It was finally here, the day when we would be leaving our home of almost forty years. As I swept off the basket-weave-patterned sidewalk one last time, I contemplated on my memories from those many years.
I may be older, I thought, but I am still that young mother who gently rocked her babies to sleep, cried when they boarded the school bus for the first time and felt both pride and anguish when they left for college. I am still that wife who not only fed a hungry hoard of men during Monday night football games but who also cooked thousands of other meals without ever once contaminating anyone with food poisoning. I might be leaving this house, I thought, but home will be coming along with me because I am still me.
This was not the original plan, of course, but who can really plan for what life throws at us? Health issues necessitated our leaving our beloved home and friends, our town and church, the treasured mountains beckoning in the distance, and the gentle whistles of trains that had occupied our subconscious minds without our even knowing. We were moving to a retirement community, some four hours away, because it was clearly best to move near our family.
Although I was not nearly as courageous as my ancestors who rode small ships across a big ocean, nor nearly as intrepid as my future descendants who will likely leave earth for a distant planet, I did what was necessary to make the move successful. I simplified. I discarded, unloaded, and donated. And while I was not like the wife on a wagon train who had to throw out her most treasured items to forge a raging river, I lightened my load enough to make our move achievable.
I didn’t discard my memories, however. In them, I am still the skinny kid who could shimmy up a tree and run like the wind with my braids in hot pursuit. I am still that young bride, smiling and proud in her sale-rack wedding gown. In those memories, I am still the wife, mother, teacher, church musician, and friend that I was so many years ago. I am even still the daughter who helped my aging, debilitated parents make a similar move years earlier.
Yes, I am still that same person, even though the freckles on my nose have been replaced by creases around my eyes. I am still that same person, even though my pace is slower and my vision has dimmed. The same person, but changed, too. For now, I am surrounded by others who also understand what those memories mean, and it is my new retirement community friends who have given me the freedom to still be me.
I’m updating you today from my office. Even though it is dark and dreary outside, clouds rolling by and raindrops smacking my window every few minutes, my office is light and airy. Today is my first day back to work since last Wednesday after a long weekend. You would think this would mean my office may not be cheery; however, I just spent hours with my family celebrating my oldest niece graduating from high school. Who can complain about that? Especially when I visited with my grandpa and grandmother for the first time in around three years!
Monday was an average day of work for both Jake and me. We started Tuesday morning off early, though! by meeting with Grandpa, Jerilyn, and my mother for breakfast at Cracker Barrel. I’ve never really preferred Cracker Barrel myself, but my husband loves biscuits, and it’s a sentimental place for me. Several years ago, before my father passed, we started a new “tradition,” which would be every time I visited Virginia or he visited Tennessee. The morning we were to depart, we would send each other off with a Cracker Barrel biscuit. No matter how late we may have woken up, how much time we didn’t think we had, we would do this. Unfortunately, this only happened around 3-4 times before my life changed forever with his passing. Eating breakfast that morning with my family, one of them being my father’s father, I couldn’t help but think of what my dad would’ve ordered or what we would talk about. I glared at the two rocking chairs with a handwoven checker’s mat placed on top of a barrel in the middle of the dining area, next to a fireplace. My head suddenly filled with memories of being many years younger and playing checkers with my dad in that exact spot. I wonder if Cracker Barrel doesn’t change its layout for this very reason. All the families that share meals and create memories at this establishment. However, this may be an old-fashioned way of thinking. It may simply be a financial strategy to save money and escalate their profits. Either way, I try to be a glass-half-full kind of girl, so I will think it’s the more meaningful reason of the two.
Tuesday, we attended a concert scheduled months ago in our eagerness to be back out in the world safely. Jake and I enjoy concerts more than almost anything else that we can go out and do. He is a musician, and he’s played guitar and the drums since he was around eight years old. He plays pretty well and thoroughly enjoys it. He almost pursued it full time but decided on a more unadventurous way of life. However, with no hesitation, if the option presented itself for him to take that career path, I would happily pack our bags and our 65-pound puppy up for life on the road!
Wednesday, we returned home from the concert and started work early, but the rest of the week was like a stay-at-home vacation! We shared lots of laughs, food, and memories with family and friends. I know I am still young; however, seeing my niece graduate where I did just 11 years prior sure makes me feel like an adult! I remember little from my graduation, but I remember how young Randi was back then. It’s strange how some things seem so long ago, but you remember them as if they were much closer in your life timeline. I hope that the memories I created this week with my family mostly remain that way, always fresh in my mind, and bring a smile across my face and heart.
This story is from the Spring of 1961 at Hiwassee Junior College in Madisonville, Tennessee.
“Some memories just won’t let go at all. Every time I hear or see a chicken, I think not necessarily of eggs, even though I am pretty fond of them: fried, boiled, poached, scrambled, deviled, pickled, dyed – it doesn’t make any difference.” Grundy Coach Frank Spraker said this as well, so I’m in good company.
Also, I have several dozen egg and chicken jokes that I’ve gathered from the barnyard of my life if you’ll eggscuse the eggsaggeration.
Of course, everyone has an answer for why the chicken crossed the road – to get to the other side or to prove to the possum that it can be done (probably the most popular).
But why did the chicken cross the playground…? To get to the other slide…! You knew this, I bet!
Or why did the chicken only go halfway across the road? She wanted to lay it on the line.
He-he-he. Cluck! Cluck!
If you’re not eggsasperated yet, let me cut to the chase and tell you about an incident during the Spring Quarter at Hiwassee in 1961. One of the guys (John was his first name, and I think his last name was Townsend…no way of checking since I’m sure that John dropped out of school to get a job).
John lived in the room right next to Willard Owens and myself, and he was BIG on breakfast. Nearly every morning, he would knock on our door shortly after daylight and say:
“Let’s go get an egg boys! Let’s go get an egg!”
