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Mama vs. Beebee (Grandma)

Today, I walked thru the bird sanctuary at a lake near by.  I relearned a few lessons,  that to be honest, I  had sort of forgotten. It saddened me, hurt me. It made me feel like I didn’t matter anymore. I had six kids, one lost at 15, the stress almost killing me too.

I walked along. I would smile at couples walking by, see a woman apparently alone, then see her kid run up. Sadness would creep in.   I fed bread to the fish and turtles, like I used to with my children, and a few times with my grandchildren.  I felt profoundly alone as I walked along.

An hour before , I had walked around my neighborhood with three grandsons, two, age 7, one age 4, along with my youngest son who is in college. ( as of October, I will have 11 grandkids!) Though I enjoyed it, I was disappointed at the lack of discipline, especially after “7 year old no. 2” joined us and there was more ‘cutting up’ going on.  The other two were brothers. I tried to show them how to hunt snail shells. I would  tell them that they were called mollusks, I would name the flowers, if they were annuals , biannuals or perennials, that some  were irises  that grew from rootstock a hundred years old. ( I got an audible “wow” from that).We saw butterflies and I asked who knew what kind it was-  ( swallowtails, easily recognizable). We looked at the creek bank and talked about the flood that collapsed on side of it, and had to be shored-up with rocks. We talked about how the rich people scraping off the plants that held the water in the ground was responsible for the flood, but those of us down valley had to financially and physically clean up the mess the mansion makers made,and how wrong that was.

If you are thinking, “that was too advanced to be teaching seven year olds”, I beg to differ. I started having my own version of “home school” when my kids were two years old. They knew their alphabet and numbers 1-20 by the end of their 3rd year and were reading simple books by the end of their fourth year.  It is a matter of discipline on the part of parent and child, but with my kids, its just what we did.Period. When they learned one thing, we moved on to the next step. Having consistency is the key to education. That was my problem today, there is no set time or way to learn at home. All of my kids went to public school. I taught the youngest at home full time in K-1. We had an hour  to an hour and 1/2 or more of home school, depending on  if it was outdoors or such.

I had very little problems with discipline. Some of my kids wDr e not easy, (ask their public school teachers!)They knew we were  doing school on Saturday, holidays,summer, etc BEFORE anything else. It wasn’t a question or discussion. I may hear you saying “and they hated it”. No, they didn’t, they got it done early, knew more about any subject than their friends, and never complained a lot about doing it. My kids were not close in age, so I would have my 9th grader learning world capitols while the 5th grader learned state capitols,lakes and rivers, and the younger one learned to read or memorize math tables.  At some times, I had four at a time and worked with varied topics. We only spent abut 20 minutes on each subject. We did lots of art, nature walks and studies,  all seasons too. In fall we studied mushrooms and watched the mating of spiders and mantises we had followed since spring. We watch plants emerge in spring, develop color for their rest time in fall. we studied weather as it happened. These are examples.

Besides not having any grandswith me,  (especially not having my kids when they were young) it was hard. I could have probably taken one of the 7 year old, but I didn’t. I wish I could tell my kids not to delay teaching until a certain age. I do tell them about using “teaching moments”. When you went to the store, and were unpacking groceries, you could talk shapes and colors with young ones, then maybe names of vegetables or other foods for preschoolers. The story goes on, as they grow. I have worked with kindergarten children who didn’t know their colors, first graders still struggling with the sound of letters, unable to read a very simple book.

If you work outside the home, it is hard, you may have to work for shorter time periods, but it is still possible. When my grandkid complained, I asked them , do your parents go to work every day so you can eat, have a roof over your head? Of course they all nodded “yes’ , I said, ” Do you think they just woke up one morning and knew how to do their job? ”  Answer: (in unison..Noooo…) So they learned all of their lives, right? (heads shaking, “yes”) I asked the 7 year olds if they could read and they said ,”yes”. I asked the 4 year old and he smiled and said, “I’m learnin!”. I pointed out that the seven year olds had learned thing between the time the were 4 and 7. They got it.

The last thing I told them to day was an old Indian proverb: “You cannot learn with your mouth opened.” I asked  them what that meant, and after some delay , I covered my mouth and said ,”We learn by listening, not talking” I told them , “There is a time to ask questions and a time to listen, do you understand?” They all smiled and said yes. Then  I let them choose what to have for lunch. I told them I loved them and hoped that they would grow up learning everything good that they could so they could take care of them selves and their families. They smiled, ate their crazy lunch choices, had extra glasses of tea (After all, it IS grandma’s house (or as they call me ‘Beebee”. )My husband took two of them home and the other walked home, after hugs, smiles and them saying, “We love you, Beebee.”

