|Fallen camellia in the clover|
At the end of February, I travelled upstate with my family. The purpose of the visit was to spend some much-needed quality time with my father and grandmother. We gained that and so much more.
Both my grandmother and my father grew up in a tiny town in north Alabama. My grandmother was the youngest of nine children. In 1923, her parents moved their burgeoning family into a small white house behind the local church. There were two bedrooms, two porches, and an outhouse. Today both porches have been enclosed. The sleeping porch (named so because it was where the children slept in the hot summers before air-conditioning) is now an additional bedroom. A bathroom has blessedly been added and the outhouse was converted into a garage.
I was worried how my three-year-old would adjust to the place. In my mind, it seemed like rooms full of “no-no’s.” I could practically hear myself and my husband barking “Don’t touch that” nonstop. Our little guy has no memory of the house. His only visit was for a Christmas get-together a mere month after his birth. “It’s going to be a long weekend,” the hub warned. However, when we arrived, our son took off running through the camellia bushes, tagging anyone who would chase him. He found the fallen fig tree and spent much of the time navigating the maze of barren, twisty branches. He was fascinated by the glass jars on the shelves in the garage that held everything from metal bolts to shirt buttons. Once inside the house, the little guy wandered the rooms with a wondrous expression. When he found my favorite room, the front porch, he breathed, “Wow, amaaaazing!” There he found a pink couch that was just his size and settled down to watch Little Einsteins on the hub’s phone while we ate lunch in the dining room.
I love everything about this house. It’s a treasure trove of
memories. There have been weddings and wakes here. Babies have been born here—my
grandmother included. (She was born during the Christmas season. When the carolers
began to sing solemnly outside the house in celebration of her birth, one of
her older sisters, sick with fever, thought it was the angels calling her home.)
Nowadays you can see the history in the black and white photographs
framed throughout the rooms, the block kitchen table, the trinkets lovingly
collected by various members of my grandmother’s family, a retro space heater
in one of the bedrooms, the original door frames, parts of an old quilting loom
above the bed in the sleeping porch… I could go on and on.
|My daughter sitting by the front door|
|The hub and our son by "The Hendon" bush|
|My son in the fig tree|
After lunch, we took a jaunt into the country to The Warrior Farm. Amidst curvy red dirt lanes, hiking hills, and the forestation my father has personally cultivated there over the last five years is the ol’ Williams Homeplace. This is where his father, my grandfather, was born and raised. We donned cowboy boots and hiked up the hill. We passed an abandoned deer stand and walked through a meadow, dodging thorned berry vines, following deer tracks. Through a narrow path in the woods, we saw signs of inhabitance—the roof of a well, a bicycle frame, an old-fashioned car hood, barbed wire still attached to rough-hewn posts and then the barn. It is still in surprisingly good shape…though I did feel a little leery about letting my son walk underneath the rafters. He pointed out a gourd and became distressingly interested in a hanging board with exposed, rusty nails. The hub circled the building and found a long feeding trough and the frame of an old-model truck beaten by weather and time.
|The barn with trough|
Whatever remained of the house has been lost in the thicket. My sister told us how she and my father have searched for signs of it on previous visits without much luck. The hub placed our son on his shoulders and the two went traipsing into the thicket in search. I snapped pictures of them circling a thick pecan tree with a hand-fashioned ladder reaching into the lower boughs. As they disappeared, my father called to me. He had found what we were looking for—early spring blossoms.
|The hub and son gone a'huntin' through the thicket...|
|Daffodil growing through the chimney bricks|
|View of the bell tower|
I didn’t expect the visit to be quite so emotional, but it was in the most positive sense of the word. It’s been difficult to make the trip in recent years with our children so young. But the moments made it worth it. Like hearing my son gasp in delight as the clock tower, visible from the camellia bushes, chimed the hour as we prepared to leave the following day. Or taking a walk with my grandmother to snip rosemary from the neighboring fence line. Watching the hub collect four-leaf clovers with my sister and son. My father and I cracking open scattered pecans. As we loaded our car for the trip home, I eyed the rare Japanese magnolia in the next yard and wished one of the fat, pink blossoms would drop so that I could press it, too, into a book. I inhaled deeply, locking the scents and the memories deep. When my children are a bit older, I can’t wait to go back so that they can make memories of their own in the place where time seems to stand still and nostalgia takes on a new life.