Dark clouds overhead made the afternoon look and feel like dusk. The air in the backyard was hot and sultry. A flash of lightning illuminated Mom’s lush flowerbeds and shrubs. It was as blinding as the flash of her Brownie camera, but terrifying. An ominous deep rumble rolled from one end of the sky to another.
I wanted to be with my brother Billy in Grandpa’s two-room apartment. The storm was getting worse. If I didn’t go now, I wouldn’t be able to get there!
A fifty-foot-long path paved with flat stones was between the backdoor of our farmhouse where I stood, and the garage apartment. Afraid, I took off running as fast as I could. Another rumble, louder this time, inspired me to pick up speed beyond what my seven-year-old legs had ever done before.
In the last ten feet to the garage, cold raindrops drenched my clothing. Banging the door open, I leaped in. My brother sat at the table. He took one look at me and laughed. Suddenly cold, I shivered. He said, “I think we could use a fire in the stove.”
The damp, cool breeze from the window made me shiver again as I watched my brother put crumpled newspaper in the stove and top it with small pieces of firewood. Within minutes the growing flame warmed me.
Outside, thunder boomed, lightning snapped, crackled and illuminated darkened corners of the room. Feeling safe and protected from the storm because my seventeen-year-old brother was with me, I happily settled down and enjoyed his company.
The worst of the storm quickly moved on and the sky became brighter, but a light rain continued to fall. Two apple trees grew beside the garage. One tree was covered with early-summer, rosy-cheeked apples. Billy said, “How would you like a pan of baked apples?”
My smile was all the answer he needed. Jumping to his feet, my brother found a pan and went out into the rain. I sat by the open window and watched him pick apples for our treat.
Eight years before I was born, Daddy had built this garage across the driveway from the old farmhouse. One bay was used to park our car. The second bay was turned into a two-room apartment for Grandpa Jacob. When Grandma Rose died, he had moved back to the farm from their house in Stratford. By then, Mom and Daddy had four children living in a farmhouse with only two bedrooms.
Grandpa died when I was two years old, but his old apartment remained intact. The front room held a couch, kitchen table and a stove for heat. Shelves and cabinets held the necessities for making coffee and other small treats. He had taken his meals with the family.
A doorway to Grandpa’s bedroom was next to the stove. Like the front room, it had two windows, but contained only a bed, chair and closet.
Billy cored the apples, found some cinnamon sugar and put the pan in the wood-stove’s oven. We feasted on warm, baked apples until the storm passed.
Billy bought the family farm from Daddy when he was 28 years old. Then, while still in his mid-fifties, Billy stopped farming because of ill health. Billy told me he wanted to enjoy watching the sunrise from somewhere other than the barn during milking chores. He also said he wanted a two-room cabin in the woods.
With the cows sold, Billy immediately went to work. Building a floor that could withstand being moved from one place to another, he built walls of landscape timber. I was invited to inspect each step of the building process.
When he was done, the front room held a couch, a kitchen table and a small wood stove. A doorway to the bedroom was near the stove. That room held just a bed and a chair. All windows on this two-room cabin had shutters.
Since I was only two years old when Grandpa Jacob died, I have no memories of him, but Billy was twelve. One of my sisters once told me Grandpa kept a pint jar filled with hard candy on a shelf. When my brothers and sisters visited him, Grandpa gave them candy.
Billy must have had such sweet memories of visiting Grandpa Jacob in his two-room garage apartment, that he wanted to build a similar two-room home-away-from-home for himself. Fortunately, my brother was able to enjoy watching many sunrises and sunsets there, plus one epic, middle-of-the-night thunder storm.