For at least a month or two, both Willard and myself were awakened at the crack of dawn by Rooster John with about three lusty crows of, “Let’s go get an egg! Let’s go get an egg! Let’s go get an egg!”
And really, it was starting to get a little tiresome. Especially those nights when we’d played Rook or Hearts ’til after midnight, or even those rare occasions we studied ’til midnight or later.
So, it wasn’t much of a surprise when Willard told me what he’d done one night after John had left our room about midnight to go to his room next door. Willard told me he had conspired with John’s roommate to change his alarm clock setting from seven o’clock to one o’clock. John’s roommate told Willard that John always just pushed the “set” button before getting in bed since he “always” got up at the same time…. seven o’clock…
“And he’s always wanting breakfast at the ‘Crack of dawn’!” Denny, his roommate, said.
Willard and I were dozing off with our clothes on when we heard the faint sound of John’s alarm clock coming through the concrete walls. A short while later, we were ready (but made a show of primping) when John and his roommate came by, and John cackled…
“Let’s go get an egg! Let’s go get an egg boys!”
And across the Hiwassee campus we went.
Rooster John is in search of an egg & all the fixins. Meanwhile, the three others were intent on pulling off a prank.
Out the back door . . . across the parking lot . . . past the Library . . . past the old gym . . . and right up to the front door of the dining hall . . . and not a soul in sight!
But that didn’t stop Rooster John from placing his face against the glass when we arrived at the silent and closed Dining Hall shortly after 1:00 in the coolish March air.
John was searching up and down the dining hall for any kind of movement.
“Hey, John! What does that clock on the wall say?” Willard asked with a muffled chuckle.
“Dang boys!” John said, “Somebody’s clock is lyin’…
And there ain’t no sausage fryin’. Let’s go back to bed!”
So, back across the still silent campus we went – kind of afraid to mention to John that it was all a joke. (Perhaps on us more than John.)
All of us slept in that morning, and several weeks passed before Rooster John knocked on our door with:
“Let’s Go Get An Egg Boys!”
John dropped out of school after that semester, and rumor had it that he returned home to Townsend, Tennessee, to take a full-time job serving breakfast all day long at a Waffle House. Shucks! He may have even been the originator of that chain of my eateries… Waffle & Egg.
O, what I wouldn’t give to go back and make that walk and hear those six words just one more time:
“Let’s Go Get An Egg Boys!”
And hear Willard say one more time:
“Good night Roomy!”
But Hiwassee has closed its doors. Hard to believe with all of the new buildings and modernization. Just thinking that we only had one phone in Bruner Hall at the time & it was a Rotary on the wall on the 2nd Floor. It was rarely used, for we were too busy playing games and pranks.
And the roads are paved now also, but no school at the road’s end.
Back then, it was two miles from town along a dusty dirt road & when we got to school, we took a winding path up through a cemetery.
I know several Harman boys that really enjoyed our time there. We thought those days would never end.
“From solstice till equinox, summer lasts only ninety-one days and six hours, a little longer if you count from Memorial Day till Labor Day. It seems like so much time. But the closer you get, the smaller summer looks, unlike winter, which looks longer and longer the nearer it comes. From a distance ~ from April, say ~ summer looks as capacious as hope. This will be the season we lose weight, eat well, work out, raise a garden, learn to kayak, read Proust, paint the house, drive to Glacier, and so on and so on and so on. This will be the season in which time stretches before us like the recesses of space itself, the season in which leisure swells like a slow tomato, until it’s round and red and ripe.
By the time Memorial Day comes and goes, flashing across the year like a meteor in the night sky, a certain realism creeps in. The universe expands, but not the calendar. Only August remains infinite. June and part of July are already booked solid, and the trouble with that is that once an event is penciled in, it’s already over. The festival tickets you bought in April, when summer still had all its weekends, now haunt you with regret.
The search for uncommitted time grows more and more desperate. The peonies are nearly past, and before long, the golden rod will bloom. The field-crickets are already ticking away the seconds of full summer.
It’s enough to make a person crazy, that dream of a summer where dawn is as cool as the ocean and the time in which you happen to live, the day and hour itself, overlaps with all of the rest of time. Everyone reaches for fullness in summer, but the fullness that most of us know best belongs to the memory of childhood. What was it that made summer days so long back then and made the future seem so distant? What was the thing we knew or didn’t know?”
This is an excellent book. Each chapter is a month of the year, so you can read a few pages each day and enjoy what he’s doing and thinking about at that time. I think he is an excellent writer and I highly recommend this book to anyone that enjoys reading brief articles daily. You can purchase his book on Amazon (Hardcover $19.50, Paperback $16, & Kindle $9.50). It makes an excellent gift also…. Tommy
I read of a man who stood to speak at the funeral of a friend.
He referred to the dates on her tombstone, from the beginning to the end.
He noted that first came the date of her birth. And spoke of the following date with tears.
But, he said, what mattered most of all–was the dash between those years.
For the dash represented all the time she spent alive on Earth.
But now only those that loved her know what that little line was worth.
For it matters not how much we own, the cars, the house, the cash.
What matters is how we lived and loved and how we spent our dash.
So, think about this long and hard, are there things you’d like to change.
For you never know how much time is left, you could be at dash mid-range.
If we could just slow down enough, to consider what’s true and real.
And always try to understand the way other people feel.
And be less quick to anger and show appreciation more,
And love the people in our lives, like we’ve never loved before.
If we treat each other with respect and more often wear a smile.
Remembering that the special dash might only last a little while.
So, when your eulogy is being read and your life’s action to rehash.
Would you be proud of the things they say about how you spent the dash
… Author Unknown