I feel better about my walk alone now, realizing that it is simply life which has moved me from  ‘mom’ to ‘Beebee’ . Still, it hurts that I can not teach them like I did my kids because they didn’t start at two with a strict schedulde. I will continue to teach my grands as I can. I find myself learning from my own kids now. It is nice to know that they have learned that learning is a life- long adventure. I am trying to think of things that will grab their attention and to express my pride it what they have accomplished. Yesterday “7 years old #2 showed me some barrels of standing water with creatures swimming in it. He knew they weren’t tadpoles. “What is it, Beebee?” He asked.   It was mosquito larva! We poured the water out and I told him how proud of him I was and that he had saved us from a lot of mosquito bites. Today, he got to brag to his cousins bout what he did.

Just thinking of that lesson- one that my grandchild learned long ago, had been used to help his family, cheered me up. Being a mom and making my own rules my suit mr better, but there is a lot to be said for capturing those moments with my grandkids. They have learned from me! And, I also learn from them. Maybe it isn’t so different after all!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Blackberry Summer

29720184Kenny was just five years old, his brother, Jack, was 8.  Most of Kenny’s life had been spent on tenant farms in upper South Carolina. It was a hard life.  Momma had been sick most of his life with something called Pellegra.   It made her act funny and her skin break out in summer. Her name was Mattie and her family lived a good distance away. She had gone to the hospital in Spartanburg this time because she was so sick.  Kenny missed his mamma, but he was beginning to have a hard time even remembering what her voice sounded like or the touch of her lips as they puckered and kissed him good  night.

They had lived in a different house every year of his life. Which ever farm owner would offer papa the best deal  for working his crops, papa would load  up their sparse possessions and move his little family a few miles down the road.  The house they lived in now, Kenny and Jack had nicknamed ” the smoky house” because the flue in the fireplace didn’t work right and the house always had a smoky odor and in the dead of winter, there was almost a blur to the air  from the smoke.  It was warm, though, so they didn’t complain. On one occasion, Kenny remembered he and Jack playing with corncobs out in the yard, pretending they were cars. Mama had been sitting on the porch with her two sisters, Bettie and Jettie and they laughed at the boys as they played. The sound of her laughter was all he really had now.

When papa took the boys to town on rare occasions, they hitched a ride because Papa didn’t have a car. The boys loved the bumping and puttering of the car as they drove the ten or fifteen miles to where the big supply store was. They were amazed at the electric lights inside the shops and the fancy furniture in the two story houses on Main Street. Sometimes, Jack and Kenny  were  invited in to a lady’s  house for cookies and milk  while Papa was at the farm supply store.

Kenny had been squirming for ten minutes at the table with the red checked table cloth. Jack finally looked at the  lady who had told them to call her Mrs. Salter and said, “M’am, I hate to bother you, but I think my little brother needs to use yer , um, facilities.

Mrs. Salter smiled and led Kenny by the hand to a room by the bedrooms that had an indoor toilet  and a sink inside. Kenny’s eyes lit up. Indoor plumbing! He’d seen it before but never used it.  He turned to see that Mrs. Salter had cracked the door and stepped away.

At first, Kenny just ran his hands over the smooth white porcelain on the sink, his green eyes wide and his mouth agape.  He turned to the toilet filled with water and proceeded to relieve himself. remembered that the handle had to be pushed down for the  contraption to run clean water in it.

Soon, Kenny was back at the table where Jack was finishing up his last sip of milk.

“I bet you boys know where some ripe blackberries are growing.” smiled Mrs. Salter.

“Yes’m” grinned Jack, “we sure do!”

“Well, you two look like good workers,” Mrs. Salter said with her hands propped  on her thin waist.  “I’ll tell you what, If you bring me a gallon of the best ones you can find tomorrow, I will pay you a quarter for them.”

The boys faces light up with a smile. “Yes’m, Mrs. Salter, ”  Jack called out, “we will have them here by lunch time, , the best you’ve ever seen!

The boys, thanked Mrs. Salter for the cookies and milk and headed for the door. They saw Papa coming out of the supply store and hurried to him. Kenny turned to Jack and whispered, ” She’s got one of them indoor toilets!”  Jack had time only for a look of surprise before they met up with Papa.

“Papa, Papa, Kenny called out, “Mrs. Salter said if we’d pick her a gallon of blackberries tomorrow, she would give us a quarter!”

Papa chuckled and said, “Well thats right good wages, boys. Those lowlanders don’t much like to work when they come up here in the summer, do they?”

“No, sir” Kenny replied, ” and she’s got an indoor toilet!”

“Now how do you know about that, young man,” Papa looked sternly at his younger son.

