Archive for nostalgia

Reflections of Life’s Passages (click song at end to listen while you read)

        DSCN2720     The mirror reflects back a “me” that I no longer know.  She isn’t young, My health was decimated by the loss of a child. Even my youngest child has a car, a job and a girlfriend now.  The years since I lost my son and health have completely changed me. I have known this for a long time, but held out hope that time would at least partially repair the wounds .Allow me to explain the crisis that lead to these reflections.

I have come to a point where I do not see that happening.  I raised six children. Raising them, loving them, teaching them was not only my dream, it was my life. I home-schooled them on vacations, Saturdays and in summer. The youngest one was home-schooled full time for several years. With a large family, there is little time to worry about what “yu” want or even need. I lost my best friend to cancer when we were 48-two years before I lost my son.

I worked in the children’s schools as they grew up, as an assistant, a volunteer, and a substitute.  My life was filled with ball games, dance lessons, band and activities that revolved around them. Since i was a stay-at home mom in summer, I would have up to 14 kids at my house in one day.  I admit it was hectic. I suffer from migraines and it often took everything I had to be the kid of mom I strived to be,

Even today, my kids say that I was a terrific mom, that now as parents themselves, they don’t see how I did it.  I worked my way through a university while raising two kids as a single parent.  It seems I found endless energy and patience somewhere.  I only wish I could find that place today.

When I lost my health from Cushing’s Disease, it was determined to be from the trauma of my loosing my son.  Being a mother WAS my life.  Loosing him was unthinkable, unbearable.  It was at a time when my older kids were going to school, getting married, having their first child, and I was at that age a woman faces when she realizes that “youth” is no longer with her.  My grief, my problems were not recognized by anyone but me.  I would hear, “It’s natural that you are greived over your son, that your children moving away is difficult, but you will, in time adjust.”  I didn’t believe it then, and when I had heart failure eight months after my childs death, I knew that I had been right all along. I really was sick. The heart doctor started doing tests and wrote a report to my regular doctor that month, saying that I had the classic symptoms of Cushing’s and should see an endocrinologist.  Evidently, my regular doctor never read it.  When I went to my cardiologist in January and he asked me what the endocrinologist had  said, I told him that I had never been referred to one. He was astounded. I ordered a copy of my medical records from my regular doctor, and there, right on top was the letter from my cardiologist. Apparently, it had never even been read, just stuck in my file.

The cardiologist immediately sent me to an endocrinologist and after many test, Cushing’s Disease (sometimes called Cushing’s Syndrome) was confirmed.  She told me the only way to get well was pituitary surgery, which meant going into my head through my sinuses, and into the area right below my brain, where the pituitary  gland sits.  I was terrified. Why was all his happening to me -loosing my son and then my health  as well?

When I was finally accepted at an out of state facility for pituitary surgery, I was told that the tumor was wrapping around my carotid artery and I would have probably had less than 3 weeks to live.  It had now been a year and a half since my son died.  Not long after he died, I started a slow process of gaining weigh, although I couldn’t eat and watching my long hair thinning out, I was nauseous all the time. I could hardly walk, using a cane  to steady myself. It took months after the surgery to even begin to recover.  The joyful events I should have been enjoying had been taken from me, yet I felt that no one could really comprehend what I was going through.

As I mentioned, my youngest child was only eight years old when his brother died, He was my rock. He needed me, he didn’t care if I didn’t have a lot of energy, he played with friends, with siblings, and most of all supported me.  Now, he, too has grown up. I wonder, tearfully , how much he remembers about his brother. They were so close. His brother and I were so close. When the time came for my son to get his drivers license, he was going to college in the afternoons and high school in the morning. He started dating, and, like all children growing further away from needing mom.

I continued to try to make a small garden. I had been taught the love of gardening as a child and loved sharing the study of nature, plants, insects, amphibians, reptiles and even arachnids with my children. Even  when pregnant, working and  and tired, I would find time to have a large garden. It soothed my soul. I could enjoy the bounty of anything from spring strawberries to autumn pumpkins. Now,  I was so weak, I could hardly make it to my garden. I was not able to work in it long at a time.  I watched as my beautiful garden got less and less attention.

