Going to Grandma’s House
Rowena, Texas 1970
I’m eight years old and
Eight hours seems an eternity.
West Texas heat is relentless
And hair misbehaves in the gusts of heatwind.
A typical midsummer and we
Head to Rowena.
Kinfolk Family Relatives Home
Grandma’s house is special.
I hope nothing has changed in Rowena.
Green station wagon loaded.
Baby and baggage in the back
Three cramped kids in the middle.
Me on the hump wondering what to do with my feet.
Eight hours between us.
Dad never gets bored,
Just lights another cigarette….
Mom looks happy going home.
Seems like everyone but me sleeps.
I am too excited…
I wait and wait and wait.
Now I see Saint Joseph’s Catholic Church
Poking up over the horizon.
Whoever sees the steeple first wins the game.
So I shout, “I see Rowena!” and
Kids stir awake. Smiles appear.
Nothing changes going to Rowena.
Soon we exit -
Cross the tracks and go
Past the tall water tower,
White-gray clad houses line the street,
Schuhmann’s Hardware on the left
Next to the First National Bank of Rowena, Texas.
Post Office on the right,
Down First Street we go… passing memories as we
Pull into the long caliche driveway,
Nothing has changed in Rowena.
I get out of the car… stretch…and look…
White washed shed shelters 1957 BelAir
Gray rainwater cistern…
Backyard hen pen…
Daylilies. Roses. Pyracanthas. The eloquent Mimosa Tree.
Tall Crepe Myrtle next to the spidery cellar.
Fenceless grass grows aimlessly amid
Rusted push mower still graces the forgotten garden.
The path of rain-washed stones leading to the washhouse
Is barely visible in the wild and free grass.
All still there. All the same.
Doesn’t anything change In Rowena?
Grandpa’s sittin on the screened back porch
Smoking his sweet scented pipe.
His cedar cane is hooked
On his chair arm.
His brown leather slippers so clean and shiny -
Sweet Schlitz Beer breath, whiskery kiss.
Makes your eyes water.
Grandma’s tight cream curls,
Faded perma- pressed dress,
Starched embroidered apron,
Black leather slippers scuffed and used.
Squeezes you so tight and warm
The scent of Roses Roses lingers on my cheek.
Rowena never changes.
I hop up on the red tall chair
And look at the familiar scene:
Two fresh loaves of homemade molasses bread,
Next to the German chocolate cake,
Fresh orange juice, not Tang,
July Eggnog, jug of tea and percolated coffee.
Roast, carrots and potatoes in the oven.
Green beans on the table begging to be snapped.
This…in the yellow kitchen where I watch
Grandma work her magic.
Thank goodness nothing changes in Rowena.
In the morning we will go to Aunt Frieda’s
Rainy-day cloudy colored house and gather her.
Then we will go to Bill and Annie’s farm.
Dad will drive 25 miles an hour so we can
See the rows and rows and rows of cotton.
He will talk about things of the past,
Of the crops, of the soil and of
Which I don’t understand.
We pass the cemetery
With the soaring evergreen giants.
Where generations of husbands and wives …..and memories are buried.
Time stands still in Rowena.
The adventure of Bill and Annie’s farm
We all visit and examine the cotton on
Uncle Bill’s farm.
Another bad year according to him.
Has he ever had a good year?
We pay homage to the dog graves and
Remember sweet Amber.
We explore the forgotten rooms of the old farm house,
Childless, dank and dark.
And dare each other to go in the cellar.
We run from wasps and chase some cows.
I find the box on the top shelf filled with paper dolls.
Aunt Annie smiles.
Soon everyone will pile in cars.
Uncle Bill will drive slower than Dad.
Eternally we go through more rows of country.
We eat steak fingers and onion rings at Lowake Inn
And drink iced cold Dr. Pepper out of a bottle.
I hope nothing ever changes in Rowena.
It’s been a long time since 1982, when the last of the
Rowena kinfolk passed away.
“Once one went, they all went.” Mom sighs.
It’s now 2002 and Grandma’s house
Has been remodeled, the calichie roads
Are paved. Her yard - pristine.
Schuhman’s Hardware is now
A convenience store. Uncle Bill’s farmhouse
Needs to be torn down and the cellar taken out.
Then more land could be farmed.
But… when I need to get away
From these responsible years,
I just close my eyes
And remember a simpler time when ….
Nothing changed in Rowena.