“Over the river and through the woods to Grandfather’s house we go.”
Hannah giggles. “No Papa, we’re going to Aunt Lottie’s house.” Papa winks at her in the rearview mirror.
“Barb, when was the last time we went to Kentucky?”
“Goodness, I guess it was in ’63. Hannah wasn’t born yet and Lilly was still in diapers.” Mama smiles at Papa.
Hannah looks at Lilly and snickers. “Diapers,” she mouths. Lilly folds her arms across her chest, frowning at her younger sister.
“Doesn’t this Buick ride like a dream?” Papa pats the steering wheel of his 1974 station wagon.
Lilly leans over the front seat to look down at the purple afghan Mama’s crocheting for Aunt Lottie.
“How many more rows, Mama?” She doesn’t want her parents to start fighting about the car again. When Papa got his raise, Mama wanted to save for a bigger house, not buy a new car.
“Probably 15. I’ll be finished before we reach the Kentucky border.”
“The last time we went, your Uncle Henry took us to that great little steak house. Man, that was some good eatin’.” Papa licks his lips.
“Yes Jim. You ate everything on your plate and mine.”
“We never did get to see your granddaddy. Remember we kep’ missin’ him?”
“I remember.” Mama flips the afghan and starts working another row.
“Let’s make sure we see him this time. He must be 90 by now.”
“There isn’t time, Jim.” Mama pulls out half a row of stitches.
“Why isn’t there? We’ll be in Louisville for three whole days. He promised me that ol’ pocket watch he used to carry around.”
“McDonalds!” Hannah bounces up and down in the backseat. Lilly looks out the front window and sees a billboard with the golden arches.
“Hannah, we have bologna sandwiches for lunch.” Mama gives her a warning look. Lilly, still leaning over the front seat, looks back and smirks; Hannah sticks out her tongue.
“Didn’t your brother say your granddaddy’s in a nursing home near Louisville? Maybe we should stop there first.”
Lilly looks back at her sister and raises her eyebrows. “We’ll see” always means “no” when Mama says it.
“I can take the next exit, stop at McDonalds, and call your brother.”
“Jim, I’ll be too tired. Let’s just go and see my aunt.” Mama pulls out a row of stitches.
“Barb, I know how you are. We’ll get half way home, and then you’ll wanna see your granddaddy. That’s what happened the Christmas we visited your mom in Cleveland.”
“That is not what happened. I needed to go back home because I forgot my overnight case.”
“That ain’t how I remember it.”
“I’m sure it isn’t, Jim.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
Lilly sits back in her seat and stares out the window. Mama is silent.
“Well it ain’t gonna hurt nothin’ to call your brother and ask. The girls want french fries, don’t ya girls?”
Hannah squeals, but Lilly bites her lip. Papa slows for the next exit. Mama doesn’t say anything until they park at McDonalds.
“Grab me a Coke, Jim. I feel a little carsick.”
“I wanna go in! I wanna go in!”
After Papa and Hannah disappear through the glass doors, Lilly leans over the seat again and watches as Mama pulls out another half row of stitches.
“Why don’t you wanna see your granddaddy?”
Mama sighs and doesn’t answer for so long that Lilly begins to think she won’t, then, “When I was little, he used to touch us girls under our skirts.” Lilly flushes red and flops back down in the seat, covering her chest with her arms.
Papa is whistling and Hannah is humming when they get back to the car.
“We’re in luck, Barb. Your granddaddy’s in Crestwood, ’bout 15 miles from Louisville.” Papa pushes half of a hamburger into his mouth and wipes his hands on his slacks. The keys jingle as he starts the motor.
Mama doesn’t say anything, just shoves her crochet bag over the back of the seat where it lands on the floor beside Lilly’s feet. She peeks inside to see how far Mama got. There’s nothing in the bag but a heap of unraveled yarn. Papa starts singing again and Hannah joins him.
“Over the river and through the woods to Grandfather’s house we go.” *
Von Rupert lives in the Washington, D.C. area and belongs to Writers’ Village University.