Cushing’s affects your whole body, especially if left untreated as long as mine was. My endocrinologist described my bones as like “chicken bones”-terribly fragile. I broke my hip in a simple fall simply because I went down at an odd angle on my fragile leg. My digestive system has continued to be a problem. I feel sick when I eat, I have severs scoliosis and and in constant pain. from my neck and back to my hips. My feet are numb, my face is numb from the pituitary surgery, my hip has cramps so bad, i can only compare it to natural childbirth-without the joy of your baby at the end of the immense pain. Even though I have made some improvements in my strength, I know I will always have the symptoms of Cushings knocking at the door. For a time, It took small steps and a cane or holding on to something to navigate a room, My goal was to reach my son’s grave, on a hillside, without help.  I felt like I was climbing a mountain, but one day, I made it and it became a place of solace for me. I find letters and mementoes there from others-his many friends, even now, after eight years,a wedding invitation, a Carolina memento, a black rose. I put Victorian statuettes of a mom and son watching younger children sleigh ride, or laid a baseball there, maybe holiday rememberances. Even though I never liked baseball, he died between innings in a game he didn’t want to play, so I had “Safe at Home” carved on his black obsidian stone to help us remember that his last hit was one of the best he ever made.  Many years ago, I put a heavy chain with eight links on it around the flower pot-to symbolize that there would always be eight people in our family. I find messages from him there, I have written about them in other blogs-things only he and I would understand. Black widow spiders that we studied, dimes,(that one is secret), feathers from a bird killed by predators.

Every day is a struggle. I feel like I was cheated out of enjoying the years of my other children’s lives when they were maturing, going to college, marrying, having their own children, living, laughing, just regular things. I am having a difficult time accepting that my youngest child is not now, that youngster who helped me so much and needed me-no matter how poor my health is.  Now tthat he is older, I depend on him for other things.  He is just doing what young people do-grow up, just as my older kids were doing when their brother was so wrongly taken.  I know that, but it still hurts.  I have to find the strength to do things with him that I am often not really able to do. I have had to learn not to expect to be “mommy” after 40 years. It is more difficult than I can describe.

Looking into the mirror of my life’s struggles has affected me in many ways. I think of my friend who died at 48, after struggling with cancer for 15 years and I am thankful that I was a least here to witness the maturing of my family. I fight the anxiety and stress of not being able to do for my family what my heart longs to do. I smile when my older children sing the songs to their kids that I sang to them, or one of them remembers a book we read together. I walk in the park with them as they tell them the names of insects and flowers we studied so many years ago.

I have given up on having even the people who love me, and that I love, truly understand what I have been through and why I am less patient, more emotional, not as strong as I once was. I can only hope that one day, when they remember “me”, they remember the “me” that I was when I had all of my children, when I was young, healthy and strong. I hope that as all of us grow older and struggle to keep up with the things that made us who we are, that our children, our loved ones, realize that those thing are still there, inside of us. Our hearts have not changed, our love is just as strong, even when our bodies have failed us.  

Once in a while, I have a good day, and can almost do the things I once did. What a joy to be “me”, if only for a while.  I still listen to my Lynyrd Skynyrd and other Southern Rock music.  I still love long hair and blue jeans.  I am still me. Those who know me, please, remember that. Inside, I am strong, proud, loving. Outside, I still manage an incredible amount of accompishments, difficult, though they may be.  If the sun is covered by clouds, it is still there. I am still there. Remember that.

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Death in the Cemetary

326Death in the Cemetary

Today, I went to the cemetary where my precious son and parents are buried. I am used to finding odd items there, as if they were leaving a message that they are with me. Black widow spiders are one of the most odd, but because I study insects and arachnids, I look for their webs and see them. I do not find them on any other graves, which makes the incidences more profound.

Today. I was at my son’s grave site and found turkey feathers scattered over a span of maybe 60 feet in a grassy area by the woods and in the graveyard. Already being there to talk about my most recent anguish, I was especially struck by finding the feathers scattered so near my son’s gave. I

We have a lot of wild turkeys in the mountains here, and finding them was no surprise. It was imagining the scenario of what happened that made them so profound. I could see the group of turkeys wandering down the grasses at the edge of the woods when suddenly a coyote appears, snatches one of them as it fights for its life. I see the others scattering into the forest, turkeys take care of number one, particularly adult turkeys. It was apparent by the number of feathers, the force of the wind, and the long trail of a variety of feathers, from downy white to the long, iridescent tail feathers waving in the wind that the turkey did not win and the battle had taken place only a short time ago.

What make this discovery so profound is the event that sent me there-that one of my children might move-a short distance, but from a home on my fathers property. It brought back the story of my life-full circle-that no mater how hard I try, how long I suffer, how much I work with a now disabled body, I will not see my dreams come true. Perhaps my children will, and we parents often give in to this pain at our own expense.

