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 Family Mystery Revealed

The car clattered along the road, shaded by the late afternoon’s trees. It seemed the dense forest would never end. I could hear the sound of water in the distance, even smell its freshness, but the water, a river, I presumed, never came into sight.

Frustrated, I asked the driver again. “Where is it we are going?”

Before he could answer, we rounded a sharp curve and a huge, lovely building came into view.

“Come on,” the driver said as he reached for my hand to help me out of the car. I took his hand, with a quizzical look on my face. “Why on earth, did he have you bring me here? ” I asked. “A church of some sort, a cathedral?” I asked.

“I am called Jamison.” The driver replied as we approached the granite steps to the huge, castle like building. “You may call me that.”

“Very well, Jamison,” I huffed. “Please tell my why on earth Uncle Bertram had you bring me here, and who am I to meet.”

He smiled, looking up at the turrets and towers along the buildings roof line and lead me through the dark wooden doors into a large room, lit mostly by sunlit.

“Where are we going?” I asked the driver my Uncle Bertram had hired to take me to meet a person that he referred to only as ‘someone special’.

“Ah!” He laughed. “So Old Bertram is still up to his tricks. There is nothing he loves more than to surprise his-(he cleared his throat) family!”

Most of the light coming through the windows, bu accented by a wealth of chandeliers hanging from the ceiling high above. Still, he did into answer my question.

As we walked towards the front of the room, I saw an elderly lady, kneeling at the front of the cathedral at an alter.

“Beatrice, I would like you to meet your niece, Lisette. Lisette, Beatrice is your Uncle Bertrams’ sister. She joined this order of the Catholic Church many years ago and has traveled the world as a missionary of sorts-a spokesperson for the church.”

“I see.” I whispered to Beatrice-Sister Beatrice, I presumed. “What is it that I can do for you?”

As she looked up at me for the first time, I was astonished by her beauty. The words, ‘Nun’ and ‘beautiful’ had never connected in my mind.

“Come,” she said, rose and took my hand. As we walked out the back door, I saw where the fragrance of water had come from. Before me a majestic man-made water fall flowed down a step-like structure into a circular pond below.

“What is this” I exclaimed. Sister Beatrice, looked at me and smiled. “This,” she said quietly and reverently, ” is your destiny.

This blog is generated from the prompt “Don’t Panic-photo prompt)

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Once, and Never Again

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Once, I was volunteering at school.

my youngest son was in Peter Pan.

He didn’t like drama much-

I was working with kindergarden girls-

singing…giggling

I was late getting home

and you were standing at the door-

smiling at me, in your ball uniform.

“Oh, you scared me!” I smiled.

I didn’t know it was the last time

I would ever open my door

and see you standing there, smiling

See you there at all…

For me, life ended that night,

I sat and watched you practice,

almost took your picture, but you

seemed so far away-I never imagined

how far away you would be

in a few hours. Again, I almost did it-

took a picture, but it was getting dark

I never imagined it would be my last chance.

You held your head, and ran to me,

collapsing ina slide as you fell to the ground.

I screamed “Call 911, Call 911!”

How can a parent call 911 and tell them to go

five miles away to some ball complex?

You killed my son-taking 12 minutes

to find their way there when a fire station

was right above us? Why, “nurse”,

did you not recognize heart failure, do CPR?

Why didn’t I pump your heart, even though

I didnt know anything but your breathing

was raspy and  an ambulance came

and the nurse just stood there when I screamed,

Cant you do something?

Why didnt I realize no sirene

was coming from the fire station?

When finally an ambulance came in the back way,

they knew they were given the wrong directions.

“Bag him” an EMT screamed, as they pulled out

a stretcher-I ran to the front of the ambulance

and got in, I saw them rushing to send currents into you

because your heart had stopped, because 911

had gotten the wrong directions.

A chaplain leads me away, it will always be with me

slow motion hell that you were dying-

they were too late, because somebody screwed up.

A decade ago, a slow motion nightmare-

I wanted to die too-A lot of me did-forever,

I wanted all the people who begged you to play

to hurt like I did-to die like you did.

God forgive me, I have yet to change my mind.

I leaned on your little brother, till he grew up

and had to find his own life, you were

A vague memory, someone he should have had

to guide you,, teach you, love you,

And he has only flashes of memories,

looking in album,hearing us talk,

or maybe a sharp breath as he awakes

from his nightmare, again, and again…forever.

