Posts tagged nostalgia

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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Cleaning out the Wars

29720218A stack of shirts, long unworn, wrinkled.

Shorts, a little short and revealing for someone my age.

The necklace from Aunt Libby’s cruise in 1995.

And then, at the bottom. the forgotten cards and letters.

I’ll admit, I don’t remember the act of writing them,

or receiving the occasional ones that I received from him.

I remember the feeling of incredible new love,

I remember the affection , unsolicited and so long ago.

But it has been so long since those days, those moments-

little kids, fussing, playing out side on warm summer nights.

Their fussing ending quickly when lightning bugs came out.

Life, as I dreamed it, had been almost real- for a while.

Now, I read my words and remember them so clearly,

both the days when the words flowed truly from my heart

and those when I swallowed hard, and tried to remember

as I wrote those same letters, lying, with tears on my cheeks.

Now, I carry the pain of loosing a beautiful teen so wrongly.

Feeling that God betrayed me when I did everything I could.

I lost my health, my faith and the deep bond with my family,

When my health was destroyed by the horrible death of my son.

The destruction had gone on for years, slowly, before that day.

Now, I was filled with misery and they were young adults.

College, marrying new houses, kids-and my one still small child.

He gave me life, saved my soul, but I had to let him grow up too.

The letters and journals became ways to cope for me

Often pretending, other times literary screams of pain.

The older kids were at heir house, I was at mine.

I was living in a house that used to be a home.

Mixed in with black nightgowns and alluring bathing suits,

there were only scribbled notes, half apology, half excuse.

That’s all I got. I no longer wrote such letters at all.

My journals, tear-stained, of my ruined life replaced them.

Affection was gone, grand children became my solace, my life.

I felt like a stranger to my family-I have never felt so alone.

Now letters from past generations haunt me now. My parents died,

never intending me to read them, as an only child I had to.

I saw myself in my mom. Her struggles, her pain as she aged.

A million more tears and less understanding of my haunted past.

There, at my childhood home, I again shuffled thru the memories.

Finding unbearable pain in cleaning out the drawers, and the wars once again.

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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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Christmas Past

DSCN2231I remember those magical days-

children running in from the bus

to see what new presents

had suddenly appeared under the tree.

I remember the magic of lights-

the “oohs and ahhhs” as the switch came on.

The weeks of “what I want for Christmas”

coming from innocent souls.

Then the chorus of “and that’s all…”

followed by several more favorites.

Yesterday, my babies, my life-

The Joy on their faces, on my face as well.

Today, I lay here alone, a tree with no presents.

Sits in a “living room” no one plays in.

I pick up a sick grandchild from school,

Drive by a graveyard-when one of them lies.

I wonder, today, with life having little meaning,

how those days, when we were so poor,

when those “wants” really did magicially appear.

If it is worth it now, the memories, all I have.

My sick heart pounds, the hot tears roll,

down lonely cheeks as teens tell me

“I won’t be home after school, I have to hurry.”

There are dinner and parties, friends, life.

Please remember, children of today,

that life goes by so fast, that todays’ kids

are tomorrows adults, with kids of their own.

And we, who once were so needed and loved.

Have grown old as my babies grew up.

I put up a tree, as my youngest insisted.

But no joy of a new present  hiding  there today.

Just memories, the awareness of time rushing by…

Like the old Scrooge Tale, it is-

Christmas Past, Present, Future.

I must remember that life moves on, even if

it drags me kicking and screaming.

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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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Talking with the Dead

Though I have chosen a scary title for my Halloween blog, I have only precious memories in mind.

Holidays are a time when my lost loved ones are particularly on my mind. I remember things we did together, laugh quietly at converDSCN1024sations and times we shared.

I lost my father only two months ago. There are so many times that I find myself thinking, “I can’t wait to tell dad about that!” -then realizing that dad isn’t there to tell. My heart sinks as I think that the books and stories he wrote are all I will ever have. Memories constantly come into my mind of our days together. We were both strong willed and had our differences, but I was his only child and he loved me unconditionally.

