leaves of garnet, citrine and topaz.
I wander alone into
the cemetery behind Asbury Methodist Church to find
my grandmother’s grave. Grandma
when she died. Knowing I should have visited
her more in the last ten years she lived,
I amble up
the hill looking at familiar Miner names carved on
granite stones: David, my
uncle dead at twenty-two from an
automobile accident; John, my grandfather,
a Pennsylvania railroader, loved trains
but not his grandchildren; Thomas, John’s younger brother,
another Miner grouch, pipe smoking and pot bellied.
Edna, my sweet, little dingy aunt, with an Ogilvie perm and huge
Donna Lee, her baby girl, a two pound angel with eyes the color of
born too early with tiny lungs that refused to sustain her.
I pause at
Esther’s grave, my grandma, bowing my head in a moment of grief,
remembering homemade root beer in brown bottles on the back
freshly churned butter; rolls of toilet paper on the windowsill
to blow my nose and, sometimes, wipe my tears.
I walk across the country road,
racing footsteps of my childhood down the long and winding lane to the
No one lives here now. The
house and land now belong to the
“trash magnate” of Altoona who donated the
farm house to the volunteer fire department. Tomorrow
it will burn to the ground as fire school practice.
So many memories, so many years
relegated to a pile of ashes – practice for young firefighters
who can’t appreciate the history of this house.
this house will be their teacher. I
hope they appreciate its gift.
I pensively walk the property
exploring remnants of a once proud farm:
the milk house foundation
where a cool stream of water chilled milk in glass bottles; the silvery
bent to the right like an old man - its rusted tin roof crumbling like a
’51 Ford fender,
home for so many years to the doe-eyed Guernsies who, heavy with
hurriedly return each evening to stalls bearing their names –
Daisy, Boots, Marigold, Lovey.
I move on to the spot where
the two holer outhouse stood. When
we visited the farm, we all left a
piece of ourselves in this place; the guest house - which wasn’t
for guests but
housed a myriad of “farm hands” over the years – actually, hobos
rescued from railroad box cars as they traveled through Altoona; the
tool shed where
rusting harrows and plows still reside.
So many memories, so many years.
I remember picking raspberries with my grandma just around the
the tool shed. After pulling
on our big rubber galoshes and packing
sandwiches made of homemade bread we would head off for
our secret place. We’d
fight the briars and shoo away the birds
for our raspberries. I round
the corner of the tool shed.
I feel my grandmother’s essence –
jaggered brambles, branches tangled and heavy with fruit the color of
our glorious raspberry bushes, tall and proud, reaching to heaven
sunlight as if swooning in charismatic prayer.
In Tribute to Donald Hall