My aunt Shirley recently sent me a link that stirred up all kinds of memories. She is my mother’s younger half-sister, the youngest of the family of four girls and two boys. They are all gone now except for Shirley and my uncle Paul whom I have not seen in decades.
The link Shirley sent was a real estate listing for my maternal grandmother Satterfield’s house in Tennessee, close to Ducktown. Here’s the picture from the listing:
Seeing it, I was instantly transported back to the summer weeks we spent there as children. My parents made the long drive back to the Tennessee mountains every summer and every Christmas. It was the only vacation we got, but the memories I have of it are indelible. Shirley is just a year older than I, and my uncles Wayne and Paul were always willing to play with my brother and me. The house was small but we all fit in and had the most amazing times together.
We hiked in the mountains surrounding the house, splashed in the creek in the back of the property, swung from a rope there dangling from a huge tree, walked the railroad line that ran in front of the house, going to blackberry fields down the line, gathered up the candy and newspaper thrown out by trainmen as they passed. They always waved at us. At Christmas, there was loads of food, and piles of presents. I never understood how Santa Claus managed to find us when we were away from home, but he did.
My parents never left us at home, but they went off to visit relatives when we were at my grandmother’s,leaving us to get into all sorts of mischief. One time Ron and I went to the creek bank and got gloriously muddy and then realized we would be in deep trouble when my mother returned. Our grandmother cleaned us up, put the muddy clothes into wash, put clean clothes on us and said, “We won’t tell anyone about this.” She had our back.
She of course is gone, although her house is still there. Seeing the real estate picture, I was reminded of the incredibly beautiful and insightful Judy Collins song, “Secret Gardens of the Heart.” It begins,
My grandmother’s house is still there
But it isn’t the same
A plain wooden cottage
A patch of brown lawn
And a fence that hangs standing
And sighing in the Seattle rain…
…I still see the ghosts
Of the people I knew long ago
Inside the old kitchen
They bend and sigh
My life passed them up
And the world passed them by
Secret Gardens of the heart
Where the old stay young forever
I see you shining through the night
In the ice and snow of winter
But most of all
It is me that has changed
And yet I’m still the same
That’s me at the weddings
That’s me at the graves
Dressed like the people
Who once looked so grown-up and brave…
(Here’s a link to a somewhat dated movie from 1979 made with the song as a soundtrack: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aLSxiD7dlkE)