Home for me is bracketed by the two houses we ping-pong between: our parents house and Grandma’s house on Anchor Road. Her house is at the bottom of the hill and ours at the top.
Both houses are along side Anchor Road, between Elizabethtown to the west and Rheems to the east—centered between Harrisburg, the capital, and Lancaster, the heart of Pennsylvania Dutch country. Not long ago the road didn’t have the status of a real name. It was just Rural Delivery # 1 on the mailman’s morning route.
Why the name Anchor Road, so far inland and nowhere near water, unless you count the Susquehanna River? Years ago, Anchor Inn sat down the street, a welcoming grey hostel for guests with a barn and cornfield.
In years to come, it would sprout legs and walk backward about 200 feet propelled by huge trucks, announcing its wish for privacy as a single family home.
At the edge of the nearby village of Rheems, a bridge of concrete separates the sprawl of Heisey’s Limestone quarry on either side. On the bridge, there is a keystone-shaped metal insignia and below it inscribed the name of Rheems.
Here the road makes a hard right under the railroad overpass and on around the corner to Grandma’s house, a turn-of-the-century Victorian homestead where the extension of our family, Grandma Fannie, my Dad’s mother, and Aunt Ruthie live. On these acres is a stately house with a slate roof, sloping lawn with oaks and a birch tree for climbing, two gardens—one with strawberries and vegetables, and the other for Silver Queen sweet corn. Between the house and the railroad tracks is a woods bordered by a hill my sisters and I climb up to for raspberries in summer and sled down on our Flexible Flyers in the winter. We come here to Grandma’s when my mom says it’s rime to “sca-doo!” Sometimes my dad brings home a big kettle of pot pie from his mom’s stove for our supper.
Halfway up the hill from Grandma’s is the Hoffer’s. The place seems like a dairy farm, but I think they have only two cows, one Guernsey and one Holstein, whose milk and cream they share with us. Granny Hoffer is plainer than we are: large prayer covering with silky ribbons tied under her chin but, oddly, tiny gold-loop earrings on each lobe.
Granny pours the just-drawn milk and fills my bluish jar to the very top. Cream always dribbles out because Granny doesn’t want to give us one fraction of an ounce less than two full quarts; she calls it gospel measure. I see their dog Queenie and a lazy cat Minnie. Mom says they don’t need any more animals around the place because Granny’s son Amos and daughter-in-law Bertha fight like cats and dogs. What secrets lurk inside these walls?
Secrets revealed next time:
1. How do Lancaster County women rein in their girth in the 1950s?
2. Why do the Rentzels have a red light glowing on the porch?
3. Why did Daddy have to pull a Rheems resident from the wreckage of his car?