I know their reams are not mine. What hurts is that my dreams never seemed to matter. Even If I came near them, something came along to ruin to feeling we have when we meet a long sought goal. We work so hard to help them be able to fulfill their dreams, only to find that it isn’t good enough or simply that theirs are different and our efforts are pointless and often complicate any efforts we may want to make to help them reach their dreams.

I see the coyote and turkey as the heartbreak I continually encounter. One problem, disast, tragedy does not end before another is thrown at me. I wonder how much I can take. I wonder why I try. I wonder why sometimes members of my family that I have depended on since childhood seem blind to my needs and expectations.

I gathered the feathers and mixed them with the flowers on my sons grave, just as my feelings are often so mixed when it comes to what to do to make my life worth living without ruining my children’s chances for their dreams to come true, like mine were ruined.

I ask my sweet angel for guidance and help, wondering if he is allowed to provide me with it from heaven. I ask my parents why they left things undone that wiped out my efforts to help my children,

knowing that they had no idea when their health would fail or they would loose control of those little dreams we all have that don’t work out like we had planned.

It is ironic that this violent death by my son’s grave happened when I felt so much like my own dreams had died. Please, my angel, find a way to help me-tell me what to do.

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Goodbye,Helladays

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There are so many good things about the Holiday season. I enjoy meals with family, cook and wrap presents. I take photos and watch the little ones open their gifts with innocence and excitement. I clean up the mess of wrapping paper, just as I did ten years ago. From the outside, nothing appears that different, I suppose. I know I should have a better attitude, but it seems to become more difficult to endure this “happy time” every year, when it isn’t happy for me.

I feel like I spent most of my Christmas this year alone. I managed a “tree cutting with my son and his friends, decorating a different tree-(the first one, a white pine was just too spindly),eating at my Aunts, a family tradition and seeing my grand kids play together on her floor as everyone laughed and gobbled down snacks and a ham dinner. . Still, Christmas Eve alone was miserable. My youngest son that has is still at home has a girlfriend who he is either with or talking to, my husband watches TV and hangs out in the living room. I kept hoping my son would come watch TV with me after his girlfriend went home, but he didn’t. Wasn’t it only a year or two ago that he stayed near me and comforted me as I cried over his brother or helped me down the steps at the Gingerbread House display when I was hurting so bad that it was difficult to walk?

My father passed away in August, between hospital and “rehab” stays, spending the summer with my family and being in hospice twice before I could no longer care for him. It was horrible. He has always been so active and often refused to let us help him. When he began to fall and get hurt, I had no choice but to seek help. We found the nicest nursing home we could-dad’s memory was in and out. Sometimes, he talked and told stories, other times, he was asking how “my mother and I” got him put in that place, even though it has been nearly four years since I lost my mother. When he asked my daughter one day if she thought he would ever be able to go home , she held him and whispered, “I don’t think so-I’m sorry.” Three weeks later he was gone. Not because of what she said, but because he had heard what he already knew was true from his oldest grand daughter and he couldn’t bear it.

It may seem odd, but I have grieved them both this year, as I cleaned out their house. I will never stop grieving the 15 year old who should be 2 now, who collapsed and died while simply playing baseball.

I read the newspaper and see all of the tragedies around the world. Those who have lost family to violence or war, and find myself feeling guilty. I see how many people in my neighborhood live alone or are elderly, their families far away. They look forward to these days as being one of the few times that they see their families, when I see most of my family every week.

One of my daughters had to spend her baby’s first Christmas away from her, because she was too sick with the flu to care for her. Thankfully she is better now. I think it is easy for family to forget that those of us who are not well, depressed, or grieving need joy in our holidays too. My children are busy with their young families or girlfriends. My husband and I don’t have a joyful relationship like we used to. We live here, we talk when we have to. He is healthy, doing what he wants. I am not, and find myself longing for happier times with a loving family and my own little children around me.

Yesterday was my birthday-I got phone calls from my kids and a card from my aunt. That’s all. Today, my son got his drivers license. Although I am glad to see him get the chance to grow up, unlike his older brother, these rites of passage for him, find me looking to even more loneliness and worry.

It seems the more I try to find happiness in these times, the more difficult if becomes. I admit to wiping a few stray tears at the Christmas play when my tall, handsome son played “Joseph” as the rest of the cast were modern day characters with attitudes rather like my own. Of course at the end, my “Joseph” had made them realize the true meaning of Christmas, but, sadly, going home to find myself watching reruns alone quickly dispelled that mood.

