Wednesday, January 28, 2015

A new (year's) memory

The call came early on New Year's Eve, just as I was beginning my annual revelry of struggling to stay up until midnight.  Most years lately, I let midnight Eastern time suffice. 

"Bone, this is your Aunt Ida.  Listen hon, since your momma and sister are at the beach, Aunt Ida wanted to invite you over for New Year's dinner tomorrow."

My New Year's tradition has been to go to mom's for black-eyed peas, hog jowl, collard greens, and fried potatoes.  But Mom, my sister, and nephews (there are two now) had taken a last-minute trip to the coast.

Even so, another year I might have said no, being my usual anti-social self.  But not this year.  Not this winter.  In the span of three weeks, I lost an aunt and an uncle.  Then on the way home from my uncle's burial, Fave Aunt was in a serious car accident, suffering several broken ribs and a fractured sternum.

Aunt Ida lives on this dirt road, at least five miles from the nearest traffic light.  When I was little, it used to seem so far back in the woods and we'd almost always go at night to visit.  Plus it was a dead end.  It all made for a bit of a scary place to a kid.

I'm sure that was exacerbated by the fact they had a basement where we hid during the '74 tornadoes.  Probably my earliest memory of life.  I remember the lights going out and huddling in the dark.  Years later I would learn that one tornado had passed within a couple miles.

Driving out there on New Year's Day, I discovered Aunt Ida only lived three-tenths of a mile off the paved road.  (I nearly said main road, but you have to take two more roads to get to anything that might even remotely be considered a main road.)

When my uncle retired,  or maybe even a bit before, they bought an old bus and customized it for traveling.  It would have been the mid '80s, and I'd never seen anything like it.  To me, the inside looked like a rock star's tour bus.  I remember once they drove up through Canada and over to Alaska.  Were gone for like 3 months.

My uncle passed on years ago, and as I pulled into the drive, I was struck by how empty the whole place looked without the bus parked there, or the enormous garden which used to stretch out forever behind the house.

My cousin, who's always seemed more like an uncle, and his wife were there.  New Year's Day still means bowl games.  And we enjoyed watching Auburn lose almost as much as we enjoyed the home cooking.  Almost.

It was a quite lovely day.

So lovely, in fact, that I called and invited myself back over for breakfast this past Saturday.  This time, I stopped by and picked up mom on the way.  After enjoying gravy, homemade biscuits, pear preserves, scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage, and hash browns, we sat and talked. 

Well, mostly I listened, as the two sisters went on about growing up, kinfolk, and "whatever happened to so-and-so."  They talked of businesses that had closed thirty years ago, houses that were no longer there, of getting a ride up to the highway so they could catch the bus into town.  I soaked up all of it.

By the time we got up to leave, morning had become afternoon.

And there at the site of my earliest life memory, I'd made another one.

"We can stop and go to church with your sweet Aunt Ida / Have supper at the Chattanooga Choo Choo Diner / We'll be talkin' 'bout this trip when we're two old-timers..."


  1. Nice story, glad to be back reading your posts!

  2. Excellent post!

    Your comment about the distance to a stop light makes me think she lives in an urban area compared to where I grew up. It is 30 miles west to the first traffic light, probably 60 miles east, 60 miles north and about 20 miles south. The nearest fast food restaurant is 60 miles away! Needless to say I didn't eat a lot of greasy hamburgers growing up.

  3. Places like where your Aunt Ida lives are my favorite :)

    Of course, I'm with Ed: nearest stoplight was the County Seat, 20 miles away.

    Only 2 more posts to go this week! :-D

    PS: Love that song.

  4. Sweet story. Memories like these endure.

  5. Memories happen as you live your life - good for you for realizing that today instead of tomorrow. I already have regrets about not appreciating, or listening attently, to the moments of yesterday/year. Those days that seemed just like any other day, full of family that I saw a lot of, now are days without my family. I truly miss 'the good ole days' when we all got along, were here on Earth, or even in the same county/state.
    Thank you for continuing to write - it's good to hear your blog voice again. This post reminded me again to appreciate who I have in my life - and that I need to make a better effort to change a few things to get the wheels spinning in seeing some of my family and friends again - while we have time. (As I was typing this, my mom called to update me on my Aunt M - her cancer has returned and she's been moved from one wing of a Nursing facility to the assisted living ward as she and her family have decided not to continue treatments since she's been battling one form of cancer or another for over 10 years now and this will be the end).

  6. Heidi ~ Thanks, Heidster.

    Sage ~ It's good to be back. Thankful to have a few of you folks still reading.

    Ed ~ Well that makes Aunt Ida seem like a downright city slicker. I'm trying to think of where I'd have to go around here to get 30 miles from a traffic light. Probably the national forest. And even then, I'm not sure...

    TC ~ Two more posts this week? TWO more? Um no, I think that'd be one.

    Hilary ~ Thank you.

    Cindy ~ Great thoughts. I'm sorry to hear about your aunt. I hope you've gotten to visit her.

    As I've gotten old(er), I try and remind myself to enjoy now. It's so easy to forget that as the days zoom by. A couple of times recently, someone has asked me why I was smiling. "No reason," I'll say. But the truth is I was just thoroughly enjoying the moment, whatever it may have been.

  7. You know I've always been a big Bone fan. (take that as you will)

    Anyhow, despite that previous affection, I have to say something: this post reveals a new level of control in you as a writer. All your many goodnesses have bumped up even more, my friend.

    Such a good story, and I love the ending--the new memory being created.

    I've missed you.

  8. I love how memories sustain us...such beautiful writing, Bone. I'll hold on to my memories of our Virginia house. They'll be very close to my heart. It's so good to see you again. :)

  9. Such wisdom comes to us as we age. Like Cindy I have so many regrets about not treasuring the little moments of family gatherings and the relatives that have now passed away. So happy you enjoyed this new memory you've made. Very grown up post bud. I really miss reading your blog! Games and fb are just not the same and are consuming me so much that I was looking for the "like" button under cindys comment!

  10. Lovely post.

  11. Sometimes the places that are furthest away make us feel closest.