When I was a little girl, we used to take trips to my grandfather’s house in the beautiful, rolling hills of Tennessee. I remember the waves of excitement as I waited impatiently for my mother to announce that his house was just ahead. Leaning up in my seat, with my face touching the glass of the window beside me, I would clap in celebration as his house got closer and closer.
When my mother pulled into the driveway and the car finally stopped, I would unhook my seat belt and get out of the car as quickly as I could. Leaving my mother behind, I would run down the cobblestone sidewalk in front of my grandfather’s house and up the steps of his wraparound porch. The front door would open before I had the chance to knock and I would jump into the arms of my waiting grandfather.
I remember the gentle smell of pipe tobacco and peppermint that would rush my senses as I threw my arms around his neck and pressed my face into his strong shoulder. As a child, there was nothing more pleasurable than jumping into the arms of my grandfather. The love and protection of his embrace made me feel like the most fortunate granddaughter in the world.
Once my mother had said hello and had left my weekend bag full of clothes and various toiletries, she would hug and kiss me goodbye; then the adventures would begin. My grandfather would take my small hand into his strong grip and we would set out across the field that lay between the farmhouse and the barn. As we walked the distance, I remember feeling the calluses of my grandfather’s hand brush over my soft hand. As he chattered with me about silly little things, I remember thinking how awesome he was. I would look up at his face as he spoke to me. His eyes squinted at the light of the setting sun that faced us and his cheeks creased into a smile.
When we reached the barn, and its dark shadow fell upon us, I remember standing back in excitement as my grandfather pulled the huge door of the barn open. Though the contents of the barn were always the same, my excitement never lessened. Once the door was opened, I would run straight to the large green tractor. My grandfather would laugh as he picked me up and placed me on the seat of the tractor that was at least two times too big for me, and then he would pull himself up with a grunt. Placing me in his lap, he would turn on the engine of the old tractor and carefully back it out of the barn.
Once we were out in the open, he would let me drive through the fields. I remember laughing at the rabbits and other small creatures that would flee in terror as the tall grass was laid flat by the tractor’s massive tires. For what seemed like hours, we would cruise the fields of the farm in the sunset. By the time that it had gotten dark, a good portion of my grandfather’s field had been flattened by the tires of the big tractor.
After the tractor had been parked with care in the barn, my grandfather and I would sip iced tea on the front porch steps of the farmhouse and listen to the chirps of the crickets as they spoke to one another. While nursing my cup of tea, I would gaze up at the stars in the night sky and sit with content as a gentle breeze played with my hair.
When the mosquitoes would start to bite, my grandfather and I would retreat into the house with his promise of a snack and a movie. It wouldn’t be long and the both of us would be on the couch with Oatmeal Creme Pies and refilled cups of iced tea, watching Black Beauty.
My gaze sweeps upon the faded farm house and I draw in a sharp breath so I won’t cry. Today I am visiting my grandfather’s house for the first time since he passed away. I am now twenty-four years old, not a child any longer, but the memories that this place holds is tugging at every corner of my heart, making me feel like a child again.
I take a deep breath and walk up the porch steps, brushing my hand along the stair rail that has been rubbed smooth by years of use. As I reach for the door knob of my grandfather’s house, I am still in awe that he left it here for me. This is my house now. I walk through the door and step inside. The house smells like peppermint, just like it always has. I close my eyes and take a deep breath, smiling. I can still see my grandfather’s face and I can still feel his embrace.
I open my eyes again and look around; realizing quickly that the farmhouse needs to be cleaned. I place my purse on the floor and walk into the kitchen to retrieve any cleaning supplies that might be in the cupboards of the house. I clean the floors, the windows, the furniture, the bedrooms, and the bathrooms. After that, I walk into the kitchen and clean all of the expired food out of the refrigerator. As soon as I finish wiping down the old refrigerator, I go to the pantry with a trash bag in hand, prepared to throw away all of its continents. I open the pantry door and peer inside. Immediately, the defenses I have built up towards the grief in my heart fall. Reaching into the pantry, I pick up the box that rests on the pantry shelf and sit on the kitchen floor. Clutching the box to my chest, I smile as tears stream down my face: Oatmeal Creme Pies.