This photo of Aunt Flossie with her great-niece and nephews was taken many years later.

Visiting My Grandmother: Part Three

My Aunt Flossie, who lived with my grandmother, loved animals and kept an assortment of them at this small country farm. My grandmother tended her chickens, but Aunt Flossie always had a dog, several cows, sometimes a spring calf, and later a horse and a pony. She also had a spring lamb.

We had a larger farm property but we kept no animals. Therefore, going to my grandmother’s house was very exciting for me. As soon as I found out she had a new-born lamb, I would hurry through the woods to feed the lamb a bottle of milk. This would only last a little while before the lamb went out to pasture and didn’t need a bottle any more.

Aunt Flossie had a turkey for a few years. During this time I would be given a turkey egg on a rare occasion, as sharing with other relatives was only fair. My mother would fry up this egg and it filled a plate.

Occasionally my aunt made homemade ice cream as a treat, but it took a lot of cranking on the wooden tub before it was ready. Sometimes I would make butter with Aunt Flossie. Sometimes we would pick berries to can or make jam. She made wonderful pickles.

Aunt Flossie worked as a weaver in a woolen mill for many years. She had a car for transportation but often chose to walk to and from work, which was several miles. For all the hard physical work she did she was still a beautiful, graceful woman.

She wore her long hair up in a bun, had a fair complexion, and sparkling blue eyes. She usually wore jeans and a shirt made by my grandmother who was a great seamstress. It was a rare occasion that Aunt Flossie went shopping, but with my mother’s coaxing and assistance she would be the most stunning person at the fancy event such as a wedding.

Flossie was an early riser and was always doing something from morning to night. In early spring she tapped maple trees for sap and boiled the sap on the kitchen stove for maple syrup. She canned a number of quarts each year.

She was a good cook and I liked to eat over at her place. Aunt Flossie took care of me when my parents went away on business trips—it was always a treat to stay overnight or for a few days.  She was loving and kind and helped many people in the community.

She lived to be 96 and took ownership of the farm when my grandmother passed away. My adventures with Aunt Flossie were different than my life at home and so I treasured those special memories.

As a little girl, Madelyn enjoyed visiting her grandmother.

Visiting My Grandmother: Part Two

I loved being at my grandmother’s house. It was such a cheerful place. As soon as I opened the kitchen door, I felt that there was no other place I could want to be. Just a foot or two from the kitchen door was the white wood-burning stove, spotlessly clean and always hot–very hot–not to be touched by your bare hands. There was a rocking chair near the window facing onto the porch door. On the other side of the room was another rocking chair, and here I hoped to see my grandmother, sitting looking off towards the fields on the other side of the house.

If my grandmother was not in the kitchen I would go look for her. Sometimes she would be sewing on her Singer hand-pedaled sewing machine.  Other times she would be cleaning around the house or taking a nap in a small room off the kitchen. Whether she was working or napping, I would have to tap her on her shoulder to let her know I was there. You see she was deaf.  Almost instantly her eyes would light up and a smile would come across her face. I would give her a big hug and a kiss on the cheek. I would have to be careful not to squeeze her, as her hearing aid was wired, and it would screech if there was interference. Then we would head for the kitchen, where I would go to the cupboard and find the large coffee can with homemade cookies: molasses, old-fashioned sugar, or date-filled. There would be milk in the refrigerator.

We would sit and talk awhile. I always faced her, talked slowly, and enunciated each word carefully. My grandmother was a smart lady who always seemed young and everyone loved her. She had a sense of humor and was as keen as a whip is fast. She was industrious and never complained; my grandmother lived to be 98 and was cooking and caring for her home until the last year of her life.

After I had my snack I would get ready to head home. My grandmother always had something to send along with me: a quart of milk, a few eggs, or a pound of butter. Going home wasn’t a problem except for the cattle gate, where I would set down my load of food and push it under the gate. Then I would climb up the wobbly poles, sit on the top, swing over, drop on to the other side, step down, and jump off before retrieving my load.

As I returned home, I would listen to the sounds of nature and sometimes sing along the way. Upon entering the shed, I would stamp my feet to remove the snow or mud. Then I would enter our kitchen, greet my mother, and tell her all that had happened on my trip to my grandmother’s house. I was never afraid and was delighted to occasionally see birds, rabbits, or a deer. Visiting my grandmother was always worth the trip.

-July 22, 2014

As a child, Madelyn Given often enjoyed walking to her grandmother's house.

Visiting My Grandmother: Part One

My grandmother owned a small farm in New England, originally settled by her grandparents many years before. It sat up on a hill, with views of distant mountains, in a lovely country setting. The house was situated on a dirt road about a tenth of a mile from a main highway. My parents’ property bordered the dirt road abutting my grandmother’s property and our long driveway met the main highway. Due to the danger of speeding traffic, I was never allowed to walk along this highway, but I could walk through the woods to visit my grandmother.

I can’t remember when I first got permission to go–perhaps age 5 or 6–but I never went with an adult and no one had walked with me prior to my first solo walk. I decided I wanted to do it. Once I started, I continued to go on a regular basis several times a week in the fall, winter, and spring, but rarely in the summer as I spent summers away helping with my parents’ business.

I can vividly remember how I would set out from home and unlock the back shed door which opened to a fruit orchard. Often a gust of wind would swing it open, slamming it against the wall of the building. I would grab it with my tiny little hands and push my whole body against the door to close it and fasten the lock. From there I walked through our old orchard with its pear, cherry, and apple trees. I climbed over the stone wall, under a barbwire fence, and then I was in the woods.

The woods were dense with a mix of red cedars and evergreen trees. The only direction my dad gave me was to go straight to the big pine tree and then keep going until I met up with the cow path. This I did, sometimes stopping for a minute or two under the wide branches of the white pine tree, then heading straight until I met up with the trail. Then I walked along this cow path, which was eight or ten inches deep in places; it had been firmly packed down by the cows on their way to the watering hole, a small man-made pond.  Sometimes I would hear the cows coming, as one always had a cow bell on a collar around her neck. I would step aside between the trees and let them pass.

On I hurried until I came to the cattle gate which separated the two properties. It was an old-fashioned gate, with cedar poles twelve to fourteen feet long going across, stacked as high as eight feet tall. The cross posts held up the rails and the whole gate leaned over, making the climb up treacherous, especially if wet. It was like climbing a wall overhanging towards you. The rails were loose fitting and would turn when I put my weight on them; I used my arms and legs to scramble over the top, then gingerly turned around and climbed down the other side.

From here I could see my grandmother’s house and barn. I walked though a field, where sometimes I was greeted by another cow or two. This field was fenced in, and there was a gate to unlock, so I always checked to make sure I locked it behind me before going on, as the cows were watching me with a keen interest. Then I checked the vegetable garden as I walked around the clothesline to the well curb in the dooryard. I could hear the chickens clucking from a distance and they would scatter as I crossed the yard.

If I had hurried and was thirsty I would stop at the well, pumping the handle a few times until the water came out of the head. I would take the metal cup, rinse it with the cold water, fill the cup, and drink–oh so cold and fresh! I would sprint across the driveway, up the steps, push open the screen door on the porch, and hurry into the kitchen. I was at my grandmother’s house.

-July 15, 2014