The Grotto #12

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Step inside the past with a new Vintage Daze Short Story, The Grotto. This snippet is written for Tuesday Tales, where a group of authors write to a word or picture prompt each week. This week we’re writing to the prompt ‘mirror.’

I’m going in a slightly different direction with this story as Sophie visits her almost 100-year old grandmother and gets her peeks into the past one memory at a time. With Grandma born and raised in West Bend, Iowa, most of the snippets will feature northern Iowa, with many focusing on West Bend’s grand jewel – The Grotto. Enjoy the tale, then go check out the other delightful tales you’ll find at Tuesday Tales.

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Sophie tucked her cell phone into her short’s back pocket and eased down into the chair, prepared for a lengthy visit. She had a premonition that she wouldn’t be popping in and popping out this afternoon.

A smile flickered along the edges of Esther’s pale, thin lips. “I remember when they built the prisoner of war camps.”

“Here? In Iowa?” Sophie’s question was tinged with a tone of disbelief. The quizzical expression she wore matched her doubt.

“Oh, yes. There were several of them. Closest one to us was in Algona, just down the road a piece. German POW’s were held there. The camp in Clarinda held Japanese POW’s. But the Germans in the Algona facility are the ones I think of at Christmas time. You ever go see the nativity scene at the Kossuth County Fairgrounds?”

“I did. Years ago. My Girl Scout troop made a trip out there when I was little.”

“And…” Esther watched her granddaughter expectantly, as if waiting for more to follow.

“Well…it was a nativity scene. I think they had it spotlighted with festive lights…I was little, Grams…don’t remember all that much about it.”

Esther swatted at the air between them in an agitated manner. “They probably told you. Seems I got the story about it every year your grandfather and I drove over to see it. Children…probably talking to your friends the whole time and not paying attention to the docent.”

Sophie lowered her eyes and looked abashed. “Possibly…”

“The figures in the nativity scene were made by the German soldiers held in the camp.”

“From way back then?”

Nodding her head in agreement, Esther looked pleased that she’d managed to maintain her granddaughter’s attention. “First year they were held there, a pastor from a local church was snuck into the camp to see what the soldiers were up to. He reported later that they spied the prisoners huddled around a scene they’d crafted from the Iowa soil, singing ‘Silent Night’ in German, and praying to God in their native tongue. Said it brought him to tears.”

A scratchy edge started to taint Esther’s words. She stopped and swallowed a few drinks of water. Sitting the glass back on the small side table, she continued her tale. “The next year the Camp Commander asked the German prisoner who’d created the figures to make a larger Nativity scene for the next Christmas. And they did. Lots of figures – the whole mammoth display that’s still showcased now.”

As Esther spoke, Sophie pulled out her phone and started tapping across the scene. “Whoa! Here it is right here.” She turned the screen towards her grandmother.

Check out the other delightful tales you’ll find at Tuesday Tales.

Trisha’s Website

The Grotto #11

New TT banner

Step inside the past with a new Vintage Daze Short Story, The Grotto. This snippet is written for Tuesday Tales, where a group of authors write to a word or picture prompt each week. This week we’re writing to a picture prompt.

I’m going in a slightly different direction with this story as Sophie visits her almost 100-year old grandmother and gets her peeks into the past one memory at a time. With Grandma born and raised in West Bend, Iowa, most of the snippets will feature northern Iowa, with many focusing on West Bend’s grand jewel – The Grotto. Enjoy the tale, then go check out the other delightful tales you’ll find at Tuesday Tales.

Even though this story takes place in the heat of the summer, this is the picture I chose.

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At the mention of ice cream, Anthony quieted in the back seat. Sophie decided not to torture him any further. She veered into the left hand turn lane and headed to the local convenience store.

Five minutes later they were back on the road, her son happily slurping on a tall, frosty cone while the condensation from an icy green tea dripped on Sophie’s lap every time she took a sip. She turned down familiar streets, slowing down as she passed by old buildings that she’d grown up around and had never given a second thought to before. But now, after hearing her grandmother’s reminisces, they seemed more dear and poignant.

