When I think about my childhood and the cherished memories of growing up, the single most common thought is the house my beloved grandparents lived in and all the memories associated with their house. Every single time, that is what comes to mind.
I lost my grandmother 23 years ago and my grandfather shortly after that. In fact, that whole side of my family are all gone now, but the memories and feelings that evoke from just the single thought of their home are so strong at times it is overwhelming.
Usually twice a year, I visit the town my grandparents lived in and take flowers to the graves of my loved ones who are gone now. The drive alone is two hours from my home, but the trip is always a whole days experience. Bless my husbands heart, he is always ever patient, as we drive from one end of town to the other.
Street by street, store by store, memory by memory we do the same thing every time. There is never a time I make this trip that I don't go by my grandparents home. Sometimes I stop and just sit and look at the house, sometimes I just drive by. I always have the feeling they will just walk out the front door at any minute, my grandparents that is. Of course I know that is not possible, but it is a thought I always have. The house always draws me to it in a way that I have had a hard time explaining, so I don't even try. But I don't make this trip down south without going by this house, it just is not in me to do so. So many memories, not only associated with my grandparents home, but also the town they lived in their whole lives.
I remember as a young girl the thrill I felt riding in my papaw's 1940's something...Willis Jeep. He had this old jeep and he'd take me riding in it through town. The jeep had no top, no doors and certainly no seat belts but is did hold an amazing fascination with me as did my grandfather. On such outings, one of the first places I would beg him to take me was down Wood Street, it was the single most mesmerizing street in the whole town for a young girl.
Wood street was for all practical purposes was a short street filled with small little buildings that housed "beer joints" and pool halls which was off the main drag downtown.
This was the late 1960's and sadly in those days, I still remember that African Americans lived on one side of town, and Wood street was on that side of town, just south of downtown. I am not talking about a large metropolitan city, this was a small town in south Texas, so the population of the town during this time frame was not too large, everyone knew everyone for the most part, and everyone certainly knew my grandfather. I can still remember the pride that filled my heart in the fact my papaw knew so many people, and that everyone he met genuinely seemed to love him and respect him in a way that is hard to understand.
So of course, being the rebel I was, Wood street was the first place I wanted to go. I knew my mom and grandmother did not a approve of me going, but that was exactly where I wanted to go. He'd always grin and look over at me and say, "Little mama, Don't tell your mother." Well, that was always the first thing out of my mouth when we got home, "We went to Wood Street". And every time my grandma and mom in unison would protest rather loudly....I'd just laugh and look at my papaw...he'd always be laughing too.
My grandpa played in a band for as far back as I remember, he played the Saxophone. I always felt like he was so very important.
For a young girl of six or seven, this was a magical and mystical place. I remember Jazz music and laughter flowed loudly from the buildings, as we'd slowly make our way down the street in that old jeep. I can remember the smells of food being cooked that made my mouth water and beg to get out and go inside one of these little places. Of course we never did that, but Oh, how I wanted to.
I remember the people that filled the sidewalks, they seemed happy and waved a friendly wave and shouted greetings to my grandfather. I remember everyone seemed to smoke cigarettes or cigars. I can remember as we would make our way down the street, my eyes would take in every single sight they could. The open doors gave a glimpse of dark rooms filled with smoke and sometimes a glimpse of neon signs and no matter how hard I strained to see what exactly was behind the old screen doors on these buildings, I could never see enough to satisfy my curiosity...I could always hear the laughter from inside the buildings, but never knew what caused the laughter. For me, it was a magical, forbidden place...a special placed that only my grandfather shared with me. I can remember thinking that when I was a grown up, I was going to come there and find out what all the music, food and laughter was about, and I could hardly wait.
Of course, that never happened. A few years ago as we drove the streets of this town like we do every time I go there, we discovered the abandoned, boarded up buildings along this street lay in a pile of rubble and all that was left was the street sign. I seemed the city cleared the street of the abandoned buildings and nothing remained but the sidewalks and over grown weeds. Those jazz filled buildings that held such a mystery for me were gone, it was really shocking. We drove down the street at my insistence at a very slow pace, I rolled down the window of the truck and just looked at the open space with forlorn and sadness. And I promise you, in a fleeting second, the sights, smells, and sounds flooded my memory, and transported me if only for a second back to when I was a little girl and I could feel the magic again. It's funny how a place or in this case, a street, which I am sure my mom would think I had no business holding such a fascination with is such a part of the sweet memories of my childhood. It is really unexplainable.
And unexplainable has always been the way I feel as I drive by my grandparents house, even to this day. It looks exactly the same as it did when my grandparents lived there, with the exception of a new gold mailbox.....and yes, I miss the old black one that was always on the front of the house, the gold one looks as if it does not belong.
This past November, my aunt went with me to take flowers to the cemetery. And like always, I drove through the town, saw all the usual places I like to see, and drove of course by my grandparents house. Only this time, with my husband not with me, I told my aunt I was going to stop and get out. Unlike my husband, she did not tell me a thousand different reasons why I should stay in the car, she said nothing and waited in the car patiently.
Me, 1964, and said Jeep on the side of the house, when I found this picture I was so pleased it showed the front of the house by the front steps and the jeep I was so fond of.As I made my way through the front yard, my heart skipped several beats and I felt a heaviness in my chest....part of me was thinking this was really crazy, the other part of me felt like....heck, I don't really know what it felt like...but there was no turning back. I found myself on the front porch and rang the doorbell, I waited.
I ran my fingers along the pinkish brick on the front porch, touched the wood frame of the door, turned around and looked at the street from the front porch, a view I had seen thousands of times during my lifetime, and all of a sudden, I felt a balance in my life, like I had not felt in a long time. The house that held all of my precious memories of the people I loved so very much had made things right again. Sadly, no one was home, and frankly, I had no idea what I would have said if someone had answered the door, but just being on the front porch, touching this house that I had touched so many times in my life suddenly touched my heart and that was enough.
It has always been difficult to explain my attachment to this town, the house, the memories...they are so important to me, for me, they speak of home. But a new song by Miranda Lambert, "The House That Built Me", best sums up my feelings in a way I could never put to words. The message is the same in regards to theme, feelings and connection however the content is a bit different. I think you will better understand My Take Me Back Tuesday with this video. Maybe it will touch you, the way it touches me. Maybe, this Tuesday, it will take you back to a special place in your life too.