It’s Monday and the calm before the storm–Thanksgiving dinner will be here. I’m not looking forward to it, but that’s another post, perhaps, for another day, my rant about the holidays and how they are anything but holy days.
I’ve been thinking about all the fuss and expense and noise of the holidays (this is not my rant, I promise) and when I came across this blog earlier today, and this post in particular, well, it took me back to a simpler time.
When I was a kid my brothers and I were packed off to the farm about once a summer to spend a few days with our grandparents. My granddad was a stern guy–not unkind, but he had rules about how kids ought to be and we knew we’d better pay attention. I don’t recall him ever having to do more than give one or more of us the stink eye to get us back in line, but there was always an exciting hint of danger with him.
Grandma was an even more formidable figure. Standing all of five feet tall in her apron and sensible shoes, she ruled the farm with a strong and certain hand. I suppose raising six kids of her own during hard times made her what she was–no nonsense, eat what’s in front of you, no lollygagging, and no whining, either. Do as you’re told and you’ll get along just fine.
All that sounds pretty grim, but it wasn’t. Grandma was a great believer in getting the kids out of the house and out from under foot, so we spent a lot of time exploring the 800 or so acres of the farm. If I somehow escaped notice and could hide away upstairs to read, there was the great old iron bedstead in “my” room to sprawl on and a mysterious and forbidden trunk full of keepsakes underneath that gave me a naughty thrill to search through.
More often than not, though, Grandma shooed me out the door. Less intrepid than my brothers in those days, I usually confined myself to within hollering distance of the house, but there was still plenty to keep a kid occupied.
Along with an assortment of outbuildings, the barn was a great draw, with its shadowy depths and the smells of hay and cows filling it. It’s where Tammy, the farm dog, lived, in an old barrel filled with soft hay, and where tasty oats–“little bananas,” as we called them–filled bins around the walls and pigeons cooed in the haymow. There was a tiny shed just north of the house full of discarded household items, the coolest by far being the old timey telephone that hung on one wall.
But my favorite place was Grandma’s chicken coop.
To my child’s mind, it was the BEST. PLACE. EVER. The sound of contented biddies clucking to themselves could be heard, with occasional spats and scolding, from outside. Inside, nesting boxes stood in the center and lined the walls. Warm eggs lay waiting to be plucked from under the soft bodies, and somehow Grandma knew which hens would tolerate small inept hands and which ones needed the touch of the expert. There was a sense of peace and content in that place, and I think that’s what drew me, again and again, to it. I wanted to live in that old coop, minus the chickens and the, um, evidence of them.
I could see it so clearly, with the old iron bedstead over there, and the ancient library table there, and a comfy chair and lamp placed just so. Chintz curtains would cover the windows and there’d be a colorful rag rug to warm the floor. The nesting boxes would hold my books and other things, and I could have a woodstove for heat and to cook on, and it would be my perfect dream come true. Simple. Homey. Peaceful.
Funny how some dreams never die. The chicken coop is long gone now, the victim of age and weather and no one to love it, but still, whenever I see some derelict old place like this
I think of that old chicken coop and say to myself, “all it really needs is some love.”
Isn’t that all anyone really needs?