I woke to a sound that was new to me, a sound that scared me. It was just outside the window nearest the bed in which I laid. The sun was trying to beat through a paper blind that shielded the room from the morning’s light, turning it into a nearly translucent shade of amber. I was in a bed that I was not familiar with, in a house that I was not familiar with. I remembered that it was at my grandfather’s house. Fearful of the noise outside the window I sprang from bed and jolted towards the door. With both hands clutching a diamond shaped glass doorknob, I realized that the world beyond it was uncharted territory. My fear shifted from that which was beyond the window to that which was beyond the door. I pressed my ear to the door but all I heard was the thumping in my chest that had somehow moved up into my head. A familiar voice finally penetrated the door. It sounded like dad. Yes!
This was the first visit to my grandparents in the states. The family that I knew, my mom’s family, were still in Germany and I already missed them. I crept from the bedroom and peered into the kitchen to confirm my father’s presence before proceeding. He was seated at the table with my grandfather. Grandma was standing by the sink and, as I passed by, a blank stare rifled from behind her horn rimmed glasses and drilled me. No smile, nothing. She obviously didn’t think as much of me as did the Oma we’d left behind. I held her gaze for a few seconds then quickened my pace to the table, my bear feet slapping the floor.
“Hi hotshot,” dad said from behind a smile as he ruffled my hair. “Want some breakfast?”
“Uhuh,” I mumbled, peering over the edge of the table from the chair next to him. I propped myself up on my knees so I could see over the table. Dad filled a clear glass bowl with Special K, drowned it with milk and topped it with a few drops of Sweet 10. These too, other than the milk, were new to me.
“Daddy, there’s something outside the window in the bedroom. Do you hear it?”
He listened. “Oh, that’s just a whippoorwill son,” he said, and went on to explain that it was just a harmless bird.
When mom emerged from the bathroom I shuttled from the table to the comfort of her arms. She carried me back to the bedroom. Gene woke up when we entered. Thankfully, the whippoorwill had finally shut up. As always, mom dressed us in identical clothes. We were too young to know or care that we resembled the Bobbsy twins; that would come later in life. With my older brother Gene in the lead, we two city slickers ventured out into a strange new world.
We stepped out of the house to a gravel driveway that stretched out before us stopping short of a barnyard gate. The gravel spilled down the steep hill to our right, where it met a blacktop road right next to where a lone mailbox stood. Turning our eyes left, we saw banks that encased an almost perfectly circular pond. As though playing follow the leader, I stayed behind Gene. Bullfrogs fell silent as we approached the huge puddle. Dragonflies were new to us and when one of these bombardiers dove towards us we scurried off towards the barnyard, running with all our might.
We were transformed that weekend. Somehow, between surviving the attack of the dragon, and braving a walk through a barnyard filled with cattle and sheep, we were turned from city slickers into brave young explorers. Although admittedly, Gene was the brave one, I was nothing more than the sidekick. That morning, and the remainder of the weekend, was spent making fresh encounters with some things that we’d only heard of and some things that we’d never heard of, like the dragonflies.