June 10, 2013
It’s a beautiful Summer morning in early June as I sit on my front porch listening to the birds and watching the squirrels dash from tree to tree. The sweet heady scent of mimosa stirs a hint of nostalgia in me of summer days past. My mind drifts back to my carefree childhood days as I close my eyes and let the memories overtake me. Back to a day when my needs were simple and the days seemed endless with possibilities. We didn’t have much…but we didn’t need much either.
I was raised in a community called Ophelia, just off of Hwy 48 over the Randolph County line. A place that sit in the middle of nowhere, which many people never even knew existed, but to me it was everything. My whole was there and it was all I needed. Our community consisted of a small church ( Mt. Prospect) and loads of family. A place where the blacktop ended and the dirt road began. I can remember walking that dirt road barefoot countless times.
Our summer mornings began early. My grandfather always had a very large garden of just about every vegetable you could possibly imagine. I can still picture him now coming in from the heat with sweat dripping. He never wore a shirt, just work khakis and a straw hat with a visor. Papa rarely wore shorts unless he was going to the creek to bathe with his bar of Dial soap in hand. My cousins and I would tease him about his white legs in contrast of his deeply tanned torso. For those of you who are not familiar, Dial soap is the only bar soap that floats.
I was Pawpaw’s sidekick on many occasions. Back then, I thought it was because I was his favorite, but I think he made us all feel this way. Oh, how I loved riding on the tractor with him or just being beside him as he picked vegetables. I called myself helping him, but I’m sure I did a lot of hindering, although he never complained. He loved to lounge under a huge shade tree that sat right beside his house, where he would enjoy a freshly rolled cigarette from Prince Albert in a can or a chew of tobacco. If he was sitting enjoying the shade, everyone just kind of seemed to migrate to him. Sometimes there would be many sitting around just chewing the fat while us children would play a game of freeze tag or hide and seek.
Pawpaw was always humming or singing a gospel hymn as he walked along. The one I remember most was “Singing His Praises all the day long, I’m going that way”. I can still hear his beautiful baritone voice now. Papa loved to sing. He was the song leader at church and also part of a gospel quartet called “ The Yates Family, that consisted of my two aunts, two uncles, and Pawpaw.
Pawpaw would ride us to the nearby little country store called “ Malva’s” in his old pickup truck where he would always buy us a piece of “blow gum”, costing just one penny at the time. We would all pile in the back of his truck as the wind would whip in our face. I can also remember him letting us walk on his back to “crack it”.
Back then, there was no internet or video games, we made our own fun with nothing but our imagination. We would set out early morning and sometimes stay gone until we were called in at dusk. Even then we were still reluctant to go home. Our days would consist of roaming the roads and woods with nothing particular in mind, sometimes on a bicycle and sometimes on foot. Back in these days, you didn’t have to worry about being kidnapped or many other dangers that befall children in this day and age. I look back now and think I would never let my children roam so freely. But, then again, things were different back then.
My cousin and I, Richard, were the same age so we would play together almost every day. We would entertain ourselves in various ways. Whether it was by go cart riding or going to the cemetery in search of lizards to shoot with our BB guns. It was a contest, whoever filled their mason jar up first with dead lizards was the winner. At night, we would catch lightning bugs and put them in a jar as well.
Going to “the creek” was always a treat. We would beg endlessly until Daddy would take us. I can remember him getting mad about us pestering him so much about going, but in truth he loved it as much as we did. Our swimming hole consisted of bend in Fox Creek with a huge tree that had a rope swing on it. Not sure what age my daddy taught me to swim, but I know it was preschool age. I loved to swim and was fearless in my endeavors. I was jumping off the rope swing not too long after I learned to swim. If we had enough people present, we would have a mud battle. There was always a large mudhole nearby that never seemed to dry up. Sometimes we would be so covered with mud, you could only see the white of our eyes. Some of my best memories are of this place. Our swimming hole no longer exists, covered by water when they backed it up with the construction of Harris Dam.
I was blessed with many cousins to play within our small community made up of strictly family. Large Sunday dinners and holiday gatherings would fill my grandparents’ house to a point where it would literally burst at the seams. After our meal, with weather permitting, there was usually some type of extracurricular outdoor activity to participate in. Softball, Kickball, football, or some type of ball. Sometimes we would even make up games to play. Red Rover was also a favorite pastime. Time seemed to stand still on these days. I look back on these days fondly…
As I grow older, these memories are even more precious to me. As much as I loved my parents, it was my grandparents that made this time so special to me. There’s just something about grandparents…
So, to all the grandparents out there, I will finish with this advice. No matter how small the time you have with your grandchildren, make it count, because I promise you it will stick with them for many years to come. Their memories will last a lifetime and beyond, because one day they will share their memories with their grandchildren. These special times can shape and mold their lives and with any luck, will instill family values in them they will pass down to future generations. Legacies have to start somewhere…