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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: Grandparent(s) (04/03/08)

TITLE: "Over Across the Street"
By c clemons


“Over across the street”, that’s how we always said it. When asked, “Where’re you going?” Or “where have you been?” The answer was “over across the street.” Over across the street was where my grandparents lived. Her first name was Louise and his was Gabriel. But we called them Mama Simmons and Daddy Gabel. You would think this was an idyllic situation; grandparents in so close proximity. This was only half true. Mama Simmons was my grandfather’s third wife. A bit of a rolling stone was he. But to his credit as far as anyone knows, he fathered all his children by his first wife.

Daddy Gabel was a standoffish sort. Or maybe by the time I came along children might have tended to get on his nerves. I remember he smoked cigars and shuffled around on a cane. I never really saw the father and son bond between him and my Dad, although Dad was his spitting image. Maybe him leaving his first family and the wounds that that caused may have had something to do with it. He tolerated us but never gave us a loving touch or a word of encouragement. He did seem to like his step-grandchildren though. I am not sure why, maybe it was because they were in his house from the beginning.

My grandfather loved his garden and he would plow it with an old plow that he had to push real hard in order to turn the earth. Daddy Gabel really loved growing things. It was virtually a fruit tree orchard across the street. There were apple, pear, peach, plum and cherry trees. It’s funny how he knew everything about the care and nurture of those trees, but very little about nurturing relationships. I also remember several hills, perfect for taking turns getting inside a barrel or old tire and rolling down them. We played all types of tumbling games on those hills. There was a field right behind their property line that held treasures galore. Each summer it was guaranteed that someone would have a biology class and the neighborhood kids would go on safari. We would catch bugs of every six-legged variety. And would scatter like flies after turning over logs that revealed humongous snake nests. Butterflies and fireflies were at a premium over across the street. For adventure, there was a tunnel down in the basement that was spooky as all get out to a kid of six. Daddy Gabel kept his tools and old rusty junk in there. Only the very brave choose a hiding place in there for hide and seek.

As standoffish as Daddy Gabel was, Mama Simmons was the opposite. She enjoyed kids and people in general. She was quite the looker; some say she was part Indian, part black and part white, although mostly white. Only everyone knows ‘mostly’ doesn’t count. She was sweet as sweet can be. She called everyone “Ma” or “Pa” regardless of your age. So if you were six or sixty you were still “Pa Harry” or “Ma Shelly.” She had one son from a previous marriage and it was his two children that Daddy Gabel doted on. But Mama Simmons seemed to genuinely care about all the grandchildren whether step or not. She had patience and grace and if there was anybody that truly embodied the phrase “not a mean bone in her body,” it was she. Mama Simmons always had a kind word for everyone. Even when prompted to gossip she would always find something nice and positive to say about a person even if they were deserving of the negative.

Mama Simmons never preached at anyone but she did have a deep abiding faith. I remember when one of the “young uns”, as she called us, really got off the path. Mama Simmons said that she believed that her prayer would someday be answered and he would come back into the fold. She went home to be with the Lord, but never faltered from that belief. Well, that “young un”, today wears the collar and is an Elder in his church.

It’s true I never sat at my grandfather’s knee, or followed him around soaking up words of wisdom, yet I’m thankful to Gabriel Simmons for a couple of things. For marrying Louise Jester, (who provided me with a grandmother’s love and true example of what kindness is), and giving me the best summers ever, climbing trees and rolling down hills “over across the street.”

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Member Comments
Member Date
Marilyn Schnepp 04/12/08
An entertaining and delightful story of "Over across the street"...and I thoroughly enjoyed the trip.
Joshua Janoski04/13/08
It's wonderful how even though your grandfather didn't show much love or kindness, your step-grandmother compensated. I enjoyed your style of writing. Very real and personable. I felt as if you were sitting across from me telling the story directly to me.

I look forward to seeing more of your entries in the weeks to come. :)
Patty Wysong04/14/08
I felt like I was sitting over a cup of coffee with you--very comfortable and personable.