Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Running Away

Me with my 2 grandmothers and my cousins Dorothy and Janet five years later.

When I was thirteen my parents helped me to run away from home.  Being the sensitive child that I was, and living in a trailer with 2 brothers, and a sister plus my parents, and my mother to give birth at any time—I just couldn’t take it anymore.  I had been the family helper since I was 8 years old.  I was burned out at thirteen.  So with one mighty leap I was shipped off to my relatives in Wisconsin to catch a ride with them to Spokane, Washington and my grandparent’s farm.  (Riding the greyhound from Washington D.C. and changing to another bus in Chicago by myself was a miracle in itself.)

I was deposited at the farm and my vacation began.  Grandma Edson was a small woman.  She could walk beneath the low branches of her apple trees and barely tap her head.  Her hair was as white as the house she lived in, and her eyes blue bell blue, like the wildflowers sprinkled over the fields around her fifteen-acre wheat farm in eastern Washington.  She could eat a piece of toast with her coffee at breakfast and smack her lips to convey to us her enjoyment.  When she did that I wanted a piece of toast too.  (I drink coffee to this day and I blame her.)

  The covered well was just down the hill from the house and down the hill from the covered well was the acre garden.  Grandma, along with my grandfather, Uncle Beanie, and Aunty, gathered up corn, beets, carrots, and maybe some tomatoes, peas, or green beans every day from the acre truck farm, for our dinner. Grandma was an organic farmer before it was popular.  She’d plant marigolds around the garden to keep bugs away.  She’d spear stakes into the ground and place empty tin cans upside down on each one.  Early in the morning, she would take a boiling teakettle of water out, take the cans off one at a time, and pour boiling water on the unsuspecting earwigs underneath.

Grandma’s soft skin wrinkled early and she had developed a hump on her back, which was always there as long back as I could remember.  She wore round steel rim glasses.  On town days, she would don her blue dress and blue hat.  Her purse was large and black and she would always hang on to it as if she might misplace it if she put it down. 
On days when we would drive into Spokane for a picnic with other relatives, or shopping, we drove west into the sun on the way back home to the farm each evening.   From the back seat, we would hear Grandma sing in her mellow, comforting voice,

“See, the sun is sinking in the golden west.
Birds and bees and children, all have gone to rest,
And the merry streamlet, as it runs along,
With a voice of sweetness
Sings its evening song.

Cowslips, daises, violets hang their tiny heads,
All among the grasses, flowers are in their beds.
Mothers of little children, as the stars go by,
Hush them by gently singing this little lullaby.”           

 Grandma wasn’t afraid to tell me good things about myself.  She told me that I was pretty and she appreciated my politeness.  My mother tried to tell me nice things about myself but she was so busy with the other kids she didn’t always have time to think.  So Grandma was the first person that really noticed me-- other than my Aunt Ruth, (my mom’s younger sister,) who helped me put on a “show” for the wire tape recorder when I was just five.  Also, my Aunt Jeanne, (my dad’s older brother’s wife,) said that when I was playing with the cousins and the kids in her neighborhood I, one time, stood and said over and over, “I wished I could throw a rock!”  Apparently the kids in the neighborhood were driving me crazy.  She said that my cousin, Janet, younger than me, would have thrown a rock!

When my cousin, Dorothy, two months younger than me, arrived at the farm with her mom and brother, (from Fairbanks, Alaska,) we would walk along the hot dry dusty farm road the wind gently blowing the threads on my unhemmed cut off jeans.  Dorothy, as usual, had on smart shorts, which coordinated, with her matching top.  Our tanned legs and feet caused puffs of dirt to float toward Grandma’s house, which by that time of year was surrounded by stubble wheat fields. 

Uncle Beanie would escort us down the hill to sit on the bench he had built and wait for the mailman to deliver the mail to all of the boxes arranged on the old wagon wheel.  Uncle Beanie would write a message on the backs of the letters that Grandma had written to my folks. When the mailman drove up in his car he would spin the wheel and put the mail in each box.

Now that was my idea of a vacation!  Rejuvenated and appreciating my family again, I went home.  My folks bought a house.  I had a room of my own while my little brothers slept in my parent’s room or the laundry room.  I didn’t run away again until I went to college!

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