The grandkids are coming!
Did Gram feel this excited when she knew we were coming? We would come to the Valley to visit quite often—we lived just a two-hour drive away—with the kids in the back seat sharing a Nova Scotia road map, following with a pointed finger and naming off the communities as we passed through.
She and Grampy lived in a tall house with two “front rooms” in Kentville. Always, there were fresh doughnuts and clean sheets on the beds in the big room on the third floor. Then there were the summers when we took over her cottage on the bluff at Kingsport and she would come to visit us, bearing a fresh-from-the-oven raspberry pie.
Hope Forsythe, my grandmother, met Grampy while she was baking and serving pies in a café in Kentville. When they bought their own house in town, Gram, with four children to care for, also operated a boarding house. From 1935 until, as a widow, she sold the house in the 1970s, more than 260 people slept between her sheets and ate her pies.
The sheets were washed in a heavy-duty wringer washer that stood in the back porch next to a wood-burning cook stove and pegged out on a clothesline ran from next to a side-hinged window in the back wall to a pole way out by the chicken coop. “Be careful you don’t get a heist!” Gram would say as I tried to help her hang out the wash. Hanging out the wash with the heat of the stove at my back was refreshing. As the wind billowed on the sheets, my fingers on the clothesline felt it tug like a giant kite string.
She welcomed us with a box of old dishes and spoons (to make mud pies) and colouring books and crayons. In the fall, there might be a pile of slab wood we could arrange and rearrange to our liking. If we stood at the edge of the mowed grass and waved when the trains went by, the engineer and the passengers might wave back. How many cars were in the cargo train? We counted - competitively! Often, Blackie had new kittens to play with and Grampy might have been doing something interesting in the garage. Gram didn’t talk to us much and her stories were terse, emotionless accounts about her life.
My grandchildren are flying from Winnipeg. They will have over an hour’s drive, with nothing much to see besides scrubby trees and other vehicles, from the airport to our front door. We don’t have a room with six beds, but the sheets will be clean and the pillows plump. I never learned how to fry doughnuts, but I roll a lovely pie crust. I’ll make sure they have a road map to follow as we drive down the Valley. And there will be lots of stories to share and family to meet as we welcome them to their first visit to Nova Scotia.