It’s dark. Not the clear, silky dark of midnight, but the fuzzy, bluish dark of the beginnings of dawn, when the world still out of focus and the light is pale blue through the window. It’s still at least an hour before dawn, but it’s time to get up. Even though I was reading Nancy Drew under the covers until 10:30, it’s definitely time to get up.
Grandma and Grandpa’s house is so quiet. I love the deliciously grown-up feeling of wandering through the house at this time of the morning, ready to take on the day before it even arrives. I can hear the crickets outside, the creak of the settling attic fan, and the muffled voice of the morning newscaster coming from the office. Grandpa is already up, as usual.
I creep into the doorway and stand running my finger along the door latch, shy of running in and disrupting his morning routine. He’s dressed for work already, in worn-out overalls and a shirt with the sleeves cut off. I’ve always thought that, for a grandpa, he’s awful strong. I like it when I get bear-hugs from him.
It looks like the news is just about over. Soon he’ll be headed off to the fields for the day, hopefully with a promise to come back and let me ride with him in the combine for a few hours. A little giggle escapes at the idea, even though I promised myself to be very, very quiet.
“G’morning, Punkin,” Grandpa says, turning a little in his chair. Punkin is my special name on the farm. My sister is Puddle-Jumper because she always hops over the puddles when it rains, instead of splashing through like my cousin and I do. I’m Punkin… well, because I’m the youngest of the cousins, and my grandpa thinks it’s cute.
I run over and clamber into his lap, almost tripping over the XL t-shirt I use to sleep in. Grandma will be out of the shower soon and making breakfast, but this is just our time. I hold my breath, waiting for the magic words…
“Want a four-wheeler ride before breakfast?”
The air outside is still cold at this time of the morning, so I borrow a too-large jacket from Grandma when I come to the kitchen after changing. It’s one of Grandpa’s, and it comes to my knees, but I like it. It smells like dirt and sunshine and the wheat Grandpa and my uncle have been harvesting all week. Grandma closes a few of the snaps, leaving the bottom few open so I can still walk, and asks if I want oatmeal when I get back. Bleh, but somehow even oatmeal tastes better at Grandma’s.
“With brown sugar and milk,” I state my conditions, shivering a little in excitement when she nods. I know I’ll be hungry by the time we get back.
Grandpa boosts me up onto the green four-wheeler and gets me all situated in front of him before he turns it on. This morning, he even lets me hold the red switch to start up the engine while he gives it some gas to wake it up. I’ll be able to drive it myself next year, Grandpa told me so, but today I’m happy just letting him.
He backs up slowly to turn around, and then we’re off, practically flying down their hill toward the fields. Dena, their dog, comes from the side of the house at a dead run, intent on catching up with us. Grandpa encourages her along, calling out, “Come on, Dena. Come up, Dena.” To me, it sounds more like, “Hummuh, Dena, hummup,” but I finally figured it out.
We’re heading up to the far pond, the one where the good fishing is. It’s past several hills, over Stranger Creek, and back behind the old farmhouse. I almost got hit by several nasty bugs, but no guts on the coat yet, and Grandpa doesn’t seem to mind the little creatures. Sometimes I think I could never be a farmer like him just because of that.
From the top of the hill nearest the pond, we can see the fields stretch on for miles as the sun just starts to come up. Dena comes panting up to greet us, rearing up for a head pat from me. I lean back against Grandpa and watch the orange start to take over the sky and take away the fuzziness of the light.
“I love you.”
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