An Iowa Story

She returned
to eavesdrop on her history.
Imagine Grandpa’s weathered face,
rusted tractor rumbling through fields.
Picture Grandma young and spry,
aproned in her summer kitchen.
Failing roofs,
weathered homestead,
long empty.
But as she left, it whispered,
You are our dreams come true.

Written for dVerse, the virtual pub for poets, where today Kim asks us to write a Quadrille (poem of exactly 44 words, sans title) using the word “eavesdropper” or a form of the word.

PHOTOS provided by Andrea Gunderson Frederickson. She was a high school student of mine many many years ago when I taught at Iowa Valley High School in Marengo, Iowa. This is her grandparents’ homestead, just outside of Marengo. Summer kitchens were used to avoid heating up the entire house during the hot and humid summer months.

46 thoughts on “An Iowa Story

  1. Lucy September 7, 2020 / 3:17 pm

    Beautifully penned with rich imagery and fascinating imagination of the past of what once was.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Laura Bloomsbury September 7, 2020 / 3:21 pm

    a charming vignette of nostalgia – love how you verbed the noun here
    “Grandma young and spry,
    aproned in her summer kitchen.”

    Liked by 1 person

    • lillian September 7, 2020 / 3:29 pm

      Thank you, Bjorn. Sadly, my the summer kitchen of my friend was damaged by the high wind storm that hit Iowa a few weeks ago. They are hopeful to save it.


  3. Ingrid September 7, 2020 / 3:36 pm

    This carries such a powerful message: I love the idea of someone eavesdropping on their own history: I used to do this when I listened to my Grandmother’s stories of the past.The final line is perfect: every grandparent’s dream fulfilled.

    Liked by 1 person

    • lillian September 8, 2020 / 9:10 am

      I only had one grandparent that I can remember – the others died when I was very very young. How I wish I’d taped her voice; interviewed her and done an “oral history”. Glad you enjoyed my post!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Ingrid September 8, 2020 / 9:15 am

        I wish I’d done the same with mine: she had the most fantastic voice!

        Liked by 1 person

  4. sanaarizvi September 7, 2020 / 3:37 pm

    This is incredibly poignant, Lillian! 💝 I love how seamlessly you have incorporated the given word in this poem.


    • lillian September 8, 2020 / 9:10 am

      Thank you, Sanaa. And PS: so glad to have you on board as a pub tender! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • sanaarizvi September 8, 2020 / 3:12 pm

        Delighted to be onboard, Lillian! 😀

        Liked by 1 person

  5. kim881 September 7, 2020 / 3:39 pm

    The idea of eavesdropping on one’s history drew me into your quadrille, Lille. I could see ‘Grandpa’s weathered face’, the tractor, and Grandma in her apron. The image of the ‘weathered homestead’ is so sad, but the ending made me smile.

    Liked by 1 person

    • lillian September 8, 2020 / 9:15 am

      Andrea, my former high school student who is now in her early 60s, posted on her FB page the results of the high winds that hit Iowa some weeks ago. They lost a huge walnut tree that was right next to her grandmother’s summer kitchen on their old farmstead, long abandoned except for the productive fields and one barn. I’d been thinking about that old saying “if only walls could tell us what they’ve heard” and then saw her post. I contacted her and explained the prompt and asked for photos. Of course, I sent her the poem. She was so touched by it and I’ve heard from a number of my old students in Marengo, Iowa about remembering their grandparents in their old homesteads, being in their summer kitchens. So it turned out to be quite a meaningful poem. Andrea is a very accomplished woman….and one who is kind to all….hence my ending to the poem. So glad you enjoyed.