Jack came to the rescue and told Papa that he had VERY POLITELY told Mrs. Salter that Kenny needed to use the facilities when she had offered them a snack.

“Well, I guess you two have got yourselves a job!” Papa laughed as they walked back down the dusty gravel road toward their driveway.

And they surely did. Mrs. Salter and her sister, had cometo the “thermal belt” as Papa called the area between the sweltering heat of the lowlands and the cool foggy  mountains to the north for relief from the heat. q For weeks, the boys went out in their oldest clothes and gathered blackberries for the ladies.

One time, Papa’s sister had come down to stay a while and fixed the most delicious dinners they had ever had. Fried chicken, biscuits, ripe tomatoes! It was heaven!

The boys had been picking blackberries one morning and after delivering them, they saw the postman talking to Aunt Lena. Curious, they stepped up their walking time to hear the man  try to whisper to Aunt Lena.  He couldn’t whisper very well.

They turned their heads toward the Mailman and Aunt Lena, who had failed to notice them walking  up. The mailman motioned Aunt Lena over to his opened door. Naturally, the two curious little boys were right behind her.

“Mattie died today,” he said, his effort to whisper lost on his effort to speak loudly over then engine. Then boys both gasped, and suddenlyAunt Lena turned around and saw them. She took a deep breath as if she was going to fuss, but turned her head back towards the mailman, wiping a tear from her cheek.

“What happened,” Aunt Lena asked the mailman. “I though she was doing better!”

Well, I can’t say for sure, Lena, ” the mailman replied. “She took a turn for the worse last night and when the nurse checked on her this morning, she was gone.”

Aunt Lena turned to Kenny and Jack and put her arms around them, scowling at the mailman for letting them hear his news. Jack and Kenny looked at each other and then at Aunt Lena.

“Did he say our mama was gone? ” Jack said. Kenny was silent, acting a bit confused.

“Yes, honey, thats what he said, your Mama went to live with the angels.” Aunt Lena spoke softly as she brushed a tear from her cheek.

“Live with the angels?” Kenny yelled. “My Mama wouldn’t  go live somewhere else!”

Jack looked at Kenny and  took his hand. “No, Kenny, that means Mama died. She ain’t coming back.”

“No!” cried Kenny. “She ain’t gone to live with no angels! Thats what they do in the Bible!”

Aunt Lena waved the mailman to go on about his duties and she knelt down beside them.

“You know your Mama’s been sick a long time. She was suffering. God didn’t want her to suffer, so he took her up to live with Him in Heaven, just like in the Bible.” Aunt Lena said softly.

Jack just stood there frozen, then grabbed Aunt Lena’s hand. Kenny was running down the driveway screaming, “Papa, Papa! Mama died, she went to heaven, like in the Bible!” he shouted through salty tears.

Aunt Lena heard the screen door squeak open just as they reached the wooden porch.

Papa just looked up at his sister. Aunt Lena nodded her head to say it was true. The four of them formed a knot of tearing, weeping family.

“Well, That’s it. mumbled Jack. We ain’t go no Mama.”  He slung his hands away from the others and ran up the steps to the porch.

Kenny gently let his hand slip from his Papa’s. He walked up on the porch where Jack was rocking back and forth in one of the wooden chairs. He looked up at his father and Aunt as they walked up the steps behind them. Nobody said a word. Papa walked quietly into the house, followed by Aunt Lena.

“What are you going to do, Furman?” Aunt Lena said to her brother. “You think Aunt Annie will take them?”

“Oh, no!” growled Furman, their daddy. “Ain’t nobody takin’ my boys! I will carry them on my back till moss grows on theirs before I give  them away!”

…………………………..

And he did.

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For Everything, there is a Season

DSCN3825When I was born, my parents lived in a little four-room house that my grandfather had built in the 1930’s  when someone offered to sell him a thousand board feet of wood for a thousand dollars.  With that as an inventive, grandpa built this small house, much like many others he had built around our community. His uncles were carpenters, he was an electrician.

For many years, this little house was the ‘first home’ to many young married couples. It was in a neighborhood surrounded by cousins, aunts and uncles. A little stream ran behind the house. It was a safe and loving neighborhood. My grandparents ran a little country store right across the creek, which, at that time could be crossed on a board from one side to another.

If I were to write a book that told the story of everyone who had made their start, or lived in that house when thy were young, it would be a long and interesting book.  I could name many families whose first and often second child was born while thy lived there. It wasn’t big, but it was not just a house, it was truly a home.

I think of all the babies who cried softly for attention in that house, the many sets of used furniture, cleaned up and decorated into a sweet and satisfying place to live. Anything from Model A’s to modern trucks have parked in that driveway. Black Heart Cherries served as delicious snacks on early summer afternoons.

