Once upon a time, in the far away mountains, there lived a little girl who wanted more than anything to feel truly loved. She lived with her grandfather who thought the sun rose and set on his little grand-daughter. The two were inseparable and through the seasons they spent many hours wandering in the meadows and woods that surrounded their big house. Each time they returned home from an adventure the grandfather went into his big cozy kitchen and create wonderful things for the two of them to eat. The little girl paid littlesusanspecial attention to everything he did... how he selected just the right ingredients and then chopped, stirred, tasted, smelled and seasoned each dish. Finally he presented their meal by the kitchen window on a small table set with a white linen cloth, freshly ironed napkins , beautiful crystal glasses and polished silver. After they finished their meal they arranged water glasses in front of each place filling them with different levels of water and to the enjoyment of both they played “Mountain Music”, tapping with a knife on the side of each glass to make the notes of their newly composed songs. It was a magical time.

The days slowly warmed and with the coming of spring the scent of lilacs and lilies of the valley filled the town. Jars and beautiful paper packets of seeds covered the table in the kitchen of the grandfather’s house. Pictures on the packets were so brilliant that they looked like a giant quilt when the little girl spread them over the table top. She watched intently as her grandfather drew his plan for that years garden considering what to plant for the summer guests’ meals and what would be ingardengrown for the two of them to eat in the winter. Soon the garden would be filled with vegetables and flowers just waiting to be harvested.

Spring was also a time for trout fishing! The little girl and her grandfather met in the kitchen while it was still dark to pull on their tall black rubber boots, pick up their wicker creels, the small green tin filled with worms and susanongatelong bamboo fishing poles which stood by the back door. As the sky slowly turned pink with the rising sun they headed down the smooth dirt road toward their favorite fishing hole. While they walked, the little girl watched tiny, green, baby frogs bouncing in mud puddles left by warm spring rains and long plump night crawlers slowly inching their way into the grass to hide from early robins looking for breakfast. They could smell the earth warmed by the rising sun and soon heard the brook making its own kind of music as it rushed over moss covered rocks, through the ferns in the woods on its way to the meadow. Their secret spot never failed to reward them with a good mornings’ catch, sometimes even their “limit” which made for a wonderful breakfast when they returned home. The grandfather cleaned the trout, dipped them in flour and lay them in rows on the big iron pan bubbling with sweet butter to cook until the withfishskins were golden and crispy. Finally they sat down for a well earned meal of tender brook trout, soft chunks of creamy new potatoes, eggs with bright yellow yolks that looked like the tops of golden balls and finally thick slices of homemade bread toasted with butter and lots of homemade strawberry jam.

Summer was an ever more special time. The grandfather turned his big home into a country inn. The wide lawns, tall stately elm and oak trees and marble patios made wonderful places for relaxing in green, wicker seated rocking chairs. There were beautiful English flower gardens with paths for wandering and comfortable white lawn chairs tucked away here and there in private corners. Every year gallons of white paint were brought out along with all the gardening tools, seeds and newly sprouted flower and vegetable plants. Everyone joined in the sprucing up of the inn and gardens before the guests began to arrive.

The people who stayed at the inn; mostly artists, actors and writers, came from far, far away in the big city and beyond. Most returned year after year bringing the excitement of their lives to share with the grandfather and the little girl. She loved the hustle and bustle at this time of year and spent much of each day quietly watching all the comings and goings from her perch on a high stool in the big kitchen or wandering through the big dining rooms dressed smilesin her special pale pink dress, mary jane shoes and white socks with a tiny ruffle on each ankle. She thought that her grandfather was the only person who could ties such a beautiful bow on the sash at the back of her dress… spreading it out to look like a beautiful butterfly.

The inn was famous for its wonderful food. All summer two big dining rooms filled with guests and the kitchen would be humming with activity. White linen cloths and freshly ironed napkins, sparkling crystal glasses and polished silver ware like those at their special place in the kitchen were also on each table. Waitresses came and went first passing each guest choices of homemade buttery rolls and breads from beautiful handmade baskets. Then, in huge hand turned wooden salad bowls, they served the days’ special salads; sometimes shimmering bright red tomato aspic with a special creamy sauce, or crisp cole slaw or greens from the garden with a wonderful secret dressing. The relish tray came next with rows of crystal dishes containing pickled watermelon rind and mustard pickle, dill and sweet pickles from last summers garden, all kinds of olives, exotic chutneys and finally cottage cheese from a local farm. Then came the main courses; big steaming plates of delicious meats including burrows1905roasts of beef, chicken and lamb, choices of casseroles like breaded oysters or corn pudding and mounds of buttery fresh steamed garden vegetables. Finally, waiting in the kitchen were long tables displaying choices of homemade desserts; pies and cakes as well as “floating island”, beautiful puffs of meringue floating in a pool of custard, and a special lemon pudding cake , the little girl’s two favorites.

