Childhood memories are something we all have in common, and it does not matter whether you were rich, poor or in between. I grew up on Isaacs Creek in Bledsoe (KY 510) and a lot of my childhood memories were made at the Pine Mountain Settlement School. It was the hang out spot for the whole community.
I often travel back in my mind to memories of long summer days, up to my neck in cool clear water; all the while under the watchful eye of the lifeguard. I can remember swimming all day, and then walking the mile or so home absolutely starving. I can close my eyes and hear the sounds of the Saturday and Sunday afternoon softball games where I proudly stood by my dad’s side as his daughter, and in his own words, “One heck of a ball player.” This of course was before all of the video games and technology that the kids and adults of today depend on.
Sometimes a certain smell will bring back a flood of memories washing over me like the water I enjoyed as a child, and I find myself longing for the simplicity of those days again. A time not so long ago when the hustle and bustle of everyday life were just far off dreams of days to come. It was a time when the only hand that held mine was rough and calloused from 70 years of hard work. A time when I had an unrelenting belief that nothing in the world could be any better than being with my papaw, no matter what!
Most every Sunday I went to church with him and my mammaw, and afterward we would go to Druthers (presently known as Dairy Queen) and get a fish sandwich. I’ve never had a sandwich its equal since Druthers closed. Every moment that I spent with my Grandparents was an immeasurable joy. Pappaw never said no to any adventure that I wanted to take. He just made it happen. I remember once that he set up a tent in the front yard and we slept out there. He was 70 years old sleeping on the cold, hard ground so that I could have an adventure. I walked miles and miles of mountain with him as we prepared lines for harvesting maple sap and I will treasure those moments forever.
I still have the unrelenting belief that no one compares to my papaw, even though he has been gone for 15 years. However I am still very blessed to have my mammaw, and she will celebrate her 92nd birthday in May. The amount of things that I have learned from her over the years is astounding; her banana nut bread recipe, how to make jams and jellies, canning, pickling and growing vegetable and flower gardens. These are just a handful of the lessons that she taught me. The main point of all of this is that she made time for me. She had the patience and the kindness to want to teach me these things so that her traditions would carry on with me, and I am so proud to be able to carry on those traditions.
I remember that Mrs. Ora Cornett gave the homemade gingerbread at Halloween, and her husband (whom I called Pap) would squeeze me so tight whenever I came up on the porch to give him a hug. He would always ask if I could hear the whistle in his ear. He told me that it only happened when a pretty little girl was close by. I thought that was the neatest thing in the world and did not know until my early teen years that the whistle came from his hearing aid. Mrs. Cornett’s house always smelled of something baking or cooking on the stove and she and Pap loved visitor’s old and young, but especially young visitors. These people were our friends, and we loved them. As children we were taught that our elders were to be revered and respected. You just knew there were things that were unacceptable and you just didn’t do them.
Occasionally I still catch a glimpse of my childhood, perhaps in feet of my children as they dangle in the cool water, or in the passing of a fresh cut field of hay, the sweet smell of summer in the air or as I feel the tug of a fish on the other end of my fishing pole. Even so, those memories that stir in me that bit of child that has been there all along are so strong, that if I were to close my eyes I can almost feel the innocence of the emotion in the exact essence that it was felt all those years ago. I still feel that tinge of emotion as I sing each precious verse of Amazing Grace, or as I pass a country church much like my own as its members are exiting its doors, fed by the WORD and fully renewed to face the world again. Perhaps there in the midst a tiny hand is curled into a calloused one, blissfully unaware of what lies ahead, but determined of course that nothing in the world could be any better than being with papaw, no matter what!