My sister Pat explained our feeling about being at their home this way: “Our home seemed to always be in a state of chaos and out of control. I needed the peace and harmony of Ma and Pa’s. In my memories, I go back to their old house and go from room to room, looking at everything and then going out in the yard and slowly taking in everything there.”
My youngest sister, nine years younger than I, knew a different side of our grandparents. When Pat was a little girl, Pa no longer farmed or had mules or even had a garden so Pat spent more time with Pa than I ever had. Ma also lived a much quieter life by then. She still made her beautiful quilts but no longer raised many chickens or milked her cow.
We each remember the feeling when we walked into their old house, whether it was through the front door off the long porch or from a back door into the dining room door.
There was a feeling of order and tranquility and quiet. No one raised their voice, no one ever seemed unhappy or cross and everything was so clean. The dining room table always had a snow-white oilcloth on it and usually had a vase of flowers in the center, whether it was honeysuckle or Queen Ann’s lace. Also in the dining room was a beautiful large buffet with a large mirror and as I remember it, it seemed to be walnut. There was a
Pie safe with glass enclosed shelves on top and metal doors at the bottom for pies and cakes. I remember beautiful Carnival Glass and solid silver dishes.
Ma never seemed to be cleaning the house. It seemed that everything just stayed in order.
Their bed, which was in the big room where they stayed, was an iron bed with a feather mattress with a spotless white sheet. We knew not to sit on the bed.
Their furniture was sparse, but what they had was beautiful to us. There was a very old tall cabinet made of cherry wood with a patina from years of polishing. It was so comforting to wake up in the night to hear the old clock ticking away beside the fireplace.
In the big front room, or guest room, and it was a huge room, the walls were covered with large portraits of long dead relatives. There were two big beds covered with quilts and a matching hand made dresser, which Ma said had come over the mountains to Tennessee in a covered wagon. It had little drawers and tiny shelves on each side of a mirror. Alas, all these things burned in the fire in 1949 and nothing was saved because they were away from home.
In Pat’s words, “I remember that they always found time for us. I never remember hearing the words, ‘Well, not now, Honey. I am busy’. They always stopped what they were doing to talk to us and to do things with us.”
My sister remembers sitting with Pa on the front porch at night listening to the Whippoorwills and Bob Whites. Pa could call them up and they would answer, coming closer and closer as he called them. The nights were so still and quiet with no traffic and no house noises except once in a while, a Bobcat calling his mate, which made cold chills down your back and she would sit a little closer to Pa.
I wish I had words to describe the old attic. It was the length of the old house and as wide as the front part of the house. It had once housed Pa and his seven brothers when they were young. He told me that there were several beds and each had big feather mattresses and also feather covers. I guess it took a lot of chickens to make those but I do remember that feathers did not go to waste. There was once a big hand crocheted rag rug that covered the entire floor. The stairs to the attic went from the corner of the front room. The treads were narrow and half way up, they turned and went up the rest of the way. Ma did a lot of canning when I was little so the attic would be filled with cans of vegetables, fruit, jams and jellies back then. The reason I remember that so well is that my little legs carried most of them up to the attic floor. The attic was filled with family treasures. My father stored his Life magazines from the beginning to the end of World War II. What a treasure they would be today. Also there were other magazines and many books, including Pa’s beloved Zane Grey books. On big nails all around the walls were hung peanuts to dry, old guitars and one fine old violin. Big bags of feathers, sweet potatoes, white potatoes and many other products of Pa’s toil were in the old attic.
My sister, who came along later, remembers Ma’s grandmother’s little trunk with her trinkets and treasures. I also loved to look at her brother’s Spanish American War uniform hanging on the wall.
Next week will bring more memories from my sister Pat. I would be glad to answer any questions. Thanks for your calls. You can reach me anytime at 270-522-3632.