My uncle next door often shared a portion of his garden to the families who lived there.  He would share his knowledge of gardening and even his water from the pump he put in the creek with his neighbors.We are fresh green beans in summer and carved pumpkins at Halloween.

I moved there here when I was seven months pregnant with my first child. To come there from a lonely apartment seemed like heaven. After a short,  rough marriage, I spent many lonely days and even some happy times while I lived there as a single parent of two.

I finished a 4- year University degree  in three years while I worked and raised two kids as a single parent. My two cousins across the creek spend many hours at my house during the eight years that I lived there. We played loud music, card games, laughed and passed the time. My best friend and her sisters would sit on my back steps and we would teach each other songs on out guitars.

There were days in the 1970’s that I spent my time with doors jingling colored beads that  hung from the doorways. Psychedelic  posters, Mother Earth Magazines and children’s books shared my walls and book shelves. I proudly called myself a ‘hippie ‘. Without the details, I will soon move on.  I had wicker furniture, pretty rocks, in a stack in a corner, a small black and white TV, no dryer, a hand- me- down washer and a clothes line beside the cherry tree snd flower garden. There were no extra ended or excesses.

i loved plants and one could be found in any feasible location, the floor, tables, or cabinet tops. The rooms were small, full yet cozy. I loved the claw legged bathtub and those relaxing bubble baths after an exhausting  day. After I graduated from college I moved  to my families” big house” which sat rather ‘ kitty corner’ from this little one. I had lived there for 8 years and for 32 more years, the story went on.

Young couples, single people, elderly widows, many more, lived in that house. A man and his mother were the last to live there. My aunt had promised her friend that she would continue to let her son, who never married, lived there after she died and both my aunts son, who inherited the house, and I, who bought a lot with both this  little house and my aunt and uncles house on it, kept our word.

By the time the elderly gentleman passed away while living in the house, it had seen its better days. In fact, it had seen them long before. The floors were warped, the doors no longer shut well, all the new siding  and Windows  and boards on the porches did not make the house truly livable by my standards after nearly 90 years.

With  a heavy heart, I decided last fall that I would have to tear the house down, it would have cost more to fix the little house than it was worth.  It wasn’t easy to watch the house be demolished, but the ease with which it went down,  showed me that I had made the right decision.  I planted flowers and vegetables in a box garden there this spring.

There are so many memories in that little house, I remember bringing my babies home to it, the soft strum of my guitar on the porch- and the loud Lynyrd Skynyrd on the stereo. I fondly recall the meals I prepared, the friends I entertained, the tears when life was rough and the smiles when life was good.

Even  though the house is no longer there, it will always be there in my mind. So many “firsts” to remember, the first steps of my oldest son and daughter, the first furniture that I bought on my own. Painting the walls, the relaxing warm baths, the  poems I wrote in that bedroom and the pictures I painted in the kitchen.

It is almost always hard when a page turns in our lives. Even if what lies ahead is a bit exciting, it is a challenge to move on. I can close my eyes and see the white picket fence, the rose bush I planted when my first child was born, building snowmen with my kids,  or looking out the window and seeing the first car that I bought myself.

Life goes on, through good times and bad. The ages creep in that little house just as they did with me. There is something about a place that holds so many ” firsts” that keeps it written permanently in my mind. So, it is with the little house at # 10. It is a part of my parents first years, of my own first house, and that of my first two babies.

I can close my eyes and see the basket where kittens were born, where I held my newborns, where I dreamed dreams that actually came true once in a while. Little White House, you now live only in my mind  but you are part of me and I love you. I will never forget the night skies or sunrises I saw there. You will always live in my heart.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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HB2 and my CAT-This is legit-please read

HB2 and my CAT- this is legit-so read it please! With this HB2 ( aka “The Toilet Papers”) so much in the news here in NC , I have a serious delima. I took my 6 year old cat to the vet this morning to get a rabies shot and they didn’t want to give it to HER without an exam, so I agreed to the exam. After thoroughly checking HER glands for possible infection, the vet felt that the cat was fine and could get the shot. However, he did have some rather surprising news for me, my cat, Cougar, who was found as a stray 6 years ago by my son, was a MALE.!!! It is NOT a FEMALE, as we have called ‘her’ and thought ‘she’ was for 6 years- since HE was less than a year old!!!! SO, HERE IS MY QUESTION– if my MALE cat identifies as a FEMALE because it had been told for most of its life that HE was a SHE, can HE USE our girl cats litter box? Oh, my,I’m SO confused!!!!