      Liked by 1 person

      • kim881 September 8, 2020 / 1:09 pm

        Thank you for sharing the background to your lovely poem, Lill.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. Jane Dougherty September 7, 2020 / 3:54 pm

    Dipping into someone else’s past is like eavesdropping. Lovely nostalgia trip 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  7. calmkate September 7, 2020 / 4:14 pm

    what a powerful use of the prompt, so poignant and wondrous to investigate our past

    Liked by 1 person

    • lillian September 8, 2020 / 9:17 am

      My “project” during this time of Covid has been to go through old photo albums, toss out, compress, and create a new photo journal. In some of the very old photos of my family as immigrants, old marriage certificates, programs, cards etc….in a way, I do feel like I’m “eavesdropping” through their lives. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Glenn A. Buttkus September 7, 2020 / 4:19 pm

    Iowa was hit hard by that tornado-wind storm; so much destruction from nature these days. Your nostalgia is striking and touching.

    Liked by 1 person

    • lillian September 8, 2020 / 9:20 am

      Thank you, Glenn. The derecho winds that hit Iowa were devastating. I heard from so many of our old Iowa friends….and somehow, there was almost no national news coverage. Cedar Rapids Iowa was especially hard hit…..I kept wondering where the senators and reps were….why FEMA wasn’t there. They finally went, a week later. The only immediate news was of lost crops…nothing about homes, schools, power outages, etc.


  9. robtkistner September 7, 2020 / 4:32 pm

    Lillian, what a beautiful way to contemplate the past, both as memory, and as the path that stretches to this moment. Excellent write!

    Liked by 1 person

    • lillian September 8, 2020 / 9:21 am

      Thank you! So glad you enjoyed!


  10. Beverly Crawford September 7, 2020 / 5:15 pm

    Oh my word, this reached out and grabbed me! It could be my story.

    Liked by 1 person

    • lillian September 8, 2020 / 9:22 am

      I posted it to my FB page, and many of my old Iowa students see me there. I’ve heard from so many of them….their memories of their grandparents’ homesteads, being in their summer kitchens etc. So glad it resonated with you too!


  11. msjadeli September 7, 2020 / 6:33 pm

    I love the idea of “eavesdropping on history” and that of us being their dreams coming true. So lovely, Lillian.

    Liked by 1 person

    • lillian September 8, 2020 / 9:27 am

      So glad you enjoyed! I’ve heard from quite a few of our old Iowa friends that this one resonated with them 🙂


  12. Sakura Kenata September 7, 2020 / 7:38 pm

    I have several of my great-grandmother’s aprons she cut from flour sacks and stitched herself. I remember how you loved your time in Iowa and how this poem brings out that love.

    Liked by 1 person

    • lillian September 8, 2020 / 9:32 am

      oh yes….our time in Iowa remains dear to my heart. How I would love to have something of my grandmothers….I do always remember her scent….when I knew her, she lived in Florida and always wore orange blossom perfume. 🙂


  13. lynn__ September 7, 2020 / 8:14 pm

    Such precious memories that become part of our dreams…cheers for rural Iowa farm families, then and now!

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Grace September 7, 2020 / 8:54 pm

    How amazing to experience this. I love: eavesdrop on her history.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. hank77 September 8, 2020 / 1:01 am


    Wonderful lines and such a classic reference to old students that suggests great teacher-student relations!


    Liked by 1 person

    • lillian September 8, 2020 / 9:35 am

      Thank you, Hank. Actually, when we went back to Rock Island, Illinois for our 50th college reunion, we also drove that Sunday the 2 hours to Marengo, Iowa. Some students had arranged a “reunion” of sorts….any of my former high school students who wanted to drop by. They are now in their 60s! Andrea was one of them. And an 82 year old father of one of my former students came as well. Amazing! Joyful tears and much exclaiming and reminiscing. Wonderful years spent there. 🙂


  16. othermary September 8, 2020 / 10:51 am

    I too used the idea of eavesdropping on the past, though to different ends. This makes me think of my grandparents, and from there into all sorts of happy memories. Thank you for that, and for doing it so artfully. Great pics by your student too.


  17. merrildsmith September 8, 2020 / 11:52 am

    Eavesdropping on the past–so evocative. Wonderful photo, too.
    I particularly liked: “aproned in her summer kitchen.” Those few words conjure up a whole scene in my mind.

    Liked by 1 person

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