It was 1974 and I was six years old. My Grandma and Grandpa Armstrong lived in the very small town of Breckenridge Texas, and my mother and I and sometimes my dad, would go every other weekend for a visit. I remember the house well...it was just a simple, gray house with a squeaky screen door at the back. The highlight of my visit was the "Grandma Cake". It was a simple chocolate sheet cake with vanilla butter cream frosting, but because my Grandma knew how much I liked it, and because she took the trouble to have it waiting for me on her cabinet just inside the back door in the familiar silver pan with a copper cover, it was extra special. The cake, combined with a hug could always be counted on. I loved hugging my Grandma; her hugs were soft and she smelled of baby powder.
Out back of my grandparents' house and a short walk to the left, was a big field where Grandpa planted vegetables in summertime. As well as vegetables, there was a small grove of peach trees that always bore plenty of peaches in the summer. On the odd weekends during the summer on our visits, we took brown paper sacks and would go down to the peach trees and fill up the sacks. I loved to help, despite grasshoppers buzzing around and pinging against my legs now and then. Inevitably, I would always wind up sitting down to have a peach. I can still smell the sweet, rosy smell as I ate it; licking the juice off my chin and wrists as I ate. I can still see my grandmother in her checked, cotton dress, and my grandfather in his blue Oshkosh overalls and gray felt hat, bending to pick the peaches that would taste the best in the jam my mother and grandmother would make later on that day.
In a world full of suffering and unhappy people in unhappy situations, I now look back on my childhood with a deep and great appreciation. Even though it wasn't important to me then, I can pick these memories off the shelf of my mind at times when I need them the most. They are memories that I enjoy sharing with my son. One day, it is my prayer that my own son will have a wealth of joys of memory to comfort him to look back on. We go to the beach and dig in the sand, we find fun parks to play in, we go on short vacations to the mountains and build campfires to cook hot dogs on, but underlying all the obvious memories he will have of our own home and where he will grow up, I hope that he will one day cherish and pass on memories of another time and another place and other summers his mother spent in a small Texas town.
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