I see myself now as an empty soul,

robbed of my most beautiful memories,

because you didn’t want to disappoint friends.

Beni-hana, you will never know how much

it has meant that you did not beg him to play,

that you have listened to me, wrote songs for us,

that he is still alive to you as he is to me.

Some like to say these “God did this or needed that”

and I want to scream, “God wasn’t there!”

My health gone, the pain worse everyday,

People think time will heal that you were stolen.

Never on this side of hell will that happen.

I needed you, God gave you to me,

He did not take you away, negligence did.

I cannot pray, I cannot forgive, I need you,

and nothing will ever change that.

My beautiful son, you were so amazing-

different , special, your love was beyond compare.

One day, I will open a door, and

you will be there, smiling, and I will hold you,

and never ever let you go again.

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When She Was Young

When she was young, she used to dream of living in a mansion, a castle, being a princess, or an heiress, at least.

There would be silk curtains in lilac-her favorite color. Fresh flowers on a dark wooden table inside the spacious dining room.

She would lay in the sun by the pool in her back yard, relaxing, getting that perfect tan. A garden of her favorite perennials would grow around the winding sidewalk that wound from the gate to the steps leading to a slate porch outside the entryway.

At night, lights would glimmer over the pool and line the winding staircase that lead to the bedroom with the best view of the ocean. The music of a violin whispers up from the parlor below.

Dreams, is it not strange how our dreams and wishes change as we age? The prince riding up on white stallion to reach down and lift you up beside him, whisking you away to the wonderful castle with palms and turrets. He carries you in his arms to that lilac scented room and holds a flower out to you as you reach for it.

Then, one day, we find we have grown up, we notice the world around us, how it has its own beauty and charm. We see that the simple things, small, yet delicate are often more appealing than the opulent dreams you once held.

Wild flowers replace the sculpted garden, a path through the deep forest takes your breath away as you peek at the azure sky above you. You no longer dream of the wealthy, handsome prince, nor hear the gallop of his horses drawing a carriage. Smiling, you raise and twirl around, as you see him out in the field, guiding the brown mare up the wooded trail toward the cabin.

You smile as you remember how your dream has changed. How you love cuddling up in an afghan on the floor of the cabin as he plays his newest guitar melody for you in front of the rock fireplace. Dreams…

When we are young, we have not yet experienced life’s choices or possibilities. We can only dream. We remember the stories read to us at bedtime, the books we read, curled up on the couch on a rainy

day. But as we grow, we are made aware that there are many dreams to choose from, many beautiful places, many choices await us.

Your castle has turned into a cabin, our garden into a forest. Beauty has taken on a new meaning- it is more a feeling, than a vision. To close your eyes and hear the strum of his guitar is much more romantic than the prince you once dreamed of hiring a musician to play tunes for you by moonlight.

When she was young, when YOU were young, the future was knitted from strands of starlight shimmering through the palms to the tune of ocean waves and nautical wind, There’s nothing wrong with that, you laughed, its simply that his hair blowing in the winds of the forest, the moonlight glowing through the windows of your cabin as he played the song he wrote for you, somehow soothed your soul more now that you were grown. You think of all the dreams you had ever entertained,

and looked up at him as you realized, this was real, it was life, it was good. When she was young, just as when when YOU were young, your daughter would entertain the same dreams.

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Black Widow

Black Widow ( a rap tune fro my “son” Beni-hana, who has kept my son alive through his work  in the rap music gene)

Find the time, shout it out for me,

‘black widow, waiting patiently

knowin’ now -he’s livin’ in your soul’

we dont hide, here on the north side

time rolls on, nothing really maters now

all the pain, killed my soul somehow

my man, you have kept his dream alive

looking down-from the other side

you shout my anger-feel my violent rage

you dont hide-its on your front page

we dont sit -on this mountain side

rivers flow, we’re gonna stand and fight

keep it up, shout it out for me

it aint right-not like its supposed to be

this black widow -spins her deadly nest

can’t kill love-to hell with the rest

im waiting-im waiting

silent in my pain

black widow, waiting in the rain

keep it up-tear it down

im still here…break it down!

