Excerpts from “Grandpa Stories”
Shovels & Wheelbarrows
Certainty knows no bounds when it comes to understanding my grandfather’s time with the soil, his shovels and his wheelbarrow.
This was indeed a man who handled his shovels as if a prize on a shelf, a badge to shine on his shirt. His wheelbarrow was a piece of magic, the size of which seemed far too large for its travel in my grandpa’s car trunk. But those gleaming shovels, clean and free of dirt, and that larger than life wheelbarrow, seemed to go with him everywhere he and his Olds ’98 traveled.
I imagine that coming from Ireland, from a land of rocks, and hills, and farming – with green misty views reaching to infinity – that he grew up with the land in him. So it shouldn’t surprise me to wake in the morning (usually some Saturday morning at 6:30 a.m.) to find my grandpa in our backyard. He would be planting his second –or perhaps even third– blue spruce (another thing I am certain was his favorites).
My brothers and I would hear his wide deep digging shovel grip the gravely dirt – then would come the drag of soil to the surface – the thud of the earth meeting the mound he had formed. We would lie in our beds half awake, half asleep, knowing our grandfather was doing the thing he was most alive doing…digging in the land. More importantly, our backyard!
My Dad and Saturday Mornings
Now mind you, it’s a great thing to be so connected to the land, but it’s another not to tell someone you’re feeling connected to “their land,” “their yard.” Oh yes, of this I am also certain — there were days that my dad would have loved a notice posted of:
“INTENT TO EXCAVATE YOUR YARD FOR TREE PLANTING.”
Collectively us kid’s, we would know our time of half-awake and half-asleep had ended — and when fully awake had arrived — when we heard my parent’s bedroom door open. First would come the light step of my mom in the hallway heading towards the kitchen, minutes later we could smell the sweetness of cinnamon rolls and icing baking. I am convinced now that this was my mom’s way of signaling a kind of “chore-warning.”
Confirmation of this alert was given when my parent’s bedroom door opened for the second time. My dad had a way of opening their bedroom door – which pushed a gust of wind under each of ours – along with a way of stepping out into the hallway that declared a litany of chores that lie ahead on any given Saturday.
Door Opening Sounds
There existed several proclamations within each of my dad’s door opening wind gust:
1. The “let’s clean the garage” – door opening sound
(of which the stories are so great in length & quantity – they would best be left for another day and another book entirely of its own).
2. The arbitrary, “let’s all wake-up cause it feels too late to still be asleep” – door opening sound.
3. The “you stayed out to late last night, so get your butt outta bed” – door opening sound.
4. The “let’s have a party and invite lots of people – so get up and clean every dish & glass, mow the lawn, wash the floors, clean the garage, and oh by the way, let’s redecorate” – door opening sound.
and of course…
5. The gust of wind and sound combination of: “your grandpa’s here planting trees and I didn’t know anything about it…but you’re all gonna get up and help – before he digs up all the trees we’ve already planted and moves them” – door opening sound.
– Final part
Each of these particular door-opening signals would be followed up with the triple knock on each of our bedroom doors and the somewhat military-ish delivery of “rise – n – shine.”
Indeed as time has passed, the years have provided me with rich recollections. There were important messages there for me – this was a lesson in learning about my grandfather’s time, which created my father’s time, which in turn r-e-i-n-c-a-r-n-a-t-e-d into something totally different in each of my five brothers and my own time. And in the end, regardless of our bodies calling for sleep, it was tree-planting time; for my grandfather, with my grandfather, about his love of shovels & wheelbarrows, of trees, the soil, and most importantly us.
Yes, of this I am truly certain, it was about his time – with us.
Short stories written by Linda Marie Barrett
(Submitted in honor of my grandfather Michael R. Barrett, who arrived in the United States of America from Castleisland, Ireland – via Liverpool, England, UK, — aboard the ship Cedric on
February 28, 1920.)
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