I look away, pretending to be distracted, hoping some well-meaning clerk won’t ask if I had a good holiday. I breathe a sigh of relief when she picks the next person in line to share he cheer with. I come home to an empty house and wait on my newly “freed” son to get home. The cat howls in the next room as if she is as sad as I am.

I’m sorry, world, if the holidays aren’t what they used to be. I’m sorry I avoid the cheery clerks and church folks at the play. I’m sorry I went to sleep at my Aunts and woke up crying. To those of you who still can, I wish a happy season. For those who feel like I do, we just wish it was over.

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After The Flood

AFTER THE FLOOD

It was just the day before wIMG_0183hen my grandson and I had been looking for “crayfish ‘n lizards” in the little creek that runs through my uncles yard.

Over night a wicked storm had come through that turned the neighborhood into a lake.

Footbridges washed away, shrubbery, flowers, gone.

It taught us a lesson in appreciating what we have-today, the creek is lined with huge boulders to “hold back the rain.” It is ugly, the creek went from natural to today’s version of protecting our homes, tainted only by the tears of a grandma who remembered.

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The Once and Future Homeplace

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No! Stephie cried when she heard that her relatives were selling the family farm. She had begged her mother to help her save it and her mother was definitely an advocate of saving it, but it wasn’t “hers”. It wasn’t I her name and all of her begging and all of her daughter’s tears and heartfelt letters didn’t change what was to come.

Her mother described it as “like a death”, as they tried not to watch the bulldozers build roads and then driveways. Sometimes. They would swallow their pride and go on walks up the now, ruined valley that had once been so beautiful, so unusual, with its north side and south side and the different plant life that chooses each environment.

It was heart breaking to trudge over the humps of dirt where the developers were making roads. Stephie remembered the days when she had walked these hills with her grandmother, aunt and mother. She remembered the galax plants on the end of the north side and the stream where cattle had crossed, making it wider and melodious as it tumbled over the rocks. Stephie grew up going to the pasture with her mom and hunting “lizards and crayfish” in the creek. The memory of it was one of her childhood favorites.

Stephie was afraid of the cattle and the goat her grandparents kept in the pasture. She once cut her had badly trying to make it through the barbed-wire fence when a bull charged her. She remembered the six-foot long black snakes in the barn and the garter snakes that surprised her as she jumped the small ditches that ran down the hillsides. But this place was like heaven and she could not imagine that a realtor with a wad of money had convinced her aunt and uncle to sell the property they once cherished.

Of course she knew their age and health and the death of her grandparents, who lived into their 90’s was part of it. But Stephie had always thought the family would be asked if they wanted to buy it first, or at least, that it would be left to the nieces and nephews in a will.

The houses of the wealthy began to replace the small streams and spring beauty, the curvy road was not in the place the cattle trail had been, it was soon taken over by briars and weeds. A cousin rescued the old bathtub the cattle drank from. Though she never understood her aunts and uncles motivation, and though she cried over it, told them how it hurt her many times, she forgave them and loved them and sometimes watched an eight-tack tape of the pasture before the developers ruined it.

Decades went by, Stephie married and bought the “old family home” on a road nearby. Her older children remembered the pasture, the younger did not. In her mind, she never got over the desire to buy some land, have it belong to their family, and for them to value it like she did. She taught her children and grandchildren that there were more things like TV’s computers, fancy houses, clothes, but God made only so much land and when it was gone, it was gone. Period.

Sometimes she felt a bit selfish for the hurt she felt towards her beloved aunt, but there must have been some issue her aunt would not reveal to her that made her separate herself from the love of that place with the beautiful view where she build her house and had her farm. She had kept her home and a few acres, but Stephie feared she would sell them too and a rich person would tear down the house and build a mansion, after all, the house had the best best view in the valley. She would do everything she could to keep that from happening!

One day, Stephie, who was the grandmother of quite a few grandchildren by now, saw an ad for a farm about 40 miles away with a small farm house, a trout stream and 20 acres. Her heart trembled.DSCN1676

She nervously called the number of the farm which was on the border of the next state, in a very rural area with isolated mountains. A man who sounded very old answered the phone with a wavering voice. “I don’t want to sell my farm,” he said, fighting tears. “I don’t want to see it developed or ruined, I love this place, it is my heart. My wife died last year and we have no children, I just want someone to love it like I did.”

