Saturday, April 12, 2008

Memory Lane

Written while I was in Arkansas and Louisiana for my grandmother's funeral.

I have been back to my grandmother's homeland for half a day now and already I have experienced what I came here to experience. The hometown feel enveloped me as soon as I got out of the car. These places are familiar to me. It has been years; however, memories of times past came flooding back.

My dad, my aunt, and I arrived in Haynesville, La. this afternoon and went straight to the funeral home. There we were met by Marie and Mr. Smith. We picked out the casket, chose what to put in the memorial program, and filled out papers to be filed to get the death certificate.

After finishing at the funeral home we drove down the block to visit my Aunt Mary Lynn, my grandmother's sister. She was sitting on her front porch in a rocking chair when we pulled up.

Immediate nostalgia. I have been to this house many, many times over the years. I spent the night with second cousins in the extra bedroom. We played in the yard. We helped cook. Many memories.

We visited with her a bit then we drove about 2 blocks to see Aunt Laverne, another sister. She gave me a huge hug and had tears in her eyes. She fed us ham sandwiches and pineapple cake for dinner, and apologized for not having more. I tried to tell her that ham wasn't anything to apologize for and that I couldn't have asked for a better meal, but I don't know if she really believed me or not. The next day she made up for the ham sandwiches with a full country spread. Her house wasn't familiar to me. She and Uncle Dean had moved from their farm a few years ago so they could be closer to doctors. The house may not have been familiar to me, but her sweet spirit and good cooking were.

This morning we drove out to the cemetery where my grandmother will be buried.

I wanted to get pictures before they dug the grave. I also wanted to take pictures of several other personal landmarks in town.

My grandmother's old house,

the house that belonged to my great Aunt Ruth,

and the water tower in town.

Aunt Ruth was the caretaker of the cemetery, and I remember her getting her lawn mower out and mowing over all those graves when I was a kid. This week I learned that my dad and aunt were paid $8 by Aunt Ruth to mow the cemetery when they were in school. My aunt said it was a spooky place. That is what I remember about the cemetery as well. It was lined by woods. You couldn't see it until you pulled up to the gate. This week that was not the case. Someone had cleared the lot on one side of the cemetery, and there were many mobile homes lining the street up to the cemetery. I was disappointed to tell you the truth. I liked the idea that my grandmother was going to be buried in the far right corner of that cemetery with the woods right next to her grave. It almost didn't feel like the same place to me.

We also drove out to Mockingbird Hill, the homeplace of my grandmother's brother and his family. They are all gone now, but I still felt the need to see the old place.

When I was in elementary school my Uncle Harper built a log cabin on his property for guests to use. This week I found out that the wood he used for that house came from an old house belonging to another relative. This house was down a long forgotten road nearby.
When I was young my grandmother and I walked this road to see what was left of this house. I remember the house had fallen in and seeing an old shoe on the front porch. As I grew up I always wondered what was left of that house out in the middle of the woods. This week as Dad and I drove by I mentioned that I had been back there once and always wanted to go again. He backed the truck up and pulled up on the road. We hiked down what was left of that road until we came upon piles of metal...
...all we could find that showed that someone had once called that place home. Dad pointed out the two huge dead trees in front and said that when he was younger that is what he remembered about the place.

Two huge trees. It was nice to walk down this ghost of a road...down memory lane...once more.

I am so glad I was in the states to experience these past few days. I can't imagine having missed it. I look back on all that I experienced as a child in these places with fond memories. The road to my past may be grown over and long forgotten at times, but it's path is a familiar one. Once I step foot on it I can walk it with my eyes closed. When I look at the path ahead of me...at all it's unfamiliarity and uncertainties...I can see how easy it would be to lose myself. I know because I've been lost before. But, now I know that I can always turn and look back at where I've been. And I know I can never get lost if I will just remember that.


Mike S said...

"now I know that I can always turn and look back at where I've been. And I know I can never get lost if I will just remember that"

So much wisdom in so few words:)

Me. Here. Right now. said...

This is your history - and this is how the people are not forgotten. Telling your stories.

Anonymous said...

Natalie, I am not sure what to add to Mike S' comment. It is an amazing post and the pictures pulled me into your childhood. Thank you for sharing this....

Gina said...

Always remember the old stories and new, for one day your children will be telling those stories to their children and so on and so on. I also need to write them as well because one day we WILL be too old to remember them all!! I am glad you were able to go home during this time.

LAcousin said...

I am just starting to get this blogging thing figured out (I hope). I really enjoyed looking through your site. I think many of us had a trip down memory lane this week in Haynesville and Emerson. Seeing all of the extended family who were such a big part of my life growing up was bittersweet. It makes me realize that we don't take enough time to keep in touch and visit the ones who matter most. I think we need to promise to make a better effort to get together and share these stories so that our children will know their history and get to know each other. If not the ONLY time we will see one another is when someone passes away.

P.S. I read the story about the header picture. Does wearing skirts mean you have to shave your legs more???

HeyJoe said...

What great pictures. This looks like it would be an awesome place to live. Much less congested, slower pace, much less EXPENSIVE.

Natalie said...

mike - thanks. it was an amazing trip for me to take. honoring my grandmother and remembering her as well as remembering who i am.

hahn - i know. you are so right. i have stories to tell.

witty - you are welcome. i'm glad you liked it.

gina - thanks...i am glad i could go home as well. it was needed i think.

lacousin - i totally agree. we need to get together more often. it was sad that it took someone passing away to make it happen like that, but i am so glad i was able to be there and see everyone.

and i shaved my legs the morning before we left and forgot to bring my razor to arkansas. they weren't that bad...were they?

heyjoe - it was a neat place to visit, and the memories were great. not sure i would want to live there full time though!