I often feel that I never really knew my mom like I so desperately wanted to. She kept her past life very private. She was lively, funny and beautiful, I will always remember the funny things she would say, tricks she would pull, and the delicious treats she would make. My son loved her special dessert she called “Good Cake”. Still, there was a mystery about my mother that I sometimes connect with, a knowledge that she was so much like me, that when she saw me taking a “wrong turn”, she though of herself, and it caused her to close up inside. Since people tell me that I “look just like her”, I often wonder if our solemn, secretive natures were more similar than I will ever know. Perhaps the things she saw as regrets were different from mine only because of the time we lived in and the increasing acceptance of life’s choices.

Halloween, and then Las Dia de Los Muerte, in the Hispanic culture always bring back sweet, yet painful memories of my son. He was 15 when I lost him very suddenly in early October a few years back. October had always been my favorite month, and now it is only a long torture that ends in the very “celebration” of death, or at least a connection with the dead. My son and I were very close, every day is another trial in pain and sorrow. I literally lost my health because of his death, so I cannot for one minute forget it. My son loved Halloween, dressing up and going out with his older brothers and sisters when he was young, and then,with his friends as a young teen. He was quiet, but had a beautiful face, a sly smile, that I still see looking at me when my thought wander in quiet times.

I often visit the cemetery where they now lie, along with the old graveyard down the road where many of my elders are buried. It down and talk to them, cry for them, ask for their help, for reminders of their love, like the dimes I am constantly finding that have come to feel like a message from my son that he is with me. Since it is Halloween, I will mention the other special sign that I have with my son and my mom-I find Black Widow spiders on their graves, in the flowers, beside the stones. Its like they remember that I study insects and know that I will see them as a sign that they still dwell with me. I will look around and find no other Black Widows in the cemetery. That convinces me that it is a special and private symbol between us.

Talking to my lost loves provides me with a link to them, a closeness, that I never want to loose. I have never felt that I had to be in the cemetery to connect with them, but sometimes, being there, bringing a flower or a small symbol of something that reminds me of them, helps my aching soul. There is nothing to fear, and much to treasure when we refuse to let those that have been stolen from this earth to become stolen from our hearts.

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From the Bus Stop

In spring we watch, day by day as the snowball bush goes from a tangle of limbs to a magical green. Days pass and the blossoms of white start to appear and the green darkens among the growing snowballs. Weeks pass quickly ad we count the days until school is out. the snowballs, now so heavy that they weigh down the limbs have taken on a purple hue towards the middle ad the begin to wither and die.

Summer has come and we have watched the dogwoods change their shades of green leaves, observe the daily opening of the blooms, and
once again , watch them wither and die.

When summer has ended (way too soon) and we are back in the morning mist of August, we see that the Joe Pye Weeds are waving in warm winds beau the rushing stream.

Soon the dogwoods take on an increasing reddish hue and leaves of gold flutter down from the many deciduous trees on the hillside.
As the leaves fall from the dogwood trees, clumps of red berries have appeared in the frost where blossoms once sparkled in spring storms.

As we watch time go by, from the first buds of spring to the lushness of summer, the glory of autumn and snowdrifts of winter, my children and I realise how quickly tome goes by and how fast they are growing.

Like the seasons, we grow and change. Each age, each season having its own special beauty. As a tear rushed down my cheek when I think of how quickly my children ate growing, I look longingly at them and realise that soon, they will be watching the seasons change with their own .

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Going Home

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Jen drove slowly down the old dirt drive. “There aren’t many dirt roads or long driveways left,” she thought. She hadn’t seen her great aunt Sarah in many years. All sorts of excuses rushed through her brain as she got closer to the lovely old farm house at the end of the driveway. “I’ve lived too far away, I’ve been so busy, I haven’t seen her since I was a child,”she thought, then guiltily threw each excuse aside.

