This house, where countless ordinary moments became lifetime memories.
This house, which remained the same no matter how much time elapsed between visits.
This house which holds so much sentiment, I long to capture its essence in my own home.
This house, built by my great Uncle Sam in the early 1950s.
This house, where my grandmother moved in with Uncle Sam after my grandfather died in 1968.
This house, in Riddle, North Carolina. If you blink, you’ll miss the township sign. Take a right on Pond Road, then meander down the narrow ribbon of road for a piece until you round the bend. And there, sitting on a few acres between crop-filled farmland, is my favorite childhood place.
A lot has changed over the years.
The large oak tree, where I’d find locust shells on the massive trunk, is gone. So is the gigantic weeping willow, with its graceful swaying branches.
The small wooden one-room shed, where my cousins and I played Daniel Boone, has been replaced. Seriously, it was the best playhouse ever. Brick floors and a cast iron pot-belly stove created a realistic setting for us to pretend to be pioneers. However, there was that one Thanksgiving Day when we realized pioneer days were not as awesome as we imagined; that was the time the outside weathered door-latch dropped and locked us inside for hours – with no bathroom. Obviously, it was long before cell phones or helicopter parents. No one came to look for us until dinner time.
The chicken houses are gone. I had a love-hate relationship with chickens. The love part, once I got over the fear of getting pecked, was to gather the warm, freshly laid eggs and put them in cardboard cartons. The hate part was the chicken-mess. More than once a misstep, especially when I was barefoot, sent me into a gagging fit and rushing for the garden hose. (The barefoot incidents occurred when Uncle Sam would let the hens roam the yard.) And, there was that one time when a cussed-old-cranky chicken made me run for my life; in my desperate attempt to escape, my flailing arm snagged a metal awning. I still have the scar.
The garden is gone. This is where I learned to shuck corn, snap green beans, and shell peas. My mouth waters as I think about the juicy red tomatoes, tangy Watermelon Rind pickles, and thick skinned-Muscadines.
I ponder the inside. I wonder if the honey-colored hardwood floors still shine in the morning sunlight. Or if the seafoam green bathroom tiles, tub and toilet have been replaced. Blinds now cover the windows, but I remember sheer curtains billowing in a warm summer breeze. Are the kitchen walls still painted sunny yellow and the floor still red and white checkerboard? Does a kettle still reside on top of the oil heater, puffing steam into the dry winter air? I wonder if the well-water still has that distinct taste and if the bathroom linen closet still smells musty.
I wonder if our childhood laughter resides within those walls. If those walls talked, they would tell about meals around the dinner table with Uncle Sam instigating giggles. Granny’s country cooking: fried chicken, green beans, mashed potatoes, canned biscuits and instant Lipton tea. Keebler Fudge Sticks that were kept in the refrigerator. Granny crocheting, knitting and tatting by soft lamplight while watching a staticky, snowy, black and white TV picture. The dusty bottle of dried-up Milk of Magnesia on Granny’s dresser that made us giggle uncontrollably. Sock-surfing on the slick, hardwood floors. Listening to adult conversation until my eyelids drooped. And bedtime giggles, which always got us in trouble. (Well, not really, but Granny always tried to sound stern.)
The wide drainage ditch is still there. I must have jumped that ditch a thousand times. The dirt, rich and black with a strong pungent smell, was hard to scrub off your hands and feet. Tadpoles and itsy-bitsy frogs resided in the standing water. As did mosquitos, which meant for most of the summer I was covered in Calamine-pink dots.
The front porch looks the same. What I wouldn’t give to go back in time and sit on that porch. To hear Uncle Sam tell stories of days-gone-by. To listen to the steady creaking of rocking chairs and the rhythmic clanking of the metal glider. To watch the sky turn dusky and a star-filled night settle in. My love for porch-sitting and night sounds was born on one of those delightful, country summer nights.
A lot has changed over the years, even the memories. The memories continue to grow sweeter with each passing day.
Memories of those carefree, childhood days.
Days spent in rural Carolina.
In this house.
A joyful heart is good medicine. – Proverbs 17:22a