Nothing thrilled me more than the adventure of sleeping in the back window of Dad’s 1949 Chrysler on our trip to Granny’s house. All it took was her phone call to Mom in July or August when Granny said, “Sadie, the garden’s in. Come on down.”

The following Saturday after Dad closed his barbershop, he loaded Mom’s canning jars in the trunk with our suitcases. Two sisters sat in the back seat. I crawled into the cubbyhole beneath the backseat window. Mom sat up front with our baby on her lap, the diaper bag and Dad’s Thermos of hot coffee at her feet.

My father knew every county and gravel road between Detroit and Peter Creek, Kentucky. Each trip he aimed “to shave off a few miles” and arrive earlier at Granny’s house than the summer before.

From my backseat window, I observed Detroit’s tall buildings disappear and Ohio’s cornfields surround us in an ocean of cornstalks. Far as my eyes could see. I fell asleep with the taste of Granny’s buttery roastin’ ears in my mouth.

Before dawn, Mom gently shook my sisters and me. “We’re at your granny’s house. Wake up.”

I smelled the green mountains and saw the steep, concrete steps leading to her front porch. There, Granny’s swing hung from the ceiling by chains. On rainy days, my sisters and I would sing and swing for hours.

Sometimes, Granny’s neighbors came to visit Mom to see how her girls had grown. Most of the women I didn’t know, except Juanita Charles because we played with her children in Granny’s alleys.

“Now, those dirty boys are not allowed on my porch, y’all hear?” Granny reminded us.

Her next door neighbor who lived in a large, lovely house came to sit on the steps and talk with us after dinner. Younger and smaller than Granny, she’d take one step up at a time, sit for a while, and scoot up closer. All the time smiling and asking us questions.

This puzzled me to the point that I later asked Granny, “Why does your neighbor lady talk with us from your steps?”

My grandmother sighed. “Oh, Bernice was borned with a hole in her heart, honey. She cain’t climb steps too fast.”

I felt sorry for Bernice and asked Granny, “How could a hole grow in her heart?”

“I don’t know, Ars. But Bernice does just fine takin’ step by step.”

On this bright, frigid February day when a migraine headache this morning sabotaged my walk in Michigan’s winter wonderland, I remember Bernice.

Write a few sentences. Swivel my chair to the window. Ponder deer tracks in the snow. Rest my eyes.

Dear Reader, Granny’s house, built in 1948, the year before my birth, no longer stands. There’s no trace of the concrete steps my sisters and I ran up and down while Mom and Granny preserved her vegetable garden.

Yet, God is merciful. Granny left a photo of those beloved eleven steps where I learned a life-long lesson.

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