Thursday, October 18, 2007
My most vivid childhood memories can be found on Highway 145, five miles south of the town of Chesterfield in a big old white farmhouse occupied by my grandparents. The memories seem to cover most of the seasons, although I never lived there full time. I spent nearly every summer there, as I have said before, maybe three or four Christmas's, at least three Thanksgivings , (eating at the children's table...much more fun than eating with the adults) and maybe once or twice in spring time. It seems that whenever we arrived, all the aunts and uncles came to see my parents and the cousins to see us. As the car climbed to the top of the hill on 145 we always saw Daddy Dwight's tree. Daddy Dwight was our grandfather, and Mammy was our grandmother. The tree was a tall long leaf pine that had been standing between the two dirt drives for as long as anyone could remember. When we saw that tree, we knew we were home. My mother would put down her car window and taking a deep breath, say "welcome to Chesterfield County, smell the air!" as though the air smelled any different or better in Chesterfield County. Of course she was right. It did. When we pulled up into the drive and parked in front of Mammy's house, we'd all pile out and run up the steps to the screen porch and mob my grandmother who was always, I mean every single time, wiping her floury hands on her apron so she could give us all a hug. She had the warmest smile and most musical laugh I can credit anyone in my life with having. It made us feel welcome and the love poured out of that laughter like water over stones in a waterfall. She would tighten that hug for a second to make you feel special before letting you go to hug our mother. My mother's face always lit up when she was being held in her mother's arms. If it was winter time, the kitchen would be warm and the fire would crackle in the little black pot bellied stove. Everyone would sit in the warm kitchen and catch up on life. Just a bit after dark, my grandmother would take us children upstairs to the big middle bedroom and help us find our pajama's, the huge old bed , piled high with quilts would be turned back ready for us to crawl in. We'd change quickly into our night clothes and tumble into the bed, cover up fast and wait for her to return with the warm flannels. She would take small flannel blankets and heat them up at the little stove, hurry up with them and wrap our feet in joy. The quilts would be piled on top of us, banishing the cold air, holding in the heat from the flannels, warming us up to our noses, which were just a tad blue, being out in the cold air. There was no central air and heat, but we didn't miss it a bit. Those were the most comfortable nights of my life. Just the memory of them warms me and I can see my Grandmother's face as clearly as if she were standing in front of me. Maybe that's what they call haunting. If so, I don't mind a good old haunting at all.