By Barbara Dover
When I was about 9 or 10, summer vacation for many kids my age was a time for sleeping in, reading “Millie the Model” comic books, going to the public swimming pool, and hanging out with friends. My summers were a little different from those kids’, but still memorable in many ways.
My grandparents on my Mama’s side had huge bean and corn fields in Ellijay, Georgia, and “employed” their grandkids to help pick the beans to take to the Macon Farmers’ Market. Our payment was a farm-to-table dinner, way before farm-to-table was a thing, and swimming in Mountaintown Creek. On the days when we weren’t farm workers, my sisters and I would beg to go to Grandma Effie’s right after we woke up.
Grandma Effie, our Daddy’s Mama, lived in a brick house just down the wooded hill from us and as our visit didn’t require transportation, we often were granted permission. We usually timed our visit for Saturday mornings, and after Mama had called her on the party line to ask if we could come, we made our way down the hill. We had to cross a spring to get there, so even though it wasn’t exactly “over the river and through the woods to Grandmother’s house we go,” there were water and woods involved. But we were on foot, not in a sleigh with horses. The spring was at the bottom of the hill and crossing it could sometimes get a little tricky. Sometimes there was a fallen log reaching from one side to the other, and we’d gingerly make our way across the log, hoping that any moss that might be attached wasn’t too wet to provide traction. When there had been a big rain and more water than usual was rushing by, we might walk upstream where the distance across was such that we could jump.
For some reason, we never asked Daddy to build a little bridge across the spring joining our property on one side to Grandma’s property on the other side. Maybe we enjoyed the challenge of finding our own way across the water?
There was a small wood-frame rental house behind Grandma’s house and we usually just walked up the shared driveway, but sometimes we’d traipse through the rental house’s yard, cross another spring, and walk through Grandma’s garden behind her house. She usually had a few rows with corn, beans, okra, tomatoes, squash, and potatoes, but the thing I most remember when we’d take the scenic route were the morning glories spread out between the garden and the spring, their purple flowers unfurled with dew drops inside. When we got to Grandma’s Effie’s, we went directly to the living room where she was usually sitting down having breakfast. We only used her dining room for big family get-togethers like Thanksgiving or Christmas. She would ask us if we had eaten. Whether we had or not, we told her we would enjoy having breakfast with her. (Not in those exact words; we were country kids, remember?)
She would pour us some coffee in real coffee cups, mix in an equal part milk, and let us add sugar to our liking. She would also make us toast in her oven using white bread, baking until it was crisp and golden. We would slather it with butter, sometimes top with homemade jam if she had an open jar, and sit down in front of the television with our breakfast to begin Saturday morning’s hours of cartoons. The sweet deliciousness of the warm latte and the crunchy goodness of the toast with creamy butter was our leisurely gourmet brunch eaten to the enchanting entertainment of Scooby-Doo and Bugs Bunny.
While we watched TV and ate and sipped, Grandma sat in her green chair drawing house plans or dress designs on pieces of paper grocery bags. We often ran out of food and cartoons at about the same time, and before we could finish our fortresses built from the collection of wooden thread spools that Grandma kept in a cardboard box on the third stair of the staircase, the phone would ring and we could hear Mama telling Grandma that we needed to come home. Slowly, we’d put the spools away, tell Grandma Effie, “Bye,” and take our walk, crossing the spring and climbing the hill.