I did not have to go to kindergarten in Allentown, Pennsylvania which was the closest school to Bethayres. I didn’t need to start first grade until I was six and that was next year. My two-year old brother and I were free to roam the house. One of our fun things to do was to bounce down the wide master stairway which led to the front door. I never understood why the front door was there as no one ever used it. Everyone used the side porch door.
I loved the side porch. It had a swing big enough for three big people or four little people. My uncle’s dog, Heathcliffe, usually was asleep near the big fan chair. He was funny looking but sweet.
The back stairs were all twisty and windy. We loved running up them. It was just like running in circles.
The dining room was always dark even in the daytime. My mother told me the painting there was a Civil War General who lived a long time ago. It was very dark. I did not like it very much. The man looked so mad. My favorite part of the day was when we got to ring the dinner gong. It was a type of metal pie plate that hung from some pieces of wood. Oh, how we loved the bong, bong, bong it made.
“Can I help you, Mamie? What are you cooking?” I asked my grandmother.
“ I am making preserves, dear.”
“What’s that?” I asked.
“It is a type of jam. I can make a lot now and store them in jars the cellar.”
“I thought you kept them in the basement.”
“We call it cellar here. Sometimes we can bring the fruit directly to the cellar from outside.
I loved the kitchen. Mostly because it was always warm there. Mamie was always cooking something on that stove or in the oven. Really different from Clarendon Hills where my mother only did big cooking when we had lots of people.
One day my mother stated, “I am going to take you and Tommy over to the Connors for a few days.”
I knew Jeanette Connor sometimes came to play with us. She was really nice even though she was a big person. Jeanette’s mother and father had a farm.
Mrs. Connors said, ” I will have you stay in the room over the kitchen. It will be warmer for you.”
My brother Tommy and I slept in a very tiny room. The small beds seemed to be on top of a bench. The floor that had a hole in it. The hole was covered by something metal that had holes in it. We could actually see into the kitchen.
“Tommy, wake up, wake up. Look they are putting wood into the oven. Can you see the fire in the stove holes? We better get down there fast.”
“Mrs. Conners, why did you put wood into the oven?” I asked.
“That’s how we heat the stove by burning wood to get it hot.” Mrs. Conners replied.
She lifted up a black plate that was part of the stove.We saw the fire through the hole. Next she put a big pot of water directly over the fire hole.
Mother came to pick us up after a couple of days. She gave us both extra big and long hugs.
As soon as we got back to the Bethayres house, we saw lots and lots of flowers. They were in big glasses. We saw them in the dining room, the living room and the library. Tommy and I went to smell all of them.
Mamie gave me a big long hug, too. I went running up the back stairs and right into my grandfather’s room. I missed him so much. He always had time to talk to me and tell me stories. He was not there. The bed was made neatly. Next I ran into Mamie’s room. No, he was not there either. I went into the room where Mother, Tommy and I slept. He was not there.
I thought to myself, ” He must be in the library to roll cigarettes. I know he really liked that.”
I bounced down the front stairway and into the library. But, no. He was not there. I ran out the side porch door to the barn. The barn door was closed and had a big stick thru the handles. I could not get into the barn. I went to check in the strawberry patch behind the barn. No. Maybe he went into the forest. I crept silently into the forest as maybe he was taking a nap near the place where Tommy and I had a cave under some trees. Bob took lots of naps. Mother told us to be very quiet when Bob was asleep.
An idea went off in my head. Maybe he was in the scarry cabin in the woods. My brother and I often went up and peaked in the windows. We saw a big fireplace. The last time we went there and looked in the window, we saw a tiger lying on the floor. Then we saw the tiger’s head and screamed. We ran away as fast as we could run. But maybe Bob knew the tiger and it would not hurt him. I was pretty scared as I climbed up the three steps to the cabin’s porch. I had to stand on tippy toes to see in the window. The tiger seemed to be asleep. I did not see Bob. Where can he be?
So back thru the woods, past the barn and into the house. Mother and Mamie were sitting at the dining room table.
“Mother, I can’t find Bob anywhere. I looked all over. Where is he?’
“Come, Jannie, sit on my lap. Bob has gone away.”
“Like Daddy to a camp?” No, she replied. “Your grandfather will never come back.”
“Why did he go and not say goodby? You told me that Daddy will come back. Will Daddy never come back? ” I started to cry. “Why won’t Bob come back?”
“Your grandfather died. He lived for a very long time. He loved you. You made him very happy. He thought you were a kind little girl. He liked it when you brought him toast. He loved to tell you stories.” My mother explained.
My mother looked so sad. She was trying not to cry but some drops fell out of her eyes.
“What about Daddy? Will he die? Will he never come back?”
“I have some good news about Daddy. He will be coming to see us soon. He will come on Friday.”
“Daddy’s coming home.” I started jumping around. “But Bob will never come back. I am sad about that.” I thought about this for a long time.