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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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In Honor of Veteran’s on their Day-We are Here Because You Were There

To Honor All Veterans:

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Today, I am thinking of my father, Ken Culbreth, who served in the Navy in Guam-at the end of World War II, I later helped him write a book about his experienes there along with collections of stories about their experiences in the Pacific Theater during that time.  My father passed away in August of 2014. It remains difficult to be unable to ask him to tell me more about his experiences.  There are so many friends and family who have served our county.  Among them,  my Uncle John Gardner, who fought through the worst of World War II from N. Africa to Germany.my Uncle Harold Garland who was in England during WorldWar II, my Uncle Jack Garland who served in Hawaii during  World War II. There were those who served in Korea during the early 1950’s.Then there are all of my friends and family who fought in Viet Nam during the 1960’s and early 1970’s. I think of my husband, who served in Germany and many of the young men of the Post-Viet Nam Era who served around the world during that time.

I would like to honor my Great Aunt Bettie Rayburn Bryant, one of the first WAC’s to retire with more than twenty-two years service and her husband Howard Bryant who met and married her while in Germany right after World War II. So often the women who have served our country in many capacities are ignored.  I inherited my Aunt Bettie and Uncle Howards Photographs , Journals and Memory Books of their time in the sevice and was enlightened to the vast roles women have played in protecting our country and supporting our troops. Included in her memiors were [hotographs that she took of Dachau Death Camp near Hamburg, Germany when the remains of the camp still stood. A sign ouside a gate warns people  not to trespass, that a memorial to all who died here will be erected in ther memory.

There are those who kept our country safe during the “Cold War” era, and those who have fought for our country in recent years from  Iraq to Afghanstan and beyond, and continue to do so today.  Many members of our Armed Services have served  right here at home. Many have served during “peace times” at our Miliary Bases around the world.  I could not possibly mention all of the places these Americans have been, what they have risked, what they have lost or come home to live with.  All I can do is say, “Thank you!”  We are here because you were there. Bless you all!

I would like to share one personal experience that occured in my younger days.

My mother’s sister, (my Aunt Phyllis’s husband), John Gardner, didn’t want to talk about his days in World War II. I had heard my dad’s stories  about his days in Guam when the worst of the war was over and I couldn’t understand why my beloved “Uncle John” wouldn’t talk about his Army days during that time with me. One day, when I was in college, he took me by the arm and lead me to his back porch, motioning for me to sit down.

I saw the moisture in his eyes as he told me of fighting seven major battles and campaigns from North Africa to Germany, and showed me the silver arrows, gold stars and Campaign records to prove it. He told me about Gen. Patton riding in the tank that he drove, of having to pick up enough pieces of his friends to constitute “bodies” when the tanks in front and in back of him were blown up by the enemy. He told me of seeing Mussolini and his mistress hanging (upside down, I believe) when they drove one of the first tanks into a liberated Rome.

There were more gentle memories like seeing the “Leaning Tower of Pisa” , the once lovely country side of the lands they liberated, and so much more. Of course, by then I was crying, begging him to forgive me for opening up his wounds. He just put his strong, weathered arms around me, and quietly said ,”That’s alright, I guess I needed to get it out some time”-he took a deep breath and turned my head to look into my reddened eyes and dried a tear from my cheek. “Just don’t ever ask me to speak of this again,” he whispered as I nodded and mumbled, “OK.”

I kept my word. I was humiliated that I had opened those wounds that he had kept private for so long, yet I have always been proud that he chose me to finally open that box of unspeakable pain with. Though his widow has shared his Campaign Records and showed me the box filled with Silver Arrows and Gold Stars several times, I have always felt great honor in both his sacrifice and strength in sharing his story with me. He will always convey the meaning of “Hero” in my mind.

I ask you to join me in, again, remembering that if these brave heros had not been there, with lives and dreams in constant danger, we, the Americans who enjoy our freedom today, would not be here. If you get a chance, volunteer at a Veteran Hospital or Home.  Serve meals at Centers for our Veterans, listen to their stories, or respectfully remember that they may not wish to speak of the horrors they witnessed.  Never forget the sacrifices so many have made. Lastly remember the words of our National Anthem as we honor our Military, not just today but every day-while thinking of the words of our National Anthem, “Oh, say, will that Star-Spangled Banner yet wave, o’r the land of the free and the home of the brave!”

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