I was born and raised in Savannah, Georgia, a city sometimes described as “a beautiful lady with a dirty face.” But I don’t identify Savannah as my hometown. That distinction belongs to my Uncle Fred’s farm a few miles up the road from Guyton, Georgia, where I spent most weekends of my youth.
My parents, my brother, and I would leave Savannah Friday afternoon after my father got home from work and drive the thirty miles or so to the farm. There we shared a large, brick house with a bunch of aunts, uncles, and cousins. All the children were young, and we were allowed to run wild outside all weekend, climbing trees, playing baseball, or watching the trains rattle by on the tracks just outside the fence.
My cousin Joan and I were the only girls among an abundance of boys, so the two of us would occasionally be commanded to sit with the women and shell butter beans until our colanders were full and our thumbs were all mushy. Then we could escape to the more exciting world of pestering the guys and sharing our secrets with each other.
Our country surroundings boasted no majestic scenery like the American west. No urban sophistication like the big cities. There was certainly nothing that would recommend such a place to a tourist. But I can still feel the warmth of the Georgia earth beneath my bare feet as we ran races on dirt roads. And I recall arms tight around my waist as I sat sandwiched in between my cousin Billy and my cousin Joan, all of us astride Ol’ Dan, the gigantic gelding that yielded to our childhood antics and ignored our commands to “giddyup” as he plodded around the lake. And I remember bouncing up and down like a cork on the ocean as Uncle Fred drove his Cadillac across plowed fields with giggling, bobbling children in the back seat.
I have long since moved away from my childhood haunts, redefined by choice and chance. But Joan and I still talk on the phone and laugh at our youthful foolishness. And the memory of those days is warm in my heart. And I am so grateful.
- What memories do you have that helped define you? Please share them here.
I was my Grandaddy’s little buddy, “helping him” cut grass, fix the tractor or mowers, “tote” wood, or just strolling in the woods. He loved to stop and talk to people and waved at every single person we met on the road as he drove his normal 45 mph down the roads.
My Grandmother was my other “running buddy”… our adventures were different. We watched Phil Donahue and her soap operas, and made a weekly shopping trip to Kroger and “the Drug store” to stock up on everything from Fruit Loops to denture cream to the grey and purple bottle of hair dye she used on herself and my Grandaddy.
In a lot of ways, she was the opposite of my Grandaddy. I didn’t know the words then, but she was an introvert and she suffered from anxiety and depression. She didn’t much care for being around most folks. I was an exception. I don’t think I got on her nerves at all, except when I ate the last box of Cracker Jacks. She even let me pour out the boxes of cereal and claim all the secret prizes before my sisters or cousins ever had a chance. Occasionally, it would be a toy I had already gotten or wasn’t interested in and I’d put it back so one of the other grandchildren would find it, tho.
Those days of my early childhood spoiled me. I was their uncontested favorite person… at least in my mind. It’s been hard adjusting to the world after that.
Rhonda, What a beautiful remembrance! And what a great gift your grandparents gave you. I bet they would say you were the greatest gift they ever received.
I remember opening Cracker Jack boxes just to look for the prize. Do they still make those any more?
Thanks for sharing.
I’d like to contribute a strange, but ultimately happy, memory. It doesn’t show me at my best, but as God has forgiven me, I’ll stand on that.
It was February, 1981. I was about four months pregnant by a man who was no longer a part of my life. I had gone through about every shade of sorrow, and after having a long talk with God, I was back in the singles’ group (I was in the army and in Germany, so this wasn’t a church singles’ group; it was an inter-denominational Christian singles’ group sponsored by the chaplain’s office). One night I went downtown to a restaurant; although I had my own car, I was walking–I walked most places in Bad Kreuznach. While I was eating my dinner, a couple of guys came in; they were fellow soldiers. One was Roger, a big red-haired fellow, a chaplain’s assistant and a dear friend. With him was a guy I’d met twice before, a tall lanky fellow named Wes. They didn’t see me and proceeded to seat themselves. I was feeling a little melancholy and didn’t want to sit with anyone either.
Suddenly I felt a strange, jumping sensation in my abdomen. I felt it again a few minutes later, and my mouth went dry. I realized then what was going on–my baby was moving. No longer in a mood to be alone, I jumped up and ran over to Wes and Roger. “Can I join you? I’ve got great news!”
They manfully overcame their shock and welcomed me; I sat down and said, “Spud just moved!” (That was what I called him.)
Roger’s eyebrows went up. “Really? That’s great!”
Wes looked at Roger. Then he looked at me. “Um, forgive my delicacy, but are you…in a certain condition?”
I burst out laughing. “I’m knocked up.”
“Oh. Okay. Um…do you feel any impetus to get married?” (Wes was always very detached; I loved that about him.)
“No–it’s okay, your virtue is safe,” I assured him. Then for about the next half-hour he bombarded me with strange, intensely personal questions that should’ve been insulting, but I figured having done the crime, I could do the time, so I answered them all honestly. Roger sat and watched our back-and-forth like a tennis match, saying little, but at some point he started smiling.
It turned out Roger and Wes had come downtown to take in a movie. At the time, the on-post movie theaters of bases overseas usually got movies that were at least a year old. So if you wanted to see a fairly recent movie, you had to go out on the economy (i.e., downtown, off post) to see it and trust that you could pick up enough (in spite of the language difference) to figure out what was going on. They were going to see “The Blue Lagoon” and invited me along, so we went together. At some point Wes started coughing, but he insisted on seeing the whole movie. So as soon as it was over, we left, and as we started walking back to the barracks, Wes (who was 6’2″ compared to Roger’s 6’3″ and my 5’2″) started taking shorter and shorter steps, and finally he stopped, When Roger and I asked what was wrong, he said he couldn’t breathe. Roger prayed, then we decided that he and I would get Wes home. So Wes put an arm around Roger’s shoulders and the other arm around mine, and we half-walked, half-dragged, him back to the barracks. Wes was literally a foot taller than I, so as he found it harder and harder to walk, he drooped more to the “low” side–me. By then I had both arms around him and was struggling to keep him on his feet. Wes looked down at me. “Don’t get emotionally involved,” he gasped. I laughed out loud. “No fear of that,” I told him.
We got him back to the barracks, where the CQ took over. Wes went to the medical clinic.
Jeremiah Chaim, my first child, was born July 25 at Landstuhl hospital. Wes was there. And on Feburary 10, 1982–nearly a year to the day later–we were married. Wes adopted Jere. Jere died in Iraq 10 years ago, but Wes and I are still together; next month makes 37 years.
Roger came to see us three years ago. “I knew it all along,” he said.
Mel, your poignant and heartwarming revelation tells me four things. The kind of person you are. The kind of person Wes is. The motivation for the novel you are writing. And why you like “The Shepherd’s Voice.”
Mel, that is a beautiful memory, although so sad about Jere. It seems you and Wes were made for each other. Blessings to you and your family!
Well, if you mean interesting memories from my youth, I have a ton of them. But if you mean the ONE that defined me, that’s easy.
One fall afternoon, many decades ago, I was home from grad school and visiting my brother Joe’s stable. As I took a short cut through the tack room on the way to the stalls, I passed a young lady who had a foot up on a bench tying her boot. Joe had told me about a remarkable girl who was boarding her horse with him, and I hoped she was that girl.. As I passed her, I simply said, “Hi.”, and continued along—introvert that I was. She looked up and gave me a silent smile. That moment defined me. They were the most precious seconds of my life..
I seem to remember that moment. Close encounter of the first kind. So sweet of you to remember after all these years.