Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Sacred Places, Grapes and Grandma

I grew up in grape country and though vineyards tend to evoke images of romance and nostalgia for many people, growing up grape vineyards meant work, and lots of it!  However, now that I don't regularly trim vines, pull brush, drive a tractor, tie grapes, pick grapes, or sneak away with my cousin to create "art sculptures" from my parents copper tying wire - I admit, I too am a bit of a sucker for the nostalgia of grape country in Western New York. In fact, there are days when I yearn to walk a grape row, escape the sounds of the city, and return to simpler days. Especially, once September rolls around and I know that there is fruit, ripe for the picking on those vines - the taste of home.  Yes, we worked hard, but we worked together and oft days, now that those vineyards are far away, I miss all of that togetherness.

I lived in three different houses while growing up. My parents seemed to follow the old advice, "Go west young man, go west and grow up with the country" and thus my parents moved west - west down the same street -  West Sidehill Rd. That first house has always been special to me, though. It is the house where, for a few short years, I was an only child and my first memories of playing the piano, our black lab that hated thunder storms (Sheba), and singing Elvira with my Daddy, are in that house.  However, the memories are deeper and more sacred than that, now that I am older.
On Left: Everett Eddy (Grandma's eldest brother) & his future wife Carrie. On the right - Arthur Strine Sr and his future wife, my Grandma, Luella Eddy.

You see, I loved to listen to my Grandma tell me stories- although she now lives with Jesus - when we were together she told me many stories of her life and of that house where she had her first surprise breaths and tiny cries. It was a surprise because she was the second twin in what was expected to be a singular birth and her cries were tiny because no one knew if the itty-bitty second baby would make it through the night. Grandma grew up in that all old farm house, filled with her Mama's laugh and the work of her Daddy's strong hands. It was the same farm house that her Daddy had grown up in. It is the house my young father bought as a young bachelor after he came home from the Vietnam War, and as he fixed up that house - he dated my mother, and together they mended, sanded, hammered, dreamed and eventually my father proposed to my mother in that house. They came home to that house on their wedding night and their siblings had pulled all kinds of pranks and shenanigans that caused them grief and laughter and gave them more stories to tell. A year later, it was that same house that my parents brought itty-bitty me home to, at 30 days of age and a little less than 5 lbs, my tiny cries called that house home, on my first Christmas Eve. Then life kept moving, right on into the blizzard of '77 - where the snow came up to the eves and we bundled up and hunkered down in the old family homestead house.  It is one of those "sacred" spaces in my story, in the story of my family. It isn't that fancy, it doesn't have cathedral ceilings or an in-ground pool, but it is so very, very special.

Last year when I was home and talking with my Mom about life and the future and that house, we talked about the possibility of she and my Dad turning it into a quiet, quaint, vacation property.  A place where another couple, family, or group of friends could spend a weekend or a week and maybe make some special memories of their own.  Just a couple miles from major interstates and Lake Erie, it is surrounded by vineyards and woods and the aura of a simpler time.  If you decide to visit, let me know - I can tell you which room was mine when I was a little girl, where the piano used to be, and which window Sheba used to try to jump through when there was thunder in the air.  Also, if you live close to me, have my Mother send back some grapes with you, maybe peaches from their orchard, or if it is a little later in the fall - I'd like fresh pressed cider. Please? If you are someone who is really close to my heart, give my Mom a hug for me - she doesn't get enough hugs with her girls living several states away.  One can never have enough hugs, beautiful sunsets, or stories to tell.

More information about staying at The Homestead House and Arwen Farms. There are grapes in New York? Yup, there sure are! Lake Erie Wine Country