Stephie fought back her own tears, and quietly told the old man, “Then you’ve found your girl’. She told him the story of lost farm, how it hurt her and that she wanted her grand children to get to spend time out in the wild places that she remembered from her youth. “I don’t know where I will go….” the man said softly. “How about nowhere?” Stephie smiled.

“What?” The old man said and as he held his breath, Stephie realized they had not even introduced them selves and told him her name. “My name is John Withers,” he said. “Have you ever heard of a “life estate” she asked and when Mr. Withers said “no”, Stephie attempted to explain to him how she would buy the farm now, but not take possession of it until after his passing.

Mr. Withers was in tears by now. “I know God sent you to me.” he sniffled. I prayed every night that some one would come along who would love this place like I do,” Stephie laughed, “Well, life has not been good to me, and praying isn’t easy but I have hoped and even tried to pray hat I could find a place like yours for my family to have-forever. They both sat silently for a minute and then she laughed, “You know, I haven’t even seen your property, but I know, without a doubt, that I will love it., When can we come and meet you?”

Somewhere inside her, Stephie felt a peace that she could not even remember. She had actually made someone happy and in the process, fulfilled her lifetime dream as well. A few weeks later a van load of Stephie’s family rumbled up the long dirt road to meet Mr. Withers. From the moment they saw the land, they knew it was the place they were supposed to have, They would share it, enjoy weekends there, holidays together, maybe have a garden again. Mr. Withers had offered them use of the land when ever they wished,if he could just live in the house. Stephie talked about build one, just one big house up on the hill for her big family, and Mr. Withers gladly agreed.

It had been 40 years since Stephie’s heart was broken by the ale of “her farm” the one she grew up next to. She had given up on ever being able to afford to find another one. After all the years, all the tears, sorrow, and pain, something had worked out right for two strangers. Stephie was sure that Mr. Withers would have a bigger family now than he ever imagined!

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To Be Someone’s Everything

Since I was only 19 years old, sitting in a frayed chair,

I have loved looking down upon a sweet head,01090049

of soft,curly hair, stroking it, as it mixed with my own.

That was the incomparable joy of motherhood.

A sleepy head upon my shoulder, or laying beside me,

a soft, even breath when sleep finally came and I could rest.

I would lovingly touch their sleepers of pink or blue,

as I laid them beside me, watching them as they dreamed.

“It’s hard to be someone’s everything.” I told my friend.

A young mom too, she laughed and said, “But so sweet!”

In those difficult times, I though,how true it was,

To be wrapped in the joy of life’s greatest pleasure-motherhood.

Now, I am not young, and have spent nearly 40 years,

with a soft head of hair in many colors, and textures

laying beside me, or on my shoulder, they all loved being loved.

For me to rub their backs or heads as their eyes closed for the night.

We have been through so much, over the years-

the unimaginable joy of new life and the unspeakable sorrow

of the loss of a child, and still, running my hand through

each child’s hair has remained an unforgotten blessing.

Today, I walked into my teens room, music playing quietly,

and saw him lying there with her head on his shoulder,

His girl, not me, and I found it hard to hold back the tears

as I walked away knowing those days would soon end.

Yes, I would rub the heads of my many grandchildren,

such beautiful, soft hair, I touched and remembered.

But it wasn’t the same. I would lay them in their bed,

or take them to their home. Leaving me here, alone.

If only I could be young again, tired again, I thought.

Running my hand through silky hair, and knowing,

that this tiny act of love between us was so precious,

would one day be only a sweet memory, but not,

I hoped, today…..

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MUSCADINE MEMORIES

DSCN2817One day last week when I was at your house-okay cleaning out your now empty house, I noticed the most wonderful vine of the old fashioned Muscadine grapes growing up a tree at the edge of your yard.

I have never seen anything like it! Oh, Dad, how I wanted to run in and get you and show you the redbud tree hanging full of Muscadine grapes. You and mom grew up very differently, but I lost you both in your 87th year. Mom was a few years older, so I had to watch you drown in the misery of waking up without her after 62 years together.

l I haven’t been able to write for the past few months, since I lost you. There is so much inside me, I know I will never remember the feelings as I did when they were fresh, and I will always resent it. What kept me from writing was not because of you passing, but the pain was nearly as bad. A violation by someone, of my deepest thoughts, written in my journal, had made me feel as though I had been robbed of my most precious gift-the truths, good or bad that I written in a journal to the son I lost when he was 15 years old nearly every day.

