Sweet Memories

 I can close my eyes and transcend back in time to ‘those two little white houses on Carnes.’  Such happy, safe places… embedded forever in my memory…

jn-fam1(Front Row) Debbie, Michael, Teresa;  (Back Row) Johnny, Verna, Icy

Johnny, Verna and Nathan and Icy lived side-by-side there.  Maybe that is why Johnny and Verna’s kids were so close to their Mamaw and Papaw!  They saw them every day.  They fed and cared for them just as their parents did.

teresa_deb_cherylLeft to Right:  Teresa, Debbie, Cheryl

Being a cousin who lived out of town, I was so envious of that.  Not in a bad way.  But I would dream of being able to walk out my front door and see my grandparents whenever I wanted.  I thought Michael, Debbie and Teresa were so lucky…

cheryl_teresa_deb

Left to Right:  Cheryl, Teresa and Debbie

We mostly visited around Christmas or Easter, so those times of year always brings back good memories for me.  I remember the long drive in our blue stationwagon.  Me and my brothers laid out a blanket in the back and played i-spy or games.  We were always so excited to see the cotton fields and share croppers’ homes, because that meant we were getting close.  And shortly after we would see the bridges stretched across the Mississippii River and be reminded that our grandfather helped build one of them. 

I usually stayed at my Uncle Johnny’s house.  And Debbie and I were absolutely inseparably from the time we arrived, until the moment we left.  We are only one month apart in age and had so much fun together!

mamawdebbie-cherylLeft to Right:  Debbie, Icy, Cheryl

cheryl_nathan_debLeft to Right:  Cheryl, Nathan and Debbie

At some point during our visit, all the aunts and uncles would come over.  They were aunts and uncles who lovingly kept in touch with us throughout the year, always remembering birthdays or coming to visit with us at our home in the country.  All the cousins seemed more like siblings back then.

My very sweet great aunts and uncles would come too.  Uncle Abe and Aunt Gladys, along with my Uncle Doc and Aunt Vivian.  We were blessed to have relationships with them, as well.  And sometimes there were folks there I didn’t even know, the family and friends were so many!  ‘The more the better,’ as far as our Mamaw and Papaw were concerned.

the-crowdLeft to Right:  Joe, Geneva (back) Clynese (front), Jimmy, Sara, Michael

If the weather was good, the day was filled with everyone playing horse shoes or washers (played the same way as horse shoes but with great big washers) in the back yard.  Nathan was pretty darn good… weren’t too many that could beat him.  He laughed a lot.  It was something he loved almost as much as fishing.  (He would stand ‘knee- deep’ in a pond  and fish with a metal fishing pole during a lightening storm!  I know that because I saw him do it.)

If the weather was bad, everyone just crowded in the house.  There were people everywhere.  Everyone was ‘just happy to be together’ and there was lots of catching up to do.  It was fun just to be in the midst of it all.  Usually there was a card table or two set up or they were gathered around the kitchen table, playing cards and dominoes.

the-menLeft to Right:  Winnie, Dave, Johnny, Joe, Jimmy (Child, Larry)

Oh how they loved to play cards!  They say that Gladys, Nathan’s sister also had a love for playing cards and that as she played, she would just ‘chew that gum as she kicked that leg! ‘  She was pretty, from photos I’ve seen.  I can just see her doing that, and I hear them saying, “…go to the bone yard!”  Nathan and Abe, laughing together, smoking on their pipes or fat cigars…  I have one of those pipes and ‘I treasure it.’ 

We little girls learned early that if we jumped up on their laps as they sat around the table, ‘pretending to be sweet’ and they would usually give us a quarter!  That quarter bought a lot back then!  We would run down the block to the little store on the corner and buy candy.

nathan_icy_cigarLeft to Right:  Nathan, Icy

The women, I remember, sometimes sat around talking while they snapped beans, preparing the meal.  As a young girl, I can remember being recruited to look through the beans and pick out the little rocks.  I didn’t like beans much but I loved the process of getting them ready to cook.

The women were usually in the kitchen, cooking up the big dinner.  Mamaw always put on an apron as she cooked.  The food was always good.  Makes my mouth water to think of it.

The men were served first (…I think the men came up with that rule) at the big table, the children were next, and then the women finally ate.  And, of course, the women had the chore of clean-up.  (These were two traditions that really needed upgrading!)

Mamaw Icy would ask Papaw where something was and he would say, “Right cher!”

Icy always had a lot of puzzles and things for kids to play with.  And she loved to work them with us.  Nathan loved puzzles too!  And oh, how Nathan loved babies.  But when they got bigger, he didn’t know what to do with them.

After dinner someone would put some music on.  Usually Jimmy, because he has always loved and collected music!  Sara and the sisters would start jitterbuggin, pulling whoever they could grab out on the floor and the kids would watch in amazement.  They could really “cut a rug!”

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I usually stayed at Uncle Johnny’s with Debbie.  Michael had the little room in the back that I thought was just the greatest!  I loved going back there and hanging around him.  I thought Michael was ‘it!’

I remember a closet we kids would crawl through, from one room to another when we played hide-and-seek.   We were forbidden from going into Uncle Jimmy’s room…. it looked so inviting!  His room was always so NEAT!  Everything in it’s place.  The forbidden was so intriguing! But sometimes we were ‘invited in’ and that was a special privilege.  We’d sit on the floor,  look at his pictures, talk and listen to the oldies!

Best of all, I remember sitting on the front porch or sprawling out in the floor (in everyones’ way), coloring with Debbie with the gigantic box of colors I got for Christmas (that had a built in sharpener and every color in the rainbow).

The two houses were always so safe and warm because love dwelled there.  Christmas time was extra special… the tree decorated with shiny, silver ice sickles and big, glittery Christmas balls dangling…  the glittering tree towering over  the many presents stacked high beneath!   And the smell of sugar cookies and laughter was in the air…  Oh how I wish I could be there, playing, laughing, talking… just one more time, surrounded by everyone, including all those who have since crossed over.   I think we would all appreciate it more…

I hold these memories deep in my heart.  No one can ever steal them.  It is a place I can go to renew myself at any time.  It reminds me how richly blessed I am to have a family bound together by love.  I know our family is not perfect and we have had our bumps in the road.  But as the Garth Brooks song says… “I could have missed the pain, but I’d have had to miss the dance…”  So, I put any pain away, and say thank you for the dance!

cheryl_red-dress

To each of you, I say thank you.  The best gifts you gave me could never fit under a tree… but they are forever tucked in my heart.

hearts_floating1

Life is what happens while we are busy making other plans…

Take time to enjoy the journey this year!

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