected, my mother was sitting on top of one of the rocks that stood above the pond, something she would do when she wanted to be alone to think.
I wasn't sure if I ought to interrupt her reverie, so I hung back a little, in the shade of the green canopy of the trees that sheltered the path up to the rock bench.
"Come on up, Lizzie," my mother said, without even turning around. "Come and sit with me." I guess I hadn't walked as quietly as I thought!
Without further ado, I came up the remaining steps, and sat beside my mother on the rock, and the two of us sat there, silent, appreciating the warmth and beauty of the mid-morning view.
We could look down at the pond and see where bugs landing on the water attracted the hungry attention of fish in the pond, followed by the slight 'plop' sound as the fish rose from below to feast, leaving nothing more than an ever expanding circular pattern on the smooth surface of the water.
After a time, I looked at my mother, who even in her mid-thirties remained a comely woman.
I returned to the present, long enough to look at my granddaughter again, "like you, my Sarah, with golden hair and the bluest of blue eyes."
Mother seemed to me to have a sadness, a weight on her, when she looked back at me. But, she put that aside, and smiled at me.
"Well, Lizzie, I know you didn't come all the way out here just to sit and look at the pond with me," she smiled again, and put her arm around my shoulder, bringing me closer to her. "Do we need to have a mother/daughter conversation today?"
I just nodded my head in the affirmative. But I didn't really know how to bring the subject up so I just started.
"Mother, I've been wondering about ... I've been reading these books on, well, you know — love and romance, and people falling in love and getting married. Anyway, I wanted to know what you thought about it. And it made me wonder how you and father fell in love and got married."
My mother sighed and took her time before she replied.
"It's funny that you should ask, Lizzie, because I was mulling over questions of my own on that subject before you came up to me."
The frown that had been part of her general demeanor when I first arrived, briefly reappeared on her face.
"Perhaps I should tell you about your father and I, first, before I share what I perceive to be the truth about romance and love," she started.
"Because our parents lived on farms that abutted one another, your father and I have known of each other as long as we've lived. Since I'm five years younger than David — your father — most of the time when we were growing up, we had little to do with each other. He spent his time with the boys his age, while I spent my time with other young girls. But, I have a secret to tell you: even when I was small, I was smitten by David. It was so obvious to my sisters, that they teased me unmercifully about it.
"Nevertheless, I thought that he was very handsome, and he was well-formed, tall with broad shoulders. As he grew, I watched the muscles in his arms become like a mans. When he started to grow a sparse beard, the girls his own age thought it quite amusing. I wasn't amused. I thought it was very manly.
"I always convinced myself that he treated me in a special way, although I understand now that he was just being kind and polite to me, as he was towards all of the smaller children. I would dress for church in a way that I imagined would meet David's approval, that would catch his eye.
"When I overheard some older girls saying that men were attracted by women who were shy and demure, for awhile I would lower my eyes and not say a word when he was close by," Mother laughed at that. "I was about nine-years-old at the time. It was completely silly of me, because the reality was, David was hardly aware that I existed. I was just another of the children in the neighborhood, not one of his contemporaries.
.... There is more of this story ...