Brenda Lewis's photo.

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The Chance to Remember

 

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This week, I celebrated two events that I wasn’t, sure I would see.  My granddaughter turned two a few days ago. That seems like such a simple statement. I have quite a group of grandkids, but enjoying them has not always been easy. My youngest son graduated from high school, and it was as sweet and crazy as the other childrens were.

Why then were these events so memorable?  First, let me tell you about them.  After the ice cream and presents, I saw my older grandkids splashing in the creek trying to catch minnows, crayfish and salamanders. I didn’t give it a thought before I had grabbed two cups and headed for the creek. Because. Of my disabilities, I had to find an easy way in. My grandkids all know that I’m the nature lady- nothing makes me smile quicker than a chance to teach them a nature lesson, whether it is ” how to catch creek creatures”or “what are the different kinds of life cycles among insects?” Today, it was time for creek creature catching!   My oldest daughter loves these nature studies as much as I do and was already at the creek when I arrived. Among the happy shouts of ” I got one!” One of my grands would quietly ask me to catch one for them and let them have the cup to show off their prize.  I was in grandkids heaven as we lifted rocks and I tried o teach children the importance of patience and still waters if you want to catch your prize creatures. I am not sure a tassel of kids between 6 and nine really gets the meaning of patience.  Oh, well, having had six kids of my own, I could work around it. Soon, I was sharing cups with several little salamanders with them, the giggled and splashed and ‘dirtied’ the water as they ran to show them off to the others.

After a lot of hunting, we finally began to find some medium sized crayfish and put them in a bucket. My daughter and I explained how happy we were to see them because the ‘ nutrient rich’ water had killed off a lot of the creek life.  Yes, we had to explain that the ‘nutrients’ were fertilizers that he big houses that had been built used to make their perfect lawns , thus polluting the creeks and killing the creatures that lived there.)

As we worked to collect the creatures, I told my daughter and grands about the days when my mom took me and my friends to my grandpa’s pasture to catch creek creatures, much larger than these because the big houses had yet to overtake the farms. They were sweet memories. My mom, like me was a lover if nature. Rather than having instilled a fear of wildlife in me, she taught me to respect them.  From Black Widows to Black Snakes to water creatures and wild plants, my mom taught me to love them, catch and observe them, then let then go, so we could catch and observe them again. The memories of my mom and I, along with the privilege of sharing such a day with my daughters, sons and grandkids formed a mist in my eyes. You see, I never thought I would be able to do those things again.

Nearly ten years ago, as my 15 year old son was playing baseball, an unbelievable tragedy took him and “life” would never be the same. After a great double and a steal to third base, my lungs were sore from screaming my praises to him. The next kid struck out and soon the teams were practicing for the last half of the last inning. Suddenly someone called out, “What’s wrong with Andrew? ” I looked up to where he was practicing in the outfield and saw he begin to ru towRds me. Instinctively, I began to run to him, meeting close to the pitchers mound as he started to fall, hitting the ground in a swirl of dust. I was in shock. He had not even been sick, to my knowledge. I started screaming, ” Call 911, Call 911, and saw that the father of one of my sons team mates was calling. There was a fire station at the top of the hill and I expected an immediate response, but none came. After coaches and parents rushed up, one person ran up, said they were a nurse and looked at my unconscious son as he asked me questions. My heart, my mind was in a blur- why were there no sirens? Where were the EMT’s who could have walked there by now. Someone asked me his name and gently shook his shoulders, calling his name. No response- no siren or ambulance. I was screaming for the nurse to ‘ do something’ as the clock moved on and my son’s breathing became raspy. Between ten and twelve minutes passed before an ambulance finally came in a back gate- the opposite of the way an ambulance from the close-by fire Department would have come. The EMT’s first words were, ” bag him” ( give him oxygen).

I rode in the front of the ambulance to the hospital. I saw the attendants using a defibrillator on him. My mind was screaming, ” No, no!” I was met by a hospital cleric who lead me away as the ambulance attendants rushed my son in. After working on him for an hour a doctor came out and called our family in to a private room to tell us, ” They did everything they could.”

“You mean he’s dead?” I cried as we all sat in silent stares- our world crashing around us. I walked out the door with an apparently healthy 15 year old son and would walk, completely stunned back in that door without him.

Within a few months, I was having symptoms of what was later to be found to be a pituitary tumor, caused, mostly likely by the stress from loosening my son. This story is not about me, so I will suffice to say that neglect  nearly cost me my life just as someone giving the 911 operator the wrong directions to the ball park had cost my son his life.  By the time I had surgery to remove the tumor, I was told  that without the surgery, I would have had about three weeks to live.