She had not taken the time-period. Now, she was 27 years old, a high school history teacher, engaged to be married and she could surely have thought of more valid excuses than those. But something had tugged at her heart. She had come to Alabama to tour a local schools system for a study she was conducting. Remembering that Aunt Sarah lived in this county, she looked her up in the phone book. Surprisingly, she was still listed.

She got out her I-phone and turned on the app that showed her a map to the little town of Rosewood and soon found Cornfield Lane right off the main road. “What would she say?” she wondered as she pulled up the two story house with a wrap around porch. Would Aunt Sarah remember her, welcome her, or would she be treated with disdain?

Jen remembered that Aunt Sarah, her mother’s aunt, had been married, had 3 children and then her husband had died at a fairly early age. She didn’t think she had remarried, because her name was still the same in the phone book. It seems the children would be about her mother’s age, probably with grandchildren of their own.

With her heart beating quickly inside her chest, she parked her Maroon Chevy Van near the house and walked towards the door. It was nearly Halloween, and even in Alabama, there was a nip of autumn in the air. Jen, pulled her sweater around her as she walked up the old brick sidewalk. Before she started up the steps, an elderly lady walked out onto the porch. The screen door creaked as it closed behind her.

“Why, Jenny!” The lady exclaimed. “Jenny Markham! Is that you?”

“It’s me, alright, Aunt Sarah.” Jen said with a blush. “I have no excuse for not having seen you in so long. It makes those Christmas cards seem awfully pitiful.”

“Well, don’t you think a thing about it,” Aunt Sarah said with a smile as she opened the door and motioned for Jen to come in. Jen obliged, remembering the high ceilings and the slightly old scent of the wooden house. She looked around and smiled. It was as if she had been here only a short time ago.

“Come on in here and let me make us some tea,” Aunt Sarah smiled as she lead Jen to the room behind the living room. Sarah stood and looked around at her Great Aunt’s kitchen. The same long table and chairs sat upon the worn tiles, the curtains were new, but of similar pattern, an autumn harvest with ruffled bottoms around the windows which hung over the sink and the one on the slightly opened back door. It brought back memories of her mother and rest of their big family coming here for watermelon on the Fourth of July when she was young.

“It sure is good to see you, Jenny!” Aunt Sarah smiled. “What on earth brought you way out here in backwoods Alabama?”

Jenny told her about her research project, career and upcoming marriage, inviting her long-lost cousins and families to come. Aunt Sarah sat and sipped tea with her for maybe half an hour before she invited her to come through the house and see the walls and dark walnut dressers filled with pictures of her children, grandchildren and even their kids. Again, Jen’s heart beat rapidly inside her as she took in the years and memories that she had missed out on when her father had taken a new job in East Texas.

She wondered what her life would have been like if they had stayed here. Would her and her brother’s kids been friends with Aunt Sarah’s children, would they have ridden the same bus, lived on the same road, had watermelon on that worn front porch on the fourth of July? Would she already be married, maybe to someone she knew as a child.?

Thoughts swirled through her head as the “what if’s” rushed by. What was the name of the high school here? What college would she have gone to? Would she have been a teacher, like she was now? It was at that moment Jen decided not to tell her Aunt Sarah her secret. She would save it until after the wedding, it would seem better then.

Inside her, Jen felt the movement of her baby, a girl, she had learned just yesterday. She wondered how Aunt Sarah would feel about her being pregnant before her marriage and then grabbed her Aunt’s wrinkled hand. Of course, she would love this baby, just like all the other children that decorated her dressers and walls. Surely, out of all of them, there had been children conceived before their parents married. Perhaps their parents had never married at all.

After a long visit, Jen walked back to her car with Aunt Sarah and her collie, Barney, beside her. She promised her Aunt that she would never let their families loose touch again, and she meant it. In Aunt Sarah’s younger days, having a baby before marriage would have brought many cross looks and perhaps even a few rejections. But this, thank goodness as a different time.