When I saw the Muscadines, I knew the only reason they had survived was because they were wound around the branches so high in the redbud tree. Your neighborhood is full of bears, and my son who lives next door has seen many walking through your yards. My aunt on the hill above you had lost her grapes to the bears, as had neighbors and friends, I couldn’t think of anyone who hadn’t lost their grapes to the bears. A surprise for you, dad, but a couple of months too late.

All this time that I have been unable to write, I have though of you and mom, of my Andrew, all the loss, the sickness and pain I have endured, all the court stuff I had to endure in order to settle your estate. Hell has been my constant companion. Maybe that’s why the wild grapes were so special-a moment of joy and beauty amidst all the pain.

I can write now, the anger over having been put through a completely unnecessary hell during the weeks proceeding your loss have dissipated to the point where not writing would let the evil win-and I damn well wouldn’t do that. So I will write a few of the memories that the Muscadines brought to me. Perhaps, in some small way, they will help me heal.

Dad, I had seen your health failing for a long time, your memory and rationality fading as well, and I had been working to get things in order. I felt a lot of guilt, many of the decisions I had to make were hard. I knew without a doubt that I was doing what you wanted me to do, but there was still a ring of guilt to suddenly be the ‘one who held the gold’.My kids and I will never forget your slightly evil (but loving) smile, when we would want something that your conservative mind could not quite go along with and we would see you smile, as you looked at us and said, “You know the ‘Golden Rule?” And we did know it. Your “Golden Rule” had always been, “Whoever has the gold makes the rules.”(possibly first used by Confucius) -and it had always before meant YOU. Suddenly it was ME.

Part of me anxiously awaited my turn at “holding the gold”, and part of me had always feared the responsibility that came with it. Now, that I did “hold the gold”, even though you were still here in a weakened condition, I found the responsibility both humbling and empowering. Every decision that was made was MY responsibility, every mistake made was my fault. Suddenly, I wondered how you could have held that responsibility all those years and smiled as you reminded us of it. It was completely terrifying.

Thinking back, again, (and not having allowed myself to write it), I remembered the little gift your grandchildren and I received within moments of your death. My son’s friend, who had been with us when you died and had loving called me “Mah-mah” since his childhood, had called my son on his cell phone and told him to look at a photo he had made with his phone. In his picture, directly over the spot where my mom (and soon you) would be buried, there had suddenly appeared a beautiful rainbow, so perfectly centered above your graves that it had seemed like a message from God.

Muscadines…they reminded me of so many of the moments in nature I had shared with my grandparents, parents and children through the years. Those little snips of beauty that stay with you as though your mind was a camera, even though you had no actual photo. I thought of Andrew, three or four years old, staring up at a huge sunflower. I will never forget the look of wonder on his face as he gazed up at that eight-foot high flower, as golden as the sun, above him. I remembered finding the hillside filled with bloodroot flowers whenI took a walk with my children were they were quite young. I showed them how the plant got its name from the Mercurochrome-colored fluid that flowed from the stem when it was injured or broken of. Many years later, I witnessed one of my children, telling the same story to their child.

Once, when I was about ten years old, my grandmother, aunt, my mother and I, went on our daily walk in my grandparents pasture. Suddenly, my grandmother almost stepped on a snake. My mother screamed and my aunt laughed, “Its only a garter snake.” she smiled as she saw my mother look away. My mother was never afraid of snakes or spiders and was quite embarrassed at her own reaction. “I hadn’t looked that close yet”, she mumbled, and we knew it was true. Mother always told me that she was much more afraid of men than of spiders and snakes, “because you knew what a spider or snake was going to do.”

My aunt ran a little country store and to this day, I can see my mother marching in with a black widow spider she had caught in a jar. Even the men stepped back a bit as she told them about catching it on the very steps they had just gone up. I could write a book on “the little store” stories that my cousins and I shared as we enjoyed freedoms modern children no longer have-wandering the neighborhood without supervision. To this day, my favorite “little store” stor is the time mu cousin, Johnny, who was maybe 14, pretended to vomit on the store’s steps as my furious uncle tried to sweep up the fake plastic vomit before someone stepped in it. A crowd of cousins stood at the edge of the store building giggling away. When my uncle realized that he had been duped by a teenager, he was madder than ever.

Sometimes, in this rough and often cruel life, a simple scene like the muscadine grapes will bring us back to all the good memories we have had. For a moment, we smile, we realize how much love surrounded us, even when we were a bit naughty. WE close our eyes and remember those who are gone now and find ourselves smiling rather than shedding ear. Just for a moment, those muscadine memories surround us, comfort us and ring us home. Maybe life wasn’t so bad after all.

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