Like most of us I thought of my mother today. After breakfast I decided it was time for me to drive up to see her. On my way there I decided maybe I should go by our old home place too - maybe make it a spiritual pilgrimage of sorts, find my roots.
The slow drive down Julia Street dislodged long forgotten memories. How many times had I biked this cool, shady street? How many childhood adventures into unknown alleyways and abandoned houses?
First stop. 1227 South Julia. The only real home I ever knew momma and daddy to have. They, my four siblings, and I moved here in 1955. Late August or September, I guess, since they told me I was only a few weeks old when they moved here from ‘the country’.
Nothing left now except two big oak trees — one in the front yard, Sammy’s tree, and another in what was the backyard. The home of my childhood, the anchor during my ‘raising’, is gone. Foundation washed away in the flood of October 2006 leaving it unstable, unfit for habitation. That torrential flood also washed away my parent’s foundation. After living together there for 51 years and raising eight children they were now cast adrift, their lifeboat never again to find home on this earth.
Standing in the shade of Sammy’s tree with all these thoughts and memories I found myself praying for a token or memento from my childhood. A sapling off this oak tree or maybe a flower from one of mom’s beds. Finishing my prayer I look down to see an old brick sticking out of the ground. I’m not able to kick it lose so I go see if I have anything in my truck to dig with. Finding the fire poker my sister gave me a few years ago I pry at it. Like these memories flooding my heart, once it’s shaken loose it comes out freely. The brick face is covered with familiar yellow paint leaving no doubt it’s from our old home.
With my treasure in hand I move on to 208 Mulberry. Not many memories here. Daddy and Momma only tied their lifeboat here for a few days, still in shock and disbelief that their home is gone. A good friend rounded up some of the local high school football team to help us salvage what we could from the old house. The next week my sister found them a more suitable, though too large, rent house at 108 Myrtle. From here we could look out over the school yard and see the remains of the old house, which in hindsight, probably wasn’t good for morale. They settled in best they could, daddy planted a garden and momma decorated.
A year or two later (with the red tape laden help of FEMA and USDA) they bought a nice, smaller home diagonally across from this house. So 101 Myrtle Street became their house. Once again, momma decorated and daddy gardened but I don’t think it ever became home. Now, it too is all overgrown and run down. Poison ivy climbing the pink roses momma love so well. (Lots of analogies and metaphors there but it’s time to mosey on up the river road.)
I head up Louisa Street past the site of the old junior high school, which burned down while I endured the sixth grade. (No, I did not have a hand in this incident.) The high school next door still stands but is now assisted living - probably filled with former teachers and students. Not much left of downtown. One bank, several dance studios, lawyer’s offices clustered around the courthouse, and a greasy spoon diner to feed them lunch during court breaks.
As a child in the early 60s the long country drive to Mann community was an adventure. It’s only 10 miles but the pace of life and the speed of cars was much slower then. All my grandparents, a few aunts and uncles and a boatload of cousins lived up here so it seems like we made this trip ever weekend. I see the grandmama’s house is gone too. A junked up trailer house sits in it spot on the ridge. My other grandmother’s house still stands but is empty. All of them, along with momma and daddy and Wade, my youngest brother, are all together under the shade trees on a hill about half way between the two home places. Or at least their mortal remains are.
My pilgrimage ends here on that shady hill surrounded by momma and daddy, my little brother, all of my grandparents, lots of uncles, aunts, and cousins.