As stated in my profile, I’m an Oilfield Brat so I’ve been to a lot of West Texas “places” that don’t exist any more because they were “camps” where oil company employees lived and worked at the gasoline plants dotted across the West Texas landscape. I enjoyed the best of both worlds growing up- 2 sets of grandparents, both with farms, and finally, city life when I was in the 8th grade. I once wrote a letter to my grandmother after my grandad died telling her that I considered myself to be so lucky to have the life I had growing up and thanking her for the best childhood any kid could ever wish for. She said that was the nicest thing anyone had ever said to her. I have that letter back in my possession now and I treasure it.
When I was a little girl, my brother and I spent a lot of time at the grandparents – weekends, holidays, summer vacations, and whenever my parents needed a break from us. Since my grandparents thought the two of us together were too much to handle, we were often split up – one stayed in town with my mom’s parents, one stayed in the country with my dad’s parents. On Sunday, after a week, the grandparents would meet at church and switch kids. That’s the truth, really. I guess we kept this up most of our “growing” years until we both thought we were getting too old to go all the time; I mean after all, teenagers do have a life, you know.
First a “visual” of my grandparent’s house (my dad’s parents). It was way out in the country on an old red dirt/gravel road between Lake Cisco and Breckenridge. You had to go over the Lake Cisco dam to get there. It was an old, rambling house, set up on some kind of foundation, probably wood – with large sandstone rocks all around the crawl space. An entire family of cats lived under there. I actually counted 100 at one time! The entire backside of the house was a huge screened-in porch in an “L” shape and it had these big canvas drop down shades across all the screened area. A small back porch had a cistern on it and all drinking water came from it (it was the only drinkable water to be had since it came from an underground spring).
From the screened porch you could go into a big family dining room one way, or into a small living room another way. Off the dining room was the kitchen on one end, and on the other, a small hallway leading to a front bedroom and/or back into the living room. Off the living room was another small bedroom. The living room also had a front door that opened to a small covered porch that had a twin size roll-away bed on it. My granny always planted morning glories out there every spring and would wrap them around twine to go up the front of the porch and provide a little shade.
There was no carpet on the floor, just linoleum, no running water except what came into the kitchen pumped via the windmill at the pond, no bathroom or indoor toilet, and no a/c. My brother and I loved going out there and would often fight over who got to go there and who had to stay in town. We had such freedom and good times out there. If my mother had known some of the things we did we would have never been allowed to go back.
I have so many memories from times spent at the grandparents it’s hard to pick just one. This particular time I remember was the night of the Presidential Election between Nixon and Kennedy (1960). My grandparents were especially interested because they had been big Adlai Stevenson supporters (who lost twice to Eisenhower) and were really pulling for JFK. We had watched election returns till I was sick of it, yet at the time it was fascinating because history was being made. At bedtime, my granny didn’t want to turn the TV off, so we laid in the bed watching it thru the living room doorway (my granny slept in the bedroom off the living room while my grandaddy slept in the front bedroom-he snored LOUD .. but that’s another story). I remember watching thru the speeches (in my young mind, they went on and on, ranting and raving about everything under the sun most of which was way over my head) and finally, the big balloon release when Kennedy won and his beautiful wife and family were all around him and all the hoopla that went along with it and in a way it was exciting to watch. Sadly, a few years later I would also be watching the TV in the school lunchroom when it was announced that President Kennedy was shot while in a motorcade in Dallas. So I guess you can say I saw the beginning and the end of a Presidency.
After the TV was turned off, I had a hard time falling asleep. The windows were open all the way up (it was November but not cold yet, just a little cool) and you could hear frogs from the pond and crickets chirping and owls hooting, granddaddy’s old German Sheppard barking and all kinds of other night sounds and I was scared. So much of the election talk had centered around the Cold War and Russia and nuclear weapons, and other things that I didn’t understand. I lay there thinking Jesus was coming that very minute and I wasn’t ready. My granny tried to comfort me by telling me Jesus loved us and would never let any harm befall us, which made me feel a little bit better. To this day I will never forget spending the time with my granny, the sounds of that night, the stillness outside, the noises, memories of the election and the excitement and most of all my granny’s arms around me, holding me and keeping me safe.
While this particular memory may not strike a cord with anyone, it has always stayed with me. And even now, whenever I go to my parent’s house (now just my dad’s), I always set out back to smoke one last cigarette before going to bed. Since they now live in the country, once again, I hear the same night noises as I did that one night so long ago. The only difference now is instead of being scared, I find myself talking to God, and I must admit, I often have conversations with my granny too while I’m out there. The stars are always so bright and it is so peaceful and calm and comforting somehow. And I swear sometimes after I’ve talked to one or the other that a slight breeze will come up and caress my face much like a hand or a light kiss on the cheek would and I smile and say “thanks granny” I needed that, and I go in to bed with a much lighter heart.