A wave of sadness passed over her as she saw how many were in such a state of deterioration. Although she wasn’t really surprised. If no one else appreciated the history of the small community any more than Sophie did in the days of BGS – Before Grandma’s Stories – it shouldn’t be unexpected.

At most locations, she pulled over and took a picture with her phone. She jotted notes on the back of an envelope that was in her purse, so she wouldn’t forget which buildings were located where.

After her thirst for exploration was satiated, Sophie drove past the Catholic Church and the Grotto next door. She vowed to make a family trip back here in the next few weeks.

The next few days seemed to drag. This time she was looking forward to her next visit with her grandmother. As thoughts surfaced, she’d jotted notes and was prepared with a litany of questions.

Sophie stepped into her grandmother’s nook in the nursing room but before she could speak, Esther beamed and piped up. “I remembered a story I have to tell you. About a snowy Christmas Eve during the war. In Algona, in 1944.”

Check out the other delightful tales you’ll find at Tuesday Tales.

Trisha’s Website

The Grotto #10

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Step inside the past with a new Vintage Daze Short Story, The Grotto. This snippet is written for Tuesday Tales, where a group of authors write to a word or picture prompt each week. This week we’re writing to the prompt ‘steady.’

I’m going in a slightly different direction with this story as Sophie visits her almost 100-year old grandmother and gets her peeks into the past one memory at a time. With Grandma born and raised in West Bend, Iowa, most of the snippets will feature northern Iowa, with many focusing on West Bend’s grand jewel – The Grotto. Enjoy the tale, then go check out the other delightful tales you’ll find at Tuesday Tales.

 

creamery

In 1892 the Farmers Creamery began in a frame building in the northwest section of town. Tom Clark was the creamery manager. When the creamery building burnt down in 1928, a new creamery was built. WEST BEND CREAMERY pictured at right.

(Photo from WestBendIowa.com, history page)

 

Sophie threw her hand over her mouth at the picture in her mind. “Oh my goodness. I’ll bet you were terrified.”

“Yes, we were. I think Bobby was more excited about all the commotion taking place. I was petrified. Seeing my dad there, fighting the vicious flames with the others. I think it was a long time after the flames subsided before my heart began to beat a steady beat again.”

“Was anything saved?”

“It was a total loss. For several weeks Father’s job was more tearing down and rebuilding than any actual creamery work. He came home for a while covered in a black sooty film. But before we knew it, it was rebuilt and everything was up and running again.”

Sophie propped an elbow on her left arm and leaned her chin into the palm of her upraised arm. A furrow of deep thought etched a line deep across her forehead. “You know, I’ve lived here my whole life. Born and raised here. But I never think about the history that is embedded in this small community. I’ve been negligent about something very important to West Bend.”

“Now dear, don’t be too hard on yourself. You’re young. You’re busy raising a family and taking care of a home. Its old folks that have the time to ruminate and remember. Lord knows, I’ve probably filled you with enough tales for the day.”

With a startled glance, Sophie pulled her phone from her pocket and checked the time. She jumped out of the chair and leaned over and gave Esther a peck on the forehead. “See what you did? You sent me back in time and I almost forgot all about picking Anthony up.” She hurried from the room, but stopped at the doorway to turn and blow a kiss. “See you in a few days, Grams.”

Driving to the school, she hurried as fast as she could, constantly glancing down at the speedometer to make sure she wasn’t speeding. She threw up a quick prayer of thanks for every green light, and sighed exasperatedly at every red one. She heaved a sigh of relief when she pulled up and saw that three cars were still in line. She may be the last one there, but at least she made it before everyone else had gone.

Once Anthony was settled in the back seat and buckled in. she pulled out of the drive, but turned right instead of the usual left.

“Where are we going, Mommy? That’s the wrong way.”

“I know. I thought we’d take a little trip down memory lane before we went home.”

“What’s a trip down memory lane?”

She grinned and looked up in the rear view mirror to watch her son’s reaction. “A little trip to the past. I want to see a few sights around town before we go home.”

Anthony groaned and slumped down further in his seat. “Awwww, mom…but I wanted to get home and play my game. I’m almost at the next level.”

A stern look filled her face. “Homework first. Then games. But don’t worry, it won’t take long. I just want to drive down a few streets and look at some old buildings that I never think about.”

