Saturday, July 30, 2016

The Old Home Place

In these latter years, what I remember most is the comfort food, dishes my Grandparents always had prepared for us when we would come back to the Homeplace. We would gather there for Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter, and any time we could. However, it was not just a place to gather, it was a place to return to, where you were always welcome. A place where you could go to lick your wounds when life threw all it had at you, letting blood and wreaking havoc on your well laid plans. The house was a white, wooden, developed from a very old dog trot cabin and a section of a ruined house that had survived a fire. For those who don’t know, a dog trot cabin consists of two rooms with a breezeway between them. These pieces were cobbled together into a five room house that my Grandparents purchased in the 1930’s. They married and started their adult life together on the precipice of the Crash of 29’. They were farm raised and my Grandmother said she never knew there was a Depression, because they worked on their family’s farms. Like most farmers in The South, they were land poor and cash money short. The food was plentiful, and they got by, like their peers, but stock market crashes and job losses just were not something of which rural Georgia had much experience. The lives of the ones who came to be christened The Greates Generation consisted of labor, both in the fields and house, helping neighbors as necessary. Their tenacity for fixing, repairing and making do was the cornerstone of their existence. One did not buy new things, but saved what money you earned for a rainy day or the future. To this end, they worked and saved for the small house where their love and support resided and we could always come home to them and rest. The things they taught me were both by example and in stories of the past. I remember my Grandfather walking with me through the woods and telling me stories of his Mother, who was an herbalist, while pointing out things that looked like weeds to me. He patiently explained their uses and which maladies they were best applied. If we visited a steakhouse that decorated its walls with antique farm tools, he would point and explain the purpose and use of each one. I thought I wasn’t listening, but it sunk in and stayed with me. My Grandmother taught more by example, but had plenty of stories to tell about growing up with eight brothers and sisters on the farm. I watched her cook, learning how to make the favorites we all loved. I helped her wash dishes and clothes, which we placed in the plastic laundry basket my Grandfather had repaired with a green limb and twine when the handle had cracked. She ran the finances and a frugal household. They weathered each other’s differences and often fought about silly things, or did things just to be contrary to the other. They did not feel that such things constituted divorce. They realized commitment was a promise they made long ago. If it wasn’t always comfortable, it just borne with stoicism. When my Grandfather died in 1990, the beginning of the end came. Little by little my Grandmother needed more help and soon my Mother moved in with her. The house was still there, but it was home no more. There was no fresh cornbread or drop biscuits set on the table. Breakfast was not being prepared when you walked sleepily into the kitchen. Family meals became extinct. Without my Grandparents, the team was finished. My immediate family did not last. There was little cooperation from the next generation. The Great Recession and Crash of 2008 took my two businesses and great job. Not wanting to stay on unemployment, I took the first position I found. It was alien to me, outside of my career, education and training. My co- workers were unlike any I had ever met. I cried daily after work due to the stress and verbal abuse from a demigod district manager there, but I never gave up. I did my best, even though at 46, the physical, dirty work was too hard for me with my health problems. I would never have had the will to continue if I had not had the strength and conviction I had observed in my Grandparents. My family needed me to work. I stayed for them. The company eventually let me go. Through perseverance and over time, I was able to return to my career field, a much more thankful and humble person. The house still stands, but the place and people are gone. The only legacy that remains is the person I am today.
Photo by Rebecca Dale Wilbanks

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