When Grandpa Married Grandma
by Carol L. Davis
Every time I smell a musty old book, a sooty ashtray, or coal burning I can't help but be reminded of my Grandparents' house growing up. The little one room house which turned into five rooms for six growing children, then six grown children with six spouses to the final addition of twenty two grandchildren.
The home was heated by a coal burning furnace that sat in the corner of the living room and was used as the focal point of the day's hunting trip while thawing out chilled bones or just a spot to lay next to for comfort and a nap. Papaw would tell of his coal mining days as he smoked a cigarette and the house was filled with a musty scent that brought me the feeling of being home. As one of my Uncle's would state if Papaw got carried away and he would have to exit to the kitchen where the women sat around the table, "The coal dust is getting mighty thick in there".
Who knew that when Grandpa married Grandma my life would begin and all that came from that marriage long before I was even a twinkle in the eye of my parents would shape me emotionally and spiritually. The house long gone now, as well as my Grandparents, still lingers vividly in my heart and mind, especially at holiday times. Vinegar brings back the laughter of running through the fields hiding eggs with cousins seldom seen, Apples of the orchard where Papaw would sit by the old two lane highway to sell his apples and we would play "count the cars", Peaches from his Brother's orchard next door which would be tossed into home churned ice cream on hot summer evenings, or Fudge just poured to cool, of Christmas and the Cedar tree decorated in the front bedroom window. When I open a book purchased from an antique dealer I can still see myself curled up in the back bedroom on rare vacation visits reading Nancy Drew books while the scent of Zest soap wafts from the only tiny bathroom located within that bedroom or home.
I always slept on the living room couch and would be awakened each morning to the smell of Grandma cooking bacon or sausage then making milk gravy to pour over toast. Papaw would already be in the living room in his chair and say, "Morning Fritz" as he called all his Grandchildren at one time or another. After breakfast it was the decision to go out and swing on the old wooden swing that hung from a huge Oak Tree next to the highway where you would feel that you would swing out onto the road or simply gather up the acorns and place their little caps on your fingers as little hats. Often it would simply be to wander over the land to take in the smell of the wild onions, find a Robin egg that feel from a nest, or wander up the hill to sit in the old swing outside Great Grandma's two room house where you could smell her daily meal of Northern Beans and Cornbread and watch her chickens run lose in the yard. She never had indoor plumbing or running water. It was an attraction to me to see her sit on her tiny front porch in a rocking chair, apron on, fanning herself with one of her collection of cardboard church fans.
There are things I wish to experience again that would bring me all the way back home once more and I hope to do that soon. One in particular is to go out on a cold winter night when all is silent, the light from an old string of large multi-colored Christmas lights strung across the eave of the house reflecting off the snow, the smell of the coal furnace wafting up towards the heavens and to tilt my head back and see the black velvet sky scattered with billions of billions of stars. It would remind me of Christmas at Grandma's and the heavens like I have never seen since full of diamonds and milky paths strung out across the sky reminding me that when Grandpa married Grandma my family and I were born, all connected, all rich not in wealth or fame, but in love of each other and love of nature, to live simply but beautifully, carrying forever in our minds, our senses, and our hearts the value of living.
Grandma would often say to me, "I don't know why you kids all like coming here so much. We don't have anything to offer you and we have always been so poor." I would always respond with the same answer along with a hug and kiss, "Because of you Grandma and because of the love you have to give. You have twenty two Grandchildren but you treat each of us as if we were your only one." Papaw passed away in October of 1985. I took it rather hard as I was named after him. As I stood by his bed while the family had one last meeting with his doctor, he and I shared the best conversation we ever had. Grandma passed away in such a tender way that not a Christmas goes by that I don't think of her and cry. She loved Christmas and remembering her childhood memories. She and I would talk every weekend on the phone and she would tell me about them. It was early December and Grandma was in the hospital, finally in a coma. Her children were gathered around her bed and the neighbor lady from across the old highway came in with her ukelele, led the kids in singing You Are My Sunshine, then in a couple Christmas Carols. The last one they sang was Silent Night and when the last few words of the first verse were sung, "Sleep in heavenly peace", Grandma slipped away to join the Angels in celebrating Christmas with those memories of people she loved so much.
Breathe in your life and never exhale. Take in all that you see, smell, feel. Touch even though it may not feel natural, love fully, always express your heart. One day, your Grandpa will marry your Grandma and you will be born.