Each fall as the days began to turn cold, the inn closed for winter. The heat was turned off in the two huge front living rooms. In the two big dining rooms chairs were piledon top of the tables and moth balls sprinkled on all the big oriental carpets before rolling them up to keep them safe from mice. The shelves of books in the living rooms were covered with large white sheets that still smelled like summer sunshine and kept out the dust and dampness during the winter. Outside, the lawn furniture was stored away, the flower and vegetable gardens were trimmed for their winter naps and the grandfather and grand daughter once again had the whole place to themselves.

The leaves on the big maple trees turned brilliant red and gold falling to the ground carpeting the wide lawns. They raked them into big piles and sometimes, just for fun, they buried themselves up to their necks under hangingstockingthe leaves’ colorful blanket. They used them to paper the wall over their table in the kitchen and pressed them for safe keeping between the pages of big books from their library. They collected the caps from the acorns of the oak trees to make tiny dishes for the elves that the grandfather said lived in the steeple clock on the mantle over the fireplace in the big living room. He often lifted his grand daughter up so she could pluck the big spring inside the clock making a boinging noise to let the elves know they were there. Her Grandfather taught her to make many wonderful objects from the things they found on their adventures and he made up stories about each little creation.

The first snowflakes announced the coming of winter and soon snow covered the mountains surrounding their little town. Each morning the two watched birds flock to a very special restaurant, the feeder they had hung in the pine tree next to the kitchen window. Every day the grandfather would toast half of a very long loaf of bread, smear each slice with peanut butter and cut the whole stack into small cubes just big enough for a tiny birds’ breakfast. Finally he sprinkled the cubes with bird seed and he and his granddaughter carried the pan of toast to the feeder then ran back inside to watch the eager birds eat. Snug and warm, they sipped steaming cups of coffee diluted with lots of sweet cream poured off the top of the milk bottle and ate the thick nutty oatmeal with brown sugar and raisins that the grandfather had made before the little girl awoke.

Sometimes, the grandfather and granddaughter put on their wooden snowshoes and made paths through the new snow in the meadow, climbing to the big hill behind their house. They stopped often to fall on their backs, waving their arms and legs to make snow angels then they scrambled to the big marble bench that was perched in the side of the steep slope and sat to eat their sandwiches in the sunshine while they watched the comings and goings in the town below.

On cold winter evenings before bedtime the little girl snuggled next to the fireplace under her warm old quilt and her Grandfather would read her stories from books in their library. He also shared his entries from tiny diaries that he had kept since he was a young man. Every day he wrote down the weather and the events of his life which now included her as well. From the time she was very small the little girl knew that walking and talking with her Grandfather, roaming in the woods and through the sunny, warm meadows, watching grasshoppers and butterflies, fishing in cold mountain brooks, and picnicking in their special spots were the things that made her feel the most happy and content.

As the little girl grew she tried to find a way to belong in her changing world which now included school and new friends. She spent less time with her grandfather but always returned to his company when she was feeling left out, different and lonely. He always knew just the right thing to say to make her feel strong and confident and encouraged her to create objects, to paint and to play “Mountain Music”. She would then venture back into her life, an interesting but vulnerable young woman. The seasons went by year after year as she went to college and eventually met a serious young man who became her husband. The two of them moved so far away from the mountains that, sadly, she was only able to visit her aging grandfather a few times each year.

One day the young woman came home and found a letter telling her that her beloved Grandfather had died. Numbly, she rode for hours on the bus to get home for his funeral, to say a final good-by. She made the long trip alone feeling the deepening confusion of loss and isolation. She arrived in time to spend some precious minutes by herself in her grandfathers’ home. Memories flooded back and the young woman began to feel her sense of loss deepening as she opened the drawer of his nightstand looking for his diaries. When she opened the first worn, black book tiny pieces of paper fluttered to the floor like small white birds and she scooped them up placing them on the nightstand in a pile. Her name on one of the folded pieces caught her eye and she began to open the precious notes as she saw they were all addressed to her in her grandfathers handwriting. Each one lifted her loneliness a little bit and replaced it with the joy that came from having been understood and valued.

“You have been my most precious gift”
“Through our times together I have learned to treasure the world around me”
“From the time you were born I never felt lonely again”
“Keep your eyes wide open to the tiny things”
“Your miraculous talents bring me so much joy!”
“Trust your instincts, they are true to who you are and want to be”
“I always look forward to what you have to say”
“You are valuable and deserve all the joy and appreciation this world has to offer”
“Use your life to inspire your creations”
“Know that you have been loved”
“Eat Oatmeal, play Mountain Music, think of me and remember the birds!”

The End

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