Now, we come to the second part of this week just passed.  I saw my youngest child graduate from high school. He had been barely eight when his brother had died. Graduation is a crowded, long, yet joyous occasion. When the ceremony was over, my son’s girlfriend and I caught up with him and he gave me a ride back to my car when I would meet my husband and two other sons.  I was tired, in pain, yet thrilled for my son.   One more ordinary occasion that I got to witness.

It wasn’t until my son came home late that night that we talked about his graduation that he told me something that I guess I had never realized.  ” Mom, he said, as we sat on his bed, “years ago when you were so sick after we lost Andrew, I had the thought that you would not live to see me graduate. It has haunted me ever since.”

“But I did it.” I smiled as I hugged him. ” Yeah,  you did.” He smiled, holding my hand.

Tonight, as I sat in my room thinking, both of these simple events that I had enjoyed this weekend suddenly hit me. No one, most of all me, ever thought I would play in the creek with my grandkids and even my son had not believed that I would live to see him graduate.  I have suffered so much, so long, it just seemed endless. I still suffer everyday.  Somehow, this past year, I have found a way to bring joy back into my life, if even for a short time.  I told my son that it was his holding me close, willing me to live that had helped me  ” make it” this far. I thought of the song that I had heard on my Facebook page that some kids sang to their teacher who had cancer. it was called, “I’m Gonna Love you Throught It”.

That is just what my son, my kids and grandkids and my family had done for me. Through all the loss I had endured, the disability, the never- ending pain, I would feel their love and know that somehow, they still needed me.

As I found myself scratching the poision ivy on my arm tonight, I thought that even being able to work in my garden again was a blessing.  Maybe, I was still here ‘ for a reason’. The sweat running down my itchy face felt amazingly good somehow. I new life would never hold the same joy that it had when my son was alive and I was well, but I was still here, and I was determined, at last to be thankful for that!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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There Comes A Time- My First Home

 

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Many years ago, my parents brought home their first and only child to a little white house that my grandfather built in the years before the depression really set in, here in the mountains of North Carolina. My grandfather used to tell me stories of a man offering him a thousand board feet of lumber for a thousand dollars. From that, he built a little four room house in the neighborhood where he lived. Everyone referred to it as the “Little House”.

Many friends and family got their start in that little house over the years. Too many to count, at least for anyone still alive today. Years later, my grandfather bought a farm about a mile up the valley, and when I was 17 months old, my family built a house down the road from them.

I don’t remember anything specific about that house when I was a baby, we moved to our new house when I was only 17 months old. I do remember the long list of relatives and friends who had lived there over the years. It was unbelievable how many families go their start, or perhaps wrote the last chapter of their lives in that little white house.

When I was born, there was a white picket fence around the yard and the road was dirt. It was basically a little one lane road that some ‘smart’ person had planted shrubs and trees and blocked off the street from the main roads, not long after the houses on that street were built. No one wanted our little street to be a cut-through to another road that circled the hillside.

When I was a little girl, my aunt ran a “country store” behind this house, on the larger, but still unmarked road. There was a foot bridge between the store and the yard of this little house. A lot of my cousins, aunts and uncles lived there and I spent a lot of time in that neighborhood. Before the city took our land into their ‘double tax nightmare’, this little house was in the city, and the one across the street and down the road a few houses (where I live now)was in the county. Nothing good last forever, in the 19080’s our road was paved and the city extended it border up the main two-landed road. Nothing good last forever.

Even though I was visiting on that street a lot , I didn’t live there in that little white house until I was very pregnant with my first child in the mid-1970’s. Soon, my marriage fell apart and I raised my first two children there as a single parent for nearly eight years. I have decided not to concentrate so much on what happened there, so much as my gentle memories of that time and what that little house meant to so many for close to 90 years.

When the road was paved in 1980, my oldest daughter was a baby. The city tore up my white picket fence and cut down the pine tree, took about five feet off my small yard and along with it my sense of privacy and protection. A lot of memories flood back from my days there, some very precious, and some equally painful. I remember my friends and I playing our guitars on the back steps or cooking meals together in the little kitchen. Nothing quite fit right, it seems, the cabinets leaned just enough to make the doors hard to close, I had room in a corner for a used washer someone was going to throw away. Spilled drinks gently flowed to the middle of the room.

I could still name every piece of furniture I had in that house-there weren’t a lot. I remember every detail of how it looked, my hippie beads on doorways, my posters, the stereo and stack of albums, the tiny 12″ black and white TV. There was wicker furniture with cushions in the living room, along with a cabinet where I sat books and the little TV. There were glass figurines and photos in frames of my children sitting on the top shelf.

