Every first week of July, right after my dance recitals my mom and I would make the 6-hour journey to Pittsburg New Hampshire. This started when I was 5 and continued until I was 13. Now you’re probably thinking my time was spent at an overnight camp where you would roast marshmallows and go canoeing but where I spent my summers was a unique kind of camp. It was a camp where I learned how to fish, ride a bike, make grill cheeses and learned every song by Kenny Rodgers and Roy Orbison.
This overnight “camp” was better known as my great-grandparents’ house.
I remember turning onto Tabor Road and staring out the window at the nostalgic farmhouses, the burnt red barns and the cows grazing in the never-ending fields. With each sound of the tires rolling over the dirt road, my stomach would fill with butterflies. Finally, we would get to the last turn on the road and there smack dead center was a quaint red house with a white trim and as you got closer you would see a barefoot, curly-haired woman standing on the porch. This woman was my nana.
We couldn’t even get out of the car in time for her to swing open the car door and grab you into her arms. Her hugs were the best as she would swallow you up and squeeze you to the point where you felt you might burst. Seconds later a tall strong figured man would emerge from the house onto the porch holding his daily newspaper and a big smile on his face. My great grandfather or “Bampi” as I call him would open his arms wide as I came running up the stairs of the creaky porch.
After the excitement of the arrival settled, my mom would help me settle into the guest room upstairs. I would unload my old blue suitcase that opened with big front locks and it would swing wide open from the pressure of all the clothes. The night would be filled with laughter, catch up stories and an endless number of trout for dinner. The next morning or a couple of days later, my mom and brother would say their tearful goodbyes and make their journey back home.
That night I would watch Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy with my great grandparents before heading off to bed. The next morning I would be awoken to the deep sound of a snare drum being played as it boomed throughout the whole house, boom boom boom boom, then a strumming of the guitar would come in. Most times when I heard this I would take the covers and pull them over my head and nestle my body into the bed as I knew this was my summon to come downstairs and start the day.
Sleepy-eyed and slowly I would make my way down the steep steps and turn the corner into the kitchen. As my eyes would slowly open, I would find my Nana tapping her toes and spinning around while signing loudly, “Pretty Woman walking down the street”. She would grab my hands and pull me into the middle of the kitchen floor “Pretty Woman the kind I like to meet” and we would dance and laugh till the cassette tape stopped.
After the last “Pretty Woman” that Roy Orbison sang, my Nana would take out her cooking pan and she would teach me how to cook. Each morning it was something different from what she called “silver dollar” pancakes, to scrambled eggs and of course her “famous” grilled cheese sandwich. I was mesmerized by the choreography of her cooking, as she would move around the kitchen effortlessly.
One morning when I was about 7 I asked her why she loved that “Pretty Woman” song and why did she always play it in the mornings. She went on to tell me exactly why. When my great grandfather heard Roy Orbsion’s song about a beautiful woman who seemed too good to be true and how he was amazed she had chosen him, he fell in love with the song. He played that song for his girl (my Nana) and said that was their song. Every morning my great grandfather would go fly fishing and my Nana would play that song while he was away as a reminder of being his “Pretty Woman”.
For the next several years every morning, I would learn something new about my great grandparents and my family while dancing around in the kitchen and cooking.
As I’ve grown older and some memories have fade I will never forget our mornings. For during those mornings I learned the stories behind a “Pretty Woman” and how to make the perfect grilled cheese.