Grandma slipped silently out the back door. The last I remembered, I’d been asleep on the train. Not wanting to be left alone, I rolled to my belly and hung off the edge of her high bed, my pudgy feet peddling till I thudded solidly to the unfinished wood floor. Following her out into the dewy grass of the early daylight, I saw her lurching one-sidedly under the burden of a heavy bucket of corn in one hand, a shovel in the other, totally unaware of being tailed. As I padded silently behind, sandburs pierced my baby feet. Dropping to my round bottom, I screamed at the insult. The grass at home was soft and welcoming. Startled by my banshee cries, Grandma turned. “Oh my Lord. I thought I shut the door behind me. You could have gotten in the road!”
Dropping the bucket of corn, she rushed over to comfort me, seating me on the shovel blade to pick sandburs out of my feet. By the time she’d finished, I pointed out a huge yellow road grader a few yards away on the side of the dirt road. “You want to see that? Okay. We’ll Go over. It’ll be a while before the workers get here.” I stood on the shovel blade and bent to hold the handle as she pulled me over to have a closer look, lifting me as high as she could to get a closer look at the gigantic tires. I am still fascinated by heavy machinery.
After I had my fill of the road grader, we went back for her bucket of corn to feed her chickens. I liked the chickens just fine, though they weren’t nearly as interesting as the road machine. We had chickens at home. The barn next to the chicken yard was a different matter. Since the grass was worn away between the two, I toddled over to have a look. A chain with a padlock ran through two holes in the big double doors, denying me entry. I peeked through into the shade of the barn to see a child-sized table and chairs, rocking horse, tricycle, and a red wagon. Grandma’s little black and white dog dropped to his belly and wiggled into the barn through deep, sandy hole worn under the doors. I dropped to my belly tunneling right behind him. Had Grandma moved just a little slower, I’d have earned my prize. Instead, she pulled me by my bare feet back into the barn yard.
I howled in protest as she explained those things belonged to the child of the landlord and were off limits to me. I couldn’t wrap my thoughts around that, having no idea what a landlord was, but I knew what toys were, and meant to have them.
Back in the house, after that major disappointment, Grandma cooked breakfast, and I met my first true love, bacon. I have not tasted anything that wonderful before or after.
That is my first conscious memory, though I must have been familiar with Grandma. Mother dated it to around the time I was eighteen months old. I am older now than Grandma was then, and like her, carry a shovel as I putter in the yard, an excellent implement to have on hand for a little impromptu digging or snake-killing. Some things never change.