I remember years there when I lived “wild and free” and I remember years when I was going to the university and trying to study with a baby screaming and a preschooler wanting attention. All of those years had their moments of joy and sacrifice, heartbreak and unrelenting joy. That is what most twenty-somethings did in the 70’s and early 80’s, I suppose. We laid boards on cement blocks to make shelves, our dished didn’t match, but , oh, how good those sparse groceries tasted when they were steaming on the table as we ate. There ware always flowers on the table. Placques that i painted decorated the walls.

A lot of people were in and out of my house and my life at that time. I know I would have never made it through college without the company of my cousin. Before him, his older sister kept me company on many adventures. I walked mountain trails, played in the snow with my kids, slipped on ice when my oldest was about a year old, leaving a tiny scar, right at his hair line. There were all sorts of adventures with the children, teaching the oldest to read, dressing his sister in fancy dresses I bought from a friend whose child was in pageants. I sewed a lot of my clothes and theirs, myself. I loved the old metal advertizements that were once used in stores. I had a topographical map of the Western Appalachians that my father got when he worked at TVA. (Tennessee Valley Authority)

My kids shared a room that was oddly built by the kitchen, instead of on the side as the bedroom I slept in and the bath. I couldn’t even walk through the house without the creaking floors disturbing them, it seems. That made getting through a four year college in three years, very difficult. Remember, this was before the days of the internet. And with two children, it was rarely that I could go back to campus after my classes and work-study job in the university library. Those were definitely very stressful times. The sink was what I called a “trough”. I hated it. It was just one metal “sink” like you would use by a washer in the basement, with a curtain wrapped around the bottom to hide the boxes of bags and boxes of kitchen things that the few cabinets wouldn’t hold.

I painted the walls in pale yellows, blues and white. I would paint the doorways brown to make them look more like wood. I would keep a few rugs around to help cover and insulate the worn wooden floors. The only room I really liked was the bathroom, which had one of the old-timey footed tubs. My nightly bubble bath was my only relief from a hectic and often frustrating life. (I have a tub like that in my house now too.) Most of the lights on the ceiling were turned off and on by a string that hung from the light. I hated that-it exemplified the life of poverty that I often felt trapped in.

My bedroom held the bedroom suite I had as a child and not much more-a small closet-the only one in the house. There was a window on the front and side of the room. Some uneven book shelves had been built between the chimney and the space behind the door. There was no fireplace-it was one of those chimneys that when with the original heating system I guess. Also, in my bedroom, were my dresser drawers which shared my shirts and other clothing with mementos from my elders, having added to this collection over the years.

I had house plants everywhere, it kept the house from looking so gloomy. They would sit on old end tables and the small, oddly shaped tables that were hand-me downs from someone that didn’t want any more. I liked them. I still have a lot of them. It was good that I didn’t like fancy things, because I sure didn’t have any.

What I did have is curtains that matched the beds, or the walls, or the furniture. I was ‘big’ on things matching. I loved to paint pictures, write poems and stories, and I loved taking photographs of the forest and my family. I listened to Lynyrd Skynard and other popular rock music groups every chance I had-loudly! Living there was a blessing when I moved there, but somewhere I was desperate to get away from there. When I moved to my families “Big House” as they called it-just down the street after I graduated from college. I felt like it was a mansion-itisn’t, but its ;home; and I still live there.

I bout the property that the “Little House” sat on last year from my cousin. Though an elderly man still lived there,it had obviously seen its better days. When he passed away after a series of illnesses last November and I finally got to see inside the house again, it was immediately apparent that it was no longer fit to live in. Sadly, I decided that I would have to demolish the house.

Today was that day. My husband and other family members had taken out the tub, (which I kept), the bathroom sink (which my daughter kept), the doors and window that remained were stored in a garage. The floor was warped, the walls were coming loose from the ceiling, lines could be seen where sheet rock had been put on the ceiling. The odor was one that I can only kindly describe as unpleasant. The chimney that help with kitchen, a flue, I suppose fell right over when my husband went up to see how “sturdy it was. It wasn’t. I feel it is important to save what we can, re-purpose it, you might say, so a neighbor got the front door, we kept the bricks and blocks that we could, and I tried to save a tiny piece of a snowball bush that had a decent root on it.

My husband had gone out of town, and with my youngest at school, I slept until about 9 a.m. when my oldest daughter called, offering to stop by with food from Mc Donalds. We spent a lot of time reminiscing, watching with small crane easily knock over sections of the building. Neighborhood children and friends would stop by for a minute and watch, talking with us about their memories of the house, or my daughter and I sharing memories with the newer neighbors. We went down there when the men took lunch break and picked up bricks and pretty pieces of crepe myrtles, lovely smooth wood that my husband had cut down. The children were, of course, fascinated. It was only mid afternoon when the lot was leveled and the fragile pieces of the “little house” gone forever.