Jen vowed to herself that she would write her aunt a letter and tell her more about her soon-to-be husband and the baby she was carrying as soon as she got back to Texas. There was one more thing she would ask of the Aunt she had just come know again. She would ask her to allow her the honor of naming her new baby, Sarah.

Jen drove slowly down the old dirt drive. “There aren’t many dirt roads or long driveways left,” she thought. She hadn’t seen her great aunt Sarah in many years. All sorts of excuses rushed through her brain as she got closer to the lovely old farm house at the end of the driveway. “I’ve lived too far away, I’ve been so busy, I haven’t seen her since I was a child,”she thought, then guiltily threw each excuse aside.

She had not taken the time-period. Now, she was 27 years old, a high school history teacher, engaged to be married and she could surely have thought of more valid excuses than those. But something had tugged at her heart. She had come to Alabama to tour a local schools system for a study she was conducting. Remembering that Aunt Sarah lived in this county, she looked her up in the phone book. Surprisingly, she was still listed.

She got out her I-phone and turned on the app that showed her a map to the little town of Rosewood and soon found Cornfield Lane right off the main road. “What would she say?” she wondered as she pulled up the two story house with a wrap around porch. Would Aunt Sarah remember her, welcome her, or would she be treated with disdain?

Jen remembered that Aunt Sarah, her mother’s aunt, had been married, had 3 children and then her husband had died at a fairly early age. She didn’t think she had remarried, because her name was still the same in the phone book. It seems the children would be about her mother’s age, probably with grandchildren of their own.

With her heart beating quickly inside her chest, she parked her Maroon Chevy Van near the house and walked towards the door. It was nearly Halloween, and even in Alabama, there was a nip of autumn in the air. Jen, pulled her sweater around her as she walked up the old brick sidewalk. Before she started up the steps, an elderly lady walked out onto the porch. The screen door creaked as it closed behind her.

“Why, Jenny!” The lady exclaimed. “Jenny Markham! Is that you?”

“It’s me, alright, Aunt Sarah.” Jen said with a blush. “I have no excuse for not having seen you in so long. It makes those Christmas cards seem awfully pitiful.”

“Well, don’t you think a thing about it,” Aunt Sarah said with a smile as she opened the door and motioned for Jen to come in. Jen obliged, remembering the high ceilings and the slightly old scent of the wooden house. She looked around and smiled. It was as if she had been here only a short time ago.

“Come on in here and let me make us some tea,” Aunt Sarah smiled as she lead Jen to the room behind the living room. Sarah stood and looked around at her Great Aunt’s kitchen. The same long table and chairs sat upon the worn tiles, the curtains were new, but of similar pattern, an autumn harvest with ruffled bottoms around the windows which hung over the sink and the one on the slightly opened back door. It brought back memories of her mother and rest of their big family coming here for watermelon on the Fourth of July when she was young.

“It sure is good to see you, Jenny!” Aunt Sarah smiled. “What on earth brought you way out here in backwoods Alabama?”

Jenny told her about her research project, career and upcoming marriage, inviting her long-lost cousins and families to come. Aunt Sarah sat and sipped tea with her for maybe half an hour before she invited her to come through the house and see the walls and dark walnut dressers filled with pictures of her children, grandchildren and even their kids. Again, Jen’s heart beat rapidly inside her as she took in the years and memories that she had missed out on when her father had taken a new job in East Texas.

She wondered what her life would have been like if they had stayed here. Would her and her brother’s kids been friends with Aunt Sarah’s children, would they have ridden the same bus, lived on the same road, had watermelon on that worn front porch on the fourth of July? Would she already be married, maybe to someone she knew as a child.?

Thoughts swirled through her head as the “what if’s” rushed by. What was the name of the high school here? What college would she have gone to? Would she have been a teacher, like she was now? It was at that moment Jen decided not to tell her Aunt Sarah her secret. She would save it until after the wedding, it would seem better then.

