My dad’s constant journeys as a youth left him with little enthusiasm for travel once he settled down. That, combined with the responsibilities of supporting a wife and eight children, left little opportunity for vacations or pleasure trips. So, we didn’t leave home much.
I do, however, have vivid memories of our once a year 5 hour drive across state to see my aging grandmother and Aunt Birdie, mom’s eldest sister.
Dad would confuse the cow by milking in the wee morning hours. While he cleaned up, mom roused us from our bed and piled us half asleep into the car.
We drove into the dawn and cracked it somewhere high in the Cascade Mountains.
The distinct odor of burned toast greeted our arrival. Grandma Grace liked it charred. I don’t know how she chewed it – her dentures fit poorly. That’s why I thought she was gritting her teeth when she talked. And, at that time in her life she talked incessantly - to no one in particular. I still picture her wrapped in a blue apron, fingering an embroidered handkerchief. She chatted away in the front room of my Aunt Birdie’s house, blissfully unaware that her new audience was not listening.
Aunt Birdie was closer in age to grandma than to my mom. She and grandma wore high top lace up leather shoes with a solid high heel that made them both seem much taller. The heavy heels also gave them the appearance of stomping around the house. They would balance precariously around the little Boston Terrier, Jackie, that was forever figure-eighting his way between the two women’s legs.
If Aunt Birdie wasn’t hollering at the dog, her nasal voice was resonating instructions at the other inhabitants of the house. Usually, she was trying to get the attention of one of her three grandchildren whom she was raising. Not that she was really “yelling.” She seemed unable to produce any volume – so her tone sounded agitated and frustrated when no one heeded her calls.
Although her husband Sam was nearly deaf, Birdie directed him on matters and he would grunt responses. He was a massive old fellow with a generous measure of wavy white hair. I was fascinated by his ability to lift his huge bulk and walk noiselessly through the kitchen without every moving his head. She continued chirping at him even as his form disappeared behind the closing screen door.
I didn’t understand her extensive “duties” until I was much older. She took care of my grandma, her adult daughter, three grandchildren, an ill husband, and a small trailer park. I don’t remember ever hearing her utter a word of complaint.
Our visit would end quickly.
Dad was anxious too soon about his animals at home and mom became uneasy about dad. So, we hit the road in mid afternoon and headed west.
We’d arrive home late, dad would milk once more, and I would go to bed thinking we’d had a grand adventure.