It was Good Friday, a mild spring day. The wind whistled in from the partially opened bedroom windows swishing everything to the floor not weighted down. I didn’t mind. This would be one of the few days to enjoy fresh air before we thrust the thermostat into air conditioning mode – one of the disadvantages of the Midwest – hot, humid summers that usually debut a month early.
Days like this remind me of Aunt Lizzie and my childhood long ago. She didn’t seem to need air conditioning as the breeze blew in and out of windows in her small country home. The breeze helped dry clothes, sheets, and towels on the clothesline. It was all about family in those days – moms, dads, brothers, sisters, grandmas, grandpas, aunts, uncles, cousins – being with each other and helping each other, very much like The Waltons.
I raised my sons in a world full of modern conveniences – air conditioning, microwave, and a clothes dryer, to name a few – but still cherished family traditions. We stayed home Thanksgiving and Christmas days for our own individual family tradition but made extended-family time on the weekend. Every Easter, provided no one was sick, we traveled to my mother’s. (Grandpa passed away way too soon.) We colored and decorated eggs on Saturday (not my favorite thing, but I endured for their sake and their cousins’) while a friend styled Grandma’s hair for Sunday services. After church on Sunday, we shared a family dinner then launched a marathon Easter egg hunt, over and over and over, sunshine or clouds, in Grandma’s spacious yard that still displayed a clothesline.
I can’t tell you how many times I wanted to hang clothes on a line over the years and watch all my concerns blow away. More that anything, I just wanted a close-knit family like I had growing up – like The Waltons. I wanted to pass on those special traditions. I wanted my boys to want it too – like this song, Grandpa. Remember that?
But the world changed – Nintendo, Xbox, boomboxes and cassettes to CDs and IPods; Gameboys and desktops to laptops to IPads; a telephone in every room to large cell phones, then small cell phones, and then one for every member of the family. I couldn’t stop progress and couldn’t force the desire for these simple things – family gatherings, listening to the crickets and June bugs, catching lightening bugs, sitting under a shade tree on a summer day when your SUV breaks down in the middle of Iowa, and eating Grandma’s chicken and dumplings.
This Easter, they have their own lives. I made the trip to Grandma’s without them and without asking. After all, they are grown and live in different cities. I looked for a clothesline along the way. It was a lovely day with redbuds and daffodils in bloom, but I didn’t see a clothesline. I enjoyed a few hours with my mother and sisters, didn’t have to color Easter eggs, and watched the beautiful sunset on the drive home.
When I shut off the lights that evening to end the day, I didn’t hear “Goodnight John Boy!” Instead, the stillness reminded me of my empty nest. The breeze gently rippled the blinds. But then …
One of my sons called, and I smiled. “Mom, could you please send me your coffee cake recipe?”
Someday I will put up that clothesline to watch my worries blow away, smell the freshness of the sheets from the open air and sunshine, and remember those good old days. And a hundred years from now when I am celebrating in glory, my yet-to-be grandchildren will boast about the best coffee cake in the whole world … the one that Grandma made.