Inside her, Jen felt the movement of her baby, a girl, she had learned just yesterday. She wondered how Aunt Sarah would feel about her being pregnant before her marriage and then grabbed her Aunt’s wrinkled hand. Of course, she would love this baby, just like all the other children that decorated her dressers and walls. Surely, out of all of them, there had been children conceived before their parents married. Perhaps their parents had never married at all.

After a long visit, Jen walked back to her car with Aunt Sarah and her collie, Barney, beside her. She promised her Aunt that she would never let their families loose touch again, and she meant it. In Aunt Sarah’s younger days, having a baby before marriage would have brought many cross looks and perhaps even a few rejections. But this, thank goodness as a different time.

Jen vowed to herself that she would write her aunt a letter and tell her more about her soon-to-be husband and the baby she was carrying as soon as she got back to Texas. There was one more thing she would ask of the Aunt she had just come know again. She would ask her to allow her the honor of naming her new baby, Sarah.DSCN1026

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Fresh Flowers on the Grave

 

 

Image courtesy of Unsplash.

 

I walked up the hill as I so often did. My 15-year-old son rested there with a black obsidian stone that we had ordered from Africa standing guard. Many people had left mementos over the 7 ½ years since that night of hell when we lost him. There were tiny figurines, glass etchings, a link of chains with the number of people who were supposed to be in our family, notes, items from his favorite ball teams. Then, along with Christmas ornaments and coins, we kept a vase of artificial flowers.

Ironically, I often found black widow spiders on the flowers or near the stone. Since I study arachnids, it was like a special message from me-one that spoke of the anger we both felt from the loss of his life through mistakes and excuses. When I looked at other graves in the large cemetery, I found only one other place with a black widow spider-my mother’s grave.

As I walked up the hill on this early summer day, I noticed a new container of flowers sitting in front of the stone. They were light orange with delicate leaves dancing in the breeze. As I reached the grave, I realized that the flowers were fresh. It was unusual to find fresh flowers on a grave that was not a new grave because they do not last long in the heat and wind.

I knelt down to look at a small note attached to the vase that held the flowers. On the front , I could see a set of fading initials-it had rained the night before and I couldn’t read them. As I turned the little note over, I saw a delicate pink heart. I smiled. He never got the chance to experience true love, but after all these years, someone still loved him, thought of him. Without coming to a conclusion about who the flowers were from, I smiled, ran my fingers across his name as I always did and knelt down by the stone, whispering, “I love you.”

I was reminded of something my grandfather used to tell me. “As long as someone loves you, and remembers what you loved and dreamed, you will never be forgotten.” The scent of fresh flowers wafted in the air. For just a moment, I was with him and this time, we were not alone.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Memories from Log Cabin Kitchens

 

 

I could smell the fragrance of the thick molasses all the way in the upstairs room my brother and I shared. My grandpa’s molasses making trays and tools were still tucked under the shed, waiting to be washed today before the bugs went crazy.

The lightning storm that had crept up suddenly the night before had almost ruined this years molasses run, be together, our neighbors, my father and brother finished the load.

I don’t think any one who has never gone through the grinding of cane stalks, the shuttling of the sugary fluid through the zig-zag trays, or stood sweating in the August heat should be allowed to savor the incomparable taste of warm biscuits slathered in molasses!

When we were young, our family had a joke. If you asked for ‘lasses, that meant that you were asking for your first serving. If you anted a second service you asked for “molasses!”.

Not many people get to see the metal trays set up for molasses making these days They didn’t see horses turning the machine that grinds the stalks of sugar cane, they don’t watch the paddle moving the molasses along the divided trays above the flames. Indeed the love of molasses has nearly disappeared in some areas.

Oh, go on to thee store, buy a bottle and try to imagine the making of molasses I have described, use the little honey stirring devise to drizzle the molasses on your canned biscuits. I guarantee, you will get a glimpse of the way grandpa make then as you close your eyes and savor the first bite!

 

 

 

 

 

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