The home place
I’ve been gone from home for four weeks now and I’m beginning to think that I’m probably not the best ‘Snow-birder’ that ever flew the coop. My timing has left a little to be desired, weather-wise. It seems on the day of arrival at my various stops they were experiencing the coldest temps on record, and the day after I’ve left these places, spring would miraculously happen. I kid you not, out of the four weeks thus far, I’ve seen the sun four times. I’m sure there’s a lesson in there somewhere.
Tomorrow, my sweet mama and I leave Memphis and will take off for her old home place in Jonesborough, Tennessee, a 475-mile road trip. Some of our ‘people’ still live there, but out of the four sisters and four brothers, Mom is the last one left. I have a smattering of cousins and second and third cousins still living in and around the Blue Ridge and Great Smokies and Mom feels, as the remaining matriarch of the family, she needs to check on them every once in a while and tell them all what’s what.
The old home place. Actually, only remnants remain, an over-grown gravel driveway, a three-sided barn and rubble from a house long gone. Yet, I feel pretty sure when Mom looks up that hill she sees something entirely different than I do. Over the years, every time we’d pass by it, she’d tells me about the watermelons she and one of her brothers would sneak from their daddy’s watermelon patch and hide behind the barn to enjoy. One house that we’d drive by reminded her of the time she stole a goose egg from the neighbor’s hen house and then walked to the country store and swapped it for a Moon pie and a big, round orange. She’d point out where her best friend, Dot, lived and how she once stole Dot’s boyfriend. Later that night, Dot sneaked in through Mom’s bedroom window where the ‘besties’ had a little ‘come to Jesus meeting’. I have no doubt I will hear all of those stories again this time, at least I hope so.
My own memories are strong of Aunt Zell and Aunt Sis. I have yet to taste a blackberry cobbler any better than Zell’s or churned butter any sweeter than Sis’s. Christmas Eve was magical as all assorted family members would pile into the small house on Hwy 11 and the uncles would try to convince me and the other cousins that Santa could fly over any minute. I remember the cold that seeped through my socked feet as I huddled with my cousins on the front porch, sure I’d just seen the Jolly old man out the corner of my eye, like a shooting star a second too late. My happy place was a forty-acre farm I prowled over summer after summer and knew where every protruding tree root and half hidden stone lurked just waiting to stub my toe, twist my ankle, or scrape a knee.
Yes, I’m taking my mother home so she can step back into the sights and sounds that after 91-years still live inside of her; to a place where love was doled out in generous portions along with the beans and cornbread. I can’t wait to watch her face light up and her eyes shimmer as she returns to the brief time when all possibilities were before her; when she wasn’t yet my mother, or a wife, or a bill-payer. An enchanting window when she was simply a young girl in a cotton dress walking barefooted down the hill with the sweet taste of watermelon still on her lips.