Two or three times a year my grandfather would make rounds to see his siblings. He would spend the day before in the kitchen, usually making his famous blackberry cakes. Everyone always commented on my grandfather's cooking, as they should have. He had a way of making everything taste better, even bologna.
The day after the cake-baking event I knew he would be going into town to see his siblings. I always begged to go with him, it was one of the few times I could escape the hillside and see the big city. Any time spent with my grandfather was special, but visiting the siblings in Huntington was the highlight of my childhood.
Each of his siblings was different and so unique. I only remember seeing Clifford a few times and really can't remember more than his daughter having an enormous white cat that would always sprawl out the entire length of a double door. The double door led into the parlor where the staircase was. I used to sit during the entire visit and gaze at the staircase, always wanting to know where it would take me but never getting to find out.
Next we would go see Cleve or Chic. These two brothers were both outspoken, but Chic was usually abrasive and rude. His wife was always nice to me though. I think she sensed my uneasiness around her husband and would let me into her bedroom to watch television. It was nice of her, but I could watch television at home. I wanted to explore. I wanted to explore their house, but most of all I wanted to stand behind their house and look at the train.
They lived right on the main railroad tracks running through Huntington. I loved watching the train go by and I always wanted to walk up and touch one. I thought of that every time I went over there.
Once there was a train parked behind their house and I begged my grandfather to let me go touch it. He told me it was illegal because it wasn't my property but I was determined to touch that train anyway. I made it a point to stay outside during the visit and had decided to sneak up to the train so I could touch it. Chic's wife stopped that dream though when she noticed I was there and quickly took me off to her bedroom to watch television once again.
Cleve was not rude like Chic, just blunt. He didn't care to state his opinion at all. Their house was very unique and in my mind fancy. The entire upstairs was off limits to children. The few times I walked through I tried to soak in the layout of the rooms with the things that were in them. I can still see the sofa that for years kept the appearance of never being sat upon.
Cleve's wife was always happy and she was a joy to be around. She insisted I call her Aunt Nancy and always had some type of soda pop I had not tried before. Cleve and Nancy had a basement that they turned into a huge downstairs. I always thought they were rich because they had paper money hanging on the wall and coins underneath glass on the end tables. Besides, they basically had two houses in my opinion. The upstairs they liked to look at and the downstairs they actually lived in.
My Uncle Pete was always next on the list. If anyone had charisma that came close to my grandfather's it was my Uncle Pete. He and his wife Martha always welcomed me into their home with joy.
My Aunt Martha would make sure I had some fun time during my visits. She had a fort in the closet that she had built one year and won a prize. Each visit she would get the fort out, tell me the story of her wining a prize for it and then sit in the floor with me. That was a treat to have an adult sit in the floor and play with me.
I loved my Aunt Martha and Uncle Pete. Goodness radiated from them. They had traveled the world doing missionary work and I could always count on hearing a story about Egypt or London. Better than the story, they had little trinkets or even better pictures to show where they had been. I will never forget the picture of my Aunt Martha on a camel.
I always enjoyed the stories. They gave me the sense of adventure that I always longed for. We always wrapped up their visiting time with a prayer and a big hug from both of them. They each gave me a hug that made me feel special, like I was meant to do more with my life than sit on a hillside.