The faint click of tiny nails, the rapid patter of small feet, woke me up. It was probably the middle of the night, though with no bedside clock there was no way to know. I recognized the sound, a field mouse most likely, running in the attic over my head. The sound no longer scared me, in fact it was kind of comforting since I heard it most every night.
It reaffirmed I was in a favorite place for our family vacation: my grandparents' summer place, a rural farmhouse, out buildings, and 36 acres of fields and trees north of Pittsburgh, a few miles from the small town of Butler. Hearing nothing more, both the mouse and I relaxed back to sleep.
My dad would work the day before we left on our annual trip, then drive all night to arrive the next morning in this magical place. While mom sat next to him during the long, dark, drive to keep him awake, the three boys were in the "back-back," the rear of the station wagon, sleeping on blankets and pillows. An occasional stop at a gas station somewhere on the Pennsylvania turnpike might wake us up for a few minutes, but mostly we slept as dad drove so we could arrive by early morning.
Each day of vacation began the same way: coffee for the adults was made on a large, blue-speckled, enameled pot, on a fireplace a dozen yards from the place where we slept. Granddad made it the old fashioned way: grounds dumped into boiling water to produce a powerful, hot sludge. Bacon was cooked over the same stove, as Gran and my mom cooked eggs on the large, propane stove in the huge country kitchen.
During the day, the adults sat on chairs under a huge tree, talking and dozing. The three boys and my uncle explored the woods, cutting paths through all those acres of empty land, and finding plenty to stay busy all day.Nights were spent around the wood-burning pot bellied stove, kerosene lanterns providing enough light for board games and reading. Bedtime was determined by when the sun set, and wake up time when the sun rose.
|4th of July saluting the flag with mom|
What it lacked in conveniences was more than compensated by the feelings of freedom and exploration. With no electricity, heat, running water, or inside toilet, the Farm was worlds away from our suburban home 300 miles back down the road in suburban Philadelphia.
One of the reasons Betty and I bought a small cabin in the woods two hours north of Phoenix while our daughters were young, was to recreate that special feeling that I felt at The Farm. When the girls became teenagers, it was time to sell the property. But, the memories they have of our time together in that small home in the woods will last forever.
I hope that you had some place or something that you did when you were young that still brings back positive emotions and feelings like the Farm does for me. I can still smell that bacon......