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Memories of that special Hewitt home

Sweet-scented pineapple weed is a certain calling card for my favorite summertime memories.

Whenever I catch a whiff of this chamomile cousin I feel like I've just stepped out of my family's blue Oldsmobile onto the driveway of Grandma and Granddad's Hewitt home. The heady scent was a welcome into a world of pancakes fried in bacon grease, fresh strawberries from the garden and countless card games of golf.

Best of all, it was the Hacking kids' opportunity to have their grandparents all to themselves.

Our exclusive time didn't happen right when our parents dropped us off, though. We had to endure a few hours of boring grown-up conversation first. I passed the time scratching at the black finish on the Windsor chair and looking at the dishes in Grandma's hutch. The butter mints in a rectangular blue and white Royal Albert bone china dish were of particular interest.

I knew I would miss my parents when they left, but when four adults narrowed down to two that's when the fun could finally begin.

The outdoors called and we answered. My family lived in a small town in Wisconsin during most of the years we spent time at Grandma and Granddad's and we loved the opportunity to explore the countryside. The dirt road by their house led to a creek we would throw stones in with hands sticky from plucking milkweed along the way.

When we got home there wasn't a more refreshing drink than water from an outdoor pump. It took a while to pump it up by hand, but the ice-cold reward was worth the effort.

The pump also served to rinse off fresh-picked peas and strawberries from the garden.

I don't recall many of the meals we ate other than tuna fish sandwiches accompanied by Granddad's chocolate milk that was more chocolate than milk. Of course there were Grandma's pancakes that she fried in a generous slather of bacon fat until the cakes were browned and crispy. Before we went to bed we always ate toast and butter at a table that always seemed to be covered in crumbs. The crumbs didn't interfere with our activities on Grandma's patterned "table cover," though. Granddad was a machinist and would set up a steam engine he built to power miniature trains he created from scrap metal. We were always amazed by the rapid movements of the steam-powered parts.

Although we played outdoors for most of the day, we got our time with Grandma inside.

Grandma was diabetic with cataracts in her eyes. She spent her time in a rocking chair cushioned with an afghan-covered block of foam. We played countless games of golf with her at the card table. These games were particularly special because it was one of the only times we played cards as children. Our mother comes from clean-living Scandinavian Lutherans and cards got an "uff da" because that's what people played in "drinking places."

Grandma and Granddad weren't typical Wadena-area folks. They moved to the area in 1970 from Tennessee, but spent most of their lives in New England. Grandma was born in Scotland and Granddad descended from Englishmen. They were lighthouse keepers at Dumpling Rock in Dartmouth Harbor and homesteaded in Alaska.

They had "pawk the cah" East Coast accents and Grandma's paintings of ocean sailing ships filled the front porch. In her later years she painted numerous tiny paintings, mostly of birds. She sold some of them at England Prairie Pioneer Days.

Grandma and Granddad had a Hewitt address, but we hardly went there when we visited. When we went to town it was to Wadena.

For years I thought my grandparents lived many miles from town. Granddad was in his 80s and an Amish buggy could win a race with his white Chevy hatchback. It was a long ordeal to go buy a box of ice cream cones at the grocery store or pick out a small toy at Pamida.

Now I know the actual distance from their home to Wadena wasn't anywhere near as long as Granddad's driving made us believe. It's a unique experience to have the favorite scene of childhood memories become your home as an adult.

Until I took a job at the PJ three years ago I hadn't lived in Wadena since I was a baby. Despite a long absence of residence, Wadena wasn't a stranger. A yellow home in the country with two people who will never fade from my memory was always a draw back to the town where Dr. Ness delivered me.

Grandma and Granddad have been gone for years and our trips to the country stopped. But the scent of pineapple weed, the Ivory soap in their bathroom or the greasy smell of Granddad's shop have always taken me back to perfect summer days by Wadena.