Another loud protest came from the seat behind her. She decided to up the ante. “Besides, after I see the buildings that are on my mind, I do believe that we pass by C-Store on the way home. I thought I heard there was an ice cream in there calling your name.”

Check out the other delightful tales you’ll find at Tuesday Tales.

Trisha’s Website

The Grotto #9

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Step inside the past with a new Vintage Daze Short Story, The Grotto. This snippet is written for Tuesday Tales, where a group of authors write to a word or picture prompt each week. This week we’re writing to the prompt ‘mirror.’

I’m going in a slightly different direction with this story as Sophie visits her almost 100-year old grandmother and gets her peeks into the past one memory at a time. With Grandma born and raised in West Bend, Iowa, most of the snippets will feature northern Iowa, with many focusing on West Bend’s grand jewel – The Grotto. Enjoy the tale, then go check out the other delightful tales you’ll find at Tuesday Tales.

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Esther laid her head back on her pillow, eyes closed, appearing deep in thought. Sophie sat there patiently, waiting for her to share another tale from the past. She waited. She started picking at ragged cuticle on her thumb. She began composing her grocery list in her head. At one point she wondered if her grandmother were okay. Leaning in closer to the bed, she saw her grandmother’s chest rise and fall slightly and knew she was still breathing.

Sophie ventured tentatively. “Grams?” She felt flooded with relief when Grandma’s eyes fluttered open.

“Sorry, dear. Guess I got lost in my memories. Forgot where I was for a moment.”

Sophie reached out and patted her grandmother’s frail, age-spotted hand. “That’s alright. Hey, I’m the one who asked you for another story. Blame it on me. What were you remembering?”

“The day the creamery burnt. Seems I was about nine years old. It was right around my birthday, if I recollect. So…” She held up her fingers and began ticking off the years. “Must have been around 1928. Bobby and I were playing at Prairie Creek, floating paper boats down it.”

Laughter burst from Sophie like a champagne bottle that couldn’t contain the bubbles. “Uncle Bobbie? Stern, brook-no-nonsense Great-Uncle Bobby? I can’t even begin to picture him as a child playing.”

A grin played about the edges of Esther’s mouth. “Oh, he could play alright. At least back in those days. Maybe not once he was older and grown the few times you met him. He was a scamp when he was a boy, though. How he loved to play along the creek bed. Our mother had fits that he’d take me there to play with him. Said it wasn’t fitting for a girl to be playing there.”

Sophie nodded in agreement. She had her own thoughts she could add to this. Her own mother had been much the same, trying to curtail Sophie to playing what she thought was appropriate play time activities for a girl to participate in. But she didn’t want to interrupt her grandmother or get her derailed from the current story. She knew that it happened too easily. And once Grandma lost her train of thought, poof, it could be gone in an instant, never to return again.

Fortunately, Esther stayed with the story line. “So there we were, Bobby and I, setting our floating contraptions out to sail, when we heard an awful uproar coming from town. We could hear screaming and yelling. We dashed towards the main road. When we got closer all we could hear was ‘Fire!’ and ‘The creameries on fire!’ We ran as fast as we could to the north end of town. Father worked there. Had worked there for years under Tom Clark. We were worried sick, not knowing if he was okay. We couldn’t get too close. It was all up in a blaze. Being a wood framed building, it went quick. We sure were relieved when we saw Father, safe and sound, in a line of men trying to get the blaze under control.”

Check out the other delightful tales you’ll find at Tuesday Tales.

Trisha’s Website

The Grotto #8

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Step inside the past with a new Vintage Daze Short Story, The Grotto. This snippet is written for Tuesday Tales, where a group of authors write to a word or picture prompt each week. This week we’re writing to the prompt ‘mirror.’

I’m going in a slightly different direction with this story as Sophie visits her almost 100-year old grandmother and gets her peeks into the past one memory at a time. With Grandma born and raised in West Bend, Iowa, most of the snippets will feature northern Iowa, with many focusing on West Bend’s grand jewel – The Grotto. Enjoy the tale, then go check out the other delightful tales you’ll find at Tuesday Tales.

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“You watched him build The Grotto?” This was a story that Sophie had never heard.