Somehow, we never forget a place where we spent part of our lives. Its memory is as clear in my mind as the people I shared those days with. I fought back tears as I realized that the next time the sun came up, it would be without that “little house” there as I went out my side door. But the memories are still there, they will always be there, part of us, part of life, part off that old structure that held our memories.

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A New Kind of New Years Resolution

29720269A New Years Resolution for the Technology Generation

It seems that everywhere we go, half the people we pass are on the phone, using Apps like Facebook, or watching ‘You Tube” perhaps laughing at jokes on the web, We are not really interacting with the people we are with- we are simply with them. We see it in restaurants, parks where people are taking in the scenery ( or used to), at the grocery store- just about everywhere we go. I have had so many older people say to me that they are “alone, even in a crowd” nowadays. “I wish they’d put those things away!”, they often sigh.

I admit to having been caught up in messaging, checking on the kids,, answering phone calls, seeing if a sick friend is doing better, all while I am out with friends. It’s a sign of the times. Almost everyone does it, the young people , more so than the older of us, but anyone with an “i phone” is likely to get a message or phone call while they with others and, it is only natural to answer it.
It is great to be able to call and tell a friend that “you will be late”, or find out that your loved one arrived safely at their destination. Having lived in both worlds, I greatly appreciate being able to stay in touch with my family, and for them to be able to call me if they need me. It is fun to play the games or look at jokes, but, lets face it, relationships are so much more important that spending your time in a room or restaurant with a group of friends, each in his or her own little world. We must learn to put a limit on how much of these modern conveniences are going to talk the place of talking to your sister who has met you at the mall, or visiting a sick loved on in the hospital. Enough is enough.

I have not had a “Happy Holiday Season” in the last decade, but that it not the subject tonight. No matter who we have lost, moved away from, or how deep within our thought we are, it is vital that we open our hearts, our thoughts, and even our worries to those that we find ourselves with.

I have raised my family now, and savor the chance to be with my children or grandchildren. It doesn’t matter if we are at home on the couch, going to the store, or taking a hike, our time with other people is important. It allows us to share, to hug, to laugh to love. True, we can do a lot of these things on our “i phones” in this day and time, but who wants to go out to eat only to watch people talk on their “i phones” when the whole purpose of meeting was to spend time together?

When I go on a walk, I want to observe nature, listen to the birds sing, smile as a squirrel scuttles up a tree. I want to show my grandchildren the caterpillar climbing a plant, a butterfly gathering nectar, a flock of birds flying over head. I want to tell my son that I appreciate him fixing my car. I want to hug my daughter, and tell her ‘thank you’ for taking the time out of her busy schedule to meet me. When I get home, I am sure my husband or parents want to hear about my day, compliment me on my new outfit or gently touch my shoulder and say, “I’ve missed you today,” We are missing so much of the meaning of life when we fail to do these things.

I think it is time , that we as a people, old and young, remember that there is a time for the technologies that all of us enjoy and a time to put them down and think of those around us, to remember the days when communication was largely done in person. I think it is time that we all value the personal side of relationships. How can we get to know a potential friend, welcome a new employee, even meet a possible mate if we cannot disconnect ourselves from technology long enough to take advantage of these simple pleasures that have brought us all to the place we are today.

It is a fact that technology will be a part of our future, and it can be a tool used to comfort those waiting on us, check on our loved ones, or make an appointment. We can use these advances to our advantage, or we can allow them to separate us from those we love and those who need us to look into their eyes and express our kindness and caring.

Let’s make a New Years Resolution this year that we will spend more time without our technological devises safely within arms reach than we do clinging to them like an oxygen tank on a sinking ship. God gave us the gift of speech. He gave us the gift of knowledge to invent technologies. But He also gave us each other. The ability to form relationships cannot truly take place without eye-to-eye contact. There is an old saying that reminds us that “the eyes are the window to the soul.”

Make a mental note of how much you enjoy the company of others, the conversations you have, a game of cards, singing or listening to music together. Fifty years ago, having a television was an amazing leap in technology, families found themselves crowded around them, listening and laughing together. Before that, our grandparents huddled by the radio listening to the news of World War II.

What did we do before that? We read, we had conversations, discussions, we laughed together, we watched the antics of children. We worked without interruption. We managed just fine without our modern technologies. It is important that the things we make a part of our lives, do not become more important that the people we live with, love and help. Though very few of us would want to give these technologies up, we must find a place for them within our lives-not allow them to take over our lives.

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