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Posts Tagged ‘family’

Driving home this Sunday afternoon out of sheer spontaneity (well, close to it) made my heart race and sing out to a clear blue sky and trees adorned with bright red, orange and yellow leaves.  It’s autumn time in Tennessee.

I come from a place where everyone knows everybody else, much like Andy Griffith’s town of Mayberry.  There’s a total of maybe 4 red lights (one of which shouldn’t be operating, but that’s just my opinion) and a “downtown” consisting of a courthouse, post office and the corner ice cream/antique shop with a quaint barbershop next door complete with a barber pole on the side.  Imagine all that, plus three schools, a Hardee’s, Sonic and gas stations nestled inside rolling mountaintops guarded by a regional prison where my dad has worked for some 20 years now.  That’s where I come from:  Wartburg, Tennessee, a population that can fit inside Neyland Stadium with room for the rest of the county to spare.

The drive home Sunday showed me views I missed since moving to Knoxville.  Farms with old barns, junked-up cars (even an old camper, you know the ones, with a big “W” on the side) and the occasional sight of horses or cows made for perfect scenery.  With the car window rolled down driving on highway 62, I could smell the leaves blowing past my Ford Focus as I negotiated turns that weren’t made for the speed I was going at (It’s OK Mom, I do it all the time — I just wanted to get home to that homemade sourdough bread of yours).

Why I decided to go home Sunday only to drive an hour back to Knoxville I have no idea.  I suppose the simplicity of rural living called me back – in only a way homes can – to enjoy the changing of the seasons down by the river with friends, sharing warm kisses between sips of hot cocoa with Lance and watch the boys throw football under a canopy of gilded leaves.  Little treasures like that remind me that goodness does exist in a world of murders, theives and chaos.

I always enjoy stepping back into my warm childhood home after the brisk autumn air chills my skin.  There’s usually a warm, home-y aroma mixed with bread and cookies fresh from the oven and the promise of hot cider and wassail waiting to be enjoyed.  After reuniting with Fido and Nala after being months apart, Mom greets me with a warm hug and we make our way to the living room where the fireplace is warm, or the back porch where we can enjoy the weather, and simply catch up on our lives.

There’s a song that conveniently played on my iPod yesterday in the car, and I found it to be fitting.  It’s from a local band I’ve mentioned before, Christabel and the Jons.  It’s called, “Thankful.”  I’d say it was my theme yesterday…

“This is where I feel the most at home,
Rythym of the water, so nice and slow…”

“I’m thankful, so thankful, for my life..”

I drove past where my grandparents used to live before they passed away about ten years ago.  It hit me like a ton of bricks how much I missed them… my fondest memories of them are from this time of year and Christmas, when my grandma started cooking for an army of countless children, grand children and great grand children… Grandpa would always “test” the food… she would always get on to him for it… “Harold, get your finger outta that!” she’d say..  I remember she’d always sit in her rocking chair crocheting a doll or blanket for someone and watch The Price is Right (back when Bob Barker was the host.  It’s just not the same with Drew), Wheel of Fortune or during the day, Matlock.

You could always feel the love in their home.  It was small, but full of warmth – especially on those deep, cold winter nights.  My fondest memory I believe was when I was a small girl.  It was Christmas, and Wartburg’s Christmas parade was still something spectacular at my age.  That night was especially chilly, and I sat in Grandma and Grandpa’s old grey Ford to stay warm with Grandpa.  After the parade, we all went to their house (literally just across the woods from our house) for sweets and hot chocolate.  I don’t remember much except for what I told you just then, but I do remember everyone was happy.  I remember Grandpa laughing or at least smiling that big gummy grin of his (he had dentures but decided against wearing them — ever).  Grandma, of course, had a kitchen full of cookies, chocolate and treats I wouldn’t dare eat in one sitting today.  Everyone was there, and it was the perfect definition of family.

It was a tradition for a while with my immediate family after Grandma and Grandpa passed away to stay in an old, rustic cabin for a few days at Thanksgiving in the mountains somewhere.  Brandon and Steph were in school at Gardner-Webb University seeking their Masters of Divinity (they got it, by the way), so we always chose somewhere in Western North Carolina.  The first cabin we stayed in was tucked away somewhere in Black Mountain, North Carolina (I think) nearby Chimney Rock (again, I think it was Chimney Rock.  It was wherever they filmed Last of the Mohicans, I know that).  Unfortunately for me, I had tonselitis that year and didn’t get to enjoy it as much as I would’ve liked to… except for the fact that I thought I puked up my tonsils… but that’s another story.
Anyways, all six of us piled around a small kitchenette complete with a picnic-esque dining room table (I told you, this cabin was old and rustic) and shared Thanksgiving dinner that year.  The next morning, we awoke to snow flurries.  It was perfect.  There was just enough snow for a light 3/4 of an inch dusting, but not too much to worry about driving conditions.  We all took a walk through the woods among mountain laurel and a babbling brook that ran beside the cabin.

It was beautiful.

I hope to one day have the same kind of love and warmth that my family has had over the years.  It would only be right to carry on the family tradition.  It seems that not many families share that same love anymore, and that’s sad.  What the world needs now more than anything is love, sweet love.