“I did. Of course, not from the beginning. I heard tell he laid the first stone in 1912. And since I wasn’t born until 1919…unless I watched from the heavens…” Esther shoulders shook with mirth at her own joke.

Warmth and happiness spread through Sophie as she watched her grandmother’s enjoyment. It was always so good when memories flowed easily and she caught glimpses of her old grandmother inhabiting the familiar, albeit older, form.

Once her laughter trickled to a slow chuckle, Esther continued with her story from the past. “By the time I was old enough and walking to school by myself, I’d pass by and often stop to watch them at work. By then Father Dobberstein had a helper. Matthew Szerensce. He graduated from high school about the time Father started on his building project. He became his helper and worked on the Grotto until he retired. Sometime in the late 50’s, if I recall.”

Sophie shifted in her chair and got more comfortable, settling in for a long story. “You sure know a lot about West Bend.”

“Ought to. Living there my whole life.”

A nurse in cheerful, colorful scrubs poked her head in the room. “Sorry to interrupt ladies. Pill time.”

Esther made a face and when the nurse wasn’t watching, stuck her tongue out to Sophie. Despite her evident displease about the task, she complied and took the preferred medications without complaint.

After the nurse left, she continued on with her tale. “I remember in 1946, another Father came to the church. Father Greving. I remember because that’s the year your mother was born. Father Dobberstein was getting along in years and slowing down. The new Father helped a lot and took over the more strenuous duties. There was a buzz around town when Father Greving first came. To make the building easier, he ordered an electric hoist. Before then all the lifting and carrying had been done by hand. Oh my, wasn’t that quite the contraption. The whole town would stand about to watch the new machinery in action. Why, there were days I’d bundle up your mother and walk to town with her, just for the excitement of watching the new hoist in action.”

Sophie grinned. “Bet Mom doesn’t remember that.”

“Nope. I’m sure she doesn’t. Wish you could have seen your mother’s face when she was a tiny tot. We’d walk to town and stop by the Grotto on the way home. Father Dobberstein laid in so many beautiful stones, gems, and crystals. Your mother loved to look at all the pretties and touch each and every one she could. Why, some were so bright and shiny it was like looking at little mirrors embedded in the rocks.”

“I like hearing that story about Mom as a young girl. Being my mom, I always picture her as an adult, never as a young child. Especially one younger than my own Anthony. I’m glad you shared that story with me, Grams. I like hearing about you as a child too. What other things do you remember about West Bend? Back from when you were a young girl?”

Check out the other delightful tales you’ll find at Tuesday Tales.

Trisha’s Website

 

The Grotto #7

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Step inside the past with a new Vintage Daze Short Story, The Grotto. This snippet is written for Tuesday Tales, where a group of authors write to a word or picture prompt each week. This week we’re writing to a picture prompt. These snippets will be short. Each one is 300 words or less. There’s several pictures to choose from and we each pick one to write to.

Enjoy the tale, then go check out the other delightful tales you’ll find at Tuesday Tales.

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“Don’t even know what the Grotto is. Some new-fangled invention?”

“No, Grams. Next to the Catholic Church. You and Grandpa used to take me there when I was a young girl. The nine grottos, all made of stone, minerals and gems? They’re old. Much older than I am.”

A moment of silence passed before a spark of recognition ignited in Esther’s eyes. “I remember. Why, it was started years before I was even born. Father Dobberstein’s brain child. He worked on it for years. He and his helper, Matthew. Not Anthony. Where on earth did I get that Anthony worked there? It was Matthew. Sweet, dedicated man.”

Esther stopped her recollection to pick up her glass and take a few sips before continuing with her tale. “The two of them worked side by side for years. If I recall…” She paused and glanced up at her granddaughter with a twinkle in her eye. “No comments from the peanut gallery. We all know that my days of remembering are gone.”

“Nonsense, Grams. You’re sharp as a tack.” Sophie’s poker face held in good stead as she let the little white lie pass through her lips.

“Ha! Young ‘un, I’ve half a mind to let your mama know you’re telling stories now. But, never the mind. I know you mean well when you try to humor your old Grandma. But back to the Grotto. I remember when I was little, I’d walk home from school past the Catholic Church and watch Matthew and Father Dobberstein working away, piling the rocks higher and higher. There was a park bench between the construction area and the campgrounds. One day it was cold and snowy. Almost too cold to even stop. But I had to. It was so beautiful. The majestic rock creations covered with the glorious white bounty of pristine snow.”

