Write Again . . . Memories we keep

Published 7:18 pm Friday, October 25, 2019

Memory. Of all the many and varied operations this thing we call a brain can do, memory is truly a wonder. The first computer, for sure.

Among my myriad memories are special ones of my grandparents, my mother’s parents. My paternal grandparents I never knew, and sadly for my father, his father died when he was only 12 years old. Truly sad.

The grandparents I knew were a farm family, living in Edgecombe County. My mother had a brother, two years older than she, and a sister two years younger.

My uncle Earl was in the first group of men who were drafted in the county, in 1940. He was about 25 years old.

My grandfather was a stereotypical hard-working farmer. Hard working. My grandmother was definitely the same. That’s what people did to survive, especially during those bleak, hard-scrabble depression years. In rural America, on farms, you worked or you didn’t survive. It was that simple.

Their house was a simple wooden structure, with no inside running water. On the side porch off of the kitchen was a hand pump used to draw water.

In the kitchen was a large wood cook stove. Her day started before the sun came up.

She kept chickens, of course, which provided eggs and food. On some Saturdays she would go into town, Tarboro, to sell eggs.

They had cows, and she made butter from the milk, of course. In the smokehouse outside would often be some hams and shoulders suspended from the ceiling. The hogs were kept across the road, and the two mules had a barn down a dirt lane behind the house. Billy the bull resided with his lady friends across the road as well.

Of the memories I have, especially of the wonders of staying with them on occasion in those days, and having a farm as my adventure-land, one stands out.

Grandmama was coming down the steps from the porch, when I noticed from where I was playing in the yard that she was crying.

When I asked her why she was crying, she said, “Son, President Roosevelt died.”

Those generations that have come after mine, excepting the few folks who know their history, cannot grasp the significance of that moment. That day.

April 12, 1945. When I was only 6 years old.

My last memory of her was of a day in December, probably Christmas day, at my parents’ home in Washington Park.

We had come over from Manteo, with our brand new baby, Sarah Yorke Houston, born Dec. 7, 1967.

I can still see my grandmother sitting in a chair in the living room, holding Sarah, her only great-grandchild, in her lap.

Perhaps, probably, no one else saw it, but I did. My grandmother was teary-eyed.

It was only a couple of weeks later that my mother called us early one January morning to tell us the sad news: Grandmama was gone, slipped away during the night.

Memory. Of all the many and varied operations this thing we call a brain can do, memory is truly a wonder.

May each of you have a peaceful weekend.