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Time. It changes things, and change reflects time’s nature.

This weekend brought many thoughts to the forefront of my mind… for some reason when family comes to visit it just happens.

I left the snug room in the apartment I share with Brandon and Steph last Thursday to drive home to Wartburg for the 4th of July holiday. Mom told me previously that she remodeled my butterfly covered bright blue bedroom, so it was no surprise to me when I came home and saw that it was now a neutral brown, black and teal colored room with a futon instead of my bed inside. It was expected.

I’ve had many changes in my life. I’ve had my ups, downs and breakdowns alongside moments of triumph.

And for some reason, great weeks are always followed by something looming… by utterly crappy emotions, experiences and moments that build character.

Right now, my character is treading a sea filled with tears. I am an emotional being.

Last week was amazing; I’ll just be honest. I worked out everyday, ate amazingly healthy even for me, and I even went shopping at Gap (c’mon, the sales are irresistible). Two nights ended in conversations with Lance lasting more than 30 minutes, the weather was perfect and it was a short week: July 4th fell on a Friday.

Plus, I saw numerous relatives that stayed at the house all weekend from Ohio.

It was nearly perfect. I was home, seeing family, on a very extended weekend.

But all good things come to an end.

An indescribable feeling of emptiness surrounds me when a full house suddenly decreases to three people in a matter of moments. Watching them drive away was like being punched in the gut and I realized… the perfect weekend was over, and I, too, would soon return to my work-filled routine.

In an attempt to bring back the feelings that once were only a matter of hours ago, I walked outside onto the lone porch and into the empty yard. I picked up the corn bags and started practicing my corn hole techniques, then moved on to ladder golf once my arms were sore. My parents came out to relax, and Dad and I played a few rounds of ladder golf. But something besides the laughter and babies, someone without imposable thumbs, was missing.

Peanut.

I remember when I first laid eyes on that dog. It was a chilly November night, and Lance and I had just left church and pulled in the driveway when something small and white in the headlights caught my attention.

At first, I thought it was a rabbit, but then after looking closer I realized it was a very skittish mix of Jack Russell Terrier and something else. He was only a pup and skinny as a rail. You could count the ribs on him.

My heart melted right away, and after countless attempts to pet him, Lance and I finally coaxed him to get close to us with some leftover fries. Dad at first wanted to pay him no attention, hoping he would go back home, if he had one at all. Mom had a way, though, and Dad too warmed up to him and eventually built a doghouse complete with carpet and heat for colder nights.

We named him Peanut for two reasons:

  1. He peed a lot
  2. He was hyper, like a nut. No other name suited him better…

Mom saw him first. He was under the back porch by a bush. Normally he would be roaming around the back yard sniffing his territory with Fido, our aging Chihuahua. Something about Peanut wasn’t right… Dad had to pull him out from his spot and immediately we knew a vet must intervene.

We drove over to Karns and waited to see the vet. He was puny; didn’t move hardly at all… peaceful, almost.

Tests were run and everything checked out O.K. We paid the bill and went on our way, thinking he would recover after some prescribed medication.

Apparently, we were wrong.

A pet’s death never comes easily, no matter how long he or she is with you. We grow attached, play with them and either congratulate or regurgitate at the sight of a prized trophy on the back doorstep. We yell when they run out into the road and comfort them when they’re afraid of thunderstorms. We love them unconditionally, and they love us back. They learn from us, and we learn from them.

It’s been over one year since I gave my valedictory at graduation. I wish I’d kept it; it kicked butt, basically. It covered all the bases and summed up our years in the Morgan County School System pretty well: touch on getting screwed over multiple times, quickly change subject to how that helped us adapt to change, ending with learning to embrace our changes ahead in life, and I even sprinkled some song lyrics here and there.

Looking back now, I realize that speech was mostly meant for me. I knew I wasn’t ready to change my way of life; I knew I wasn’t really ready for everything I once knew to be stripped away in a matter of months (I once tried, unsuccessfully, to drown myself when I was 10 after my oldest brother graduated high school and two months later my grandma passed away. I was afraid of the future, the unknown). Once I thought I’d adapted to what had changed then, something else came along and signaled to me that I was growing up — my bedroom changed, I’m working more than relaxing during the summer, it’s hard to cope with a pet of only eight months dying.

It doesn’t help that I’m also gaining a year this Wednesday (July 16).

Change sucks. As Ben Folds once wrote in his song Still Fighting It,

“everybody knows it sucks to grow up, but everybody does…and let me tell you what, the years go on and we’re still fighting it…”

No matter how old we get, no matter how “seasoned” we are, will be, or ever were, it seems that change is the biggest challenge for each human being, for each soul. Time and change go hand-in-hand; they’re in cahoots with each other. They resemble Siamese twins joined at the hip and are inseparable. It’s inevitable.

“…And life’s like an hourglass glued to the table.”

Such haunting words, yet they fit now.

We can’t re-wind life. What’s happened has happened, and there’s no changing it. All we can do is roll with the punches, adapt, learn and move on. That’s time, that’s change and that’s life.

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