Check out the other delightful tales you’ll find at Tuesday Tales.

Trisha’s Website

The Grotto #6

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Step inside the past with a new Vintage Daze Short Story, The Grotto. This snippet is written for Tuesday Tales, where a group of authors write to a word or picture prompt each week. This week we’re writing to the prompt ‘snow.’

I’m going in a slightly different direction with this story as Sophie visits her almost 100-year old grandmother and gets her peeks into the past one memory at a time. With Grandma born and raised in West Bend, Iowa, most of the snippets will feature northern Iowa, with many focusing on West Bend’s grand jewel – The Grotto. Enjoy the tale, then go check out the other delightful tales you’ll find at Tuesday Tales.

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On the way out to the car, Sophie mused about why Grandma thought her son worked on the Grotto, a site built long before she herself was even born. Despite her curiosity, the interest fled as soon as she entered the heavy traffic of the main road through town. As she hit red light after red light, the thought most prominent in her mind was whether she’d make it to the school in time to pick up her son.

Back to back errands and chores filled Sophie’s life the next two days. She even set the alarm clock an hour earlier than usual, trying to get a head start on the day, to no avail. It seemed that for every item she crossed off her list, two more magically appeared.

To the grocery store to order the cake. To the park to confirm their reservation. To the big box store for baseballs, party supplies, party favor goodies, and candles. To the bicycle shop to make the last payment on the shiny chrome BMX bike that Anthony had been drooling over for months. She’d leave it to her husband to pick it up and try to hide it until Saturday.

She wondered – only half way in jest – whether moms could get fired if they forgot any of the essential items. Children’s birthday parties were complicated procedures nowadays. Sophie remembered the birthday parties of her childhood. Mom baked a cake. She invited a few friends over. They played a few games in the living room, opened presents, and everyone went home. This was only a child’s six-year-old birthday party. When did it turn into juggling a five ring circus to prepare for a few hours celebration?

But, as aggravated as she felt thinking about how these young celebrations had morphed into such extravagant productions, she still didn’t call a halt to any of the plans. She kept moving, staying in action, ticking off the tasks until Saturday afternoon was there.

By the time they left the park several hours later, exhausted, with a grimy-faced little boy falling asleep in the backseat before they left the parking lot, the only coherent thought in Sophie’s brain was about how happy she was that they decided to hold the party at the party. She cringed at the thought of the havoc almost a dozen small boys would have brought into their home.

Grandma didn’t even cross Sophie’s consciousness until the following Wednesday when she glanced at the calendar hanging on the wall and realized that it had been a week since she’d visited.

To appease her guilty feelings about not thinking of Grandma more than she did, Sophie stopped at the bakery and selected a dozen cookies – all soft ones, of course – to take with her to the nursing home.

Grandma appeared excited to see her, her face lighting up with pleasure and instant recognition registering in her eyes. “Sophie! My little angel. Come. Sit and visit with this old lady.”

After they shared some cookies and exchanged pleasantries, Sophie pulled out her phone and held the screen up so Grandma could see. “It’s Anthony’s birthday party we had at the park last weekend.” She scrolled through, lingering on each photo for just a second or two before flipping to the next. “And here’s the bicycle we got him.”

“My, such a fancy contraption. And so shiny. They sure didn’t have anything so regal in my days.”

Sophie chuckled and grinned. “No, I’d imagine not. Not so fine in my day either. Why, I remember how proud I was of the slightly dinged up second-hand bicycle Dad got for me one year. I was just excited that it had a banana seat and a ringing bell on the handlebars.”

After Sophie sat back down in the chair next to the bed and conversation lagged, she thought to ask. “So, Grandma? Last week you thought Anthony worked on the Grotto. Why did you think that?”

Esther’s face was a blank slate. “The Grotto? What’s the Grotto? And why on earth would I think this young child worked there? He’s just a tyke.”

 

Check out the other delightful tales you’ll find at Tuesday Tales.

Trisha’s Website