Memories that don’t quit and the joy of simplicity.

 

Written by my mother, Ruth Read, in her early eighties, to her granddaughter, Vanna.

Vanna:

I saw the crowds  packed on the streets, watching the big screen in the middles of NYC and was amazed at the enthusiasm for the world cup.  I guess it’s  USA against everybody else at that time, although I’m sure little ole Ghana was a thrill to underdogs all  over the world.
It was a lovely thing to watch the crowds on the streets of NYC being so peacefully enthusiastic about something.  I am so glad you were enjoying it, also.  I thought maybe you would be.

OK.  Charlie said “just take one little part of the past and write about it, don’t worry about continuity  or starting at the beginning, just do it.  ”

Since I told you about our little trip up to Dillard/Rabun Gap last  week. I’ll just start there.

I was probably six
by the time we got to Dillard.  It was at the height of the Big Depression, and HP (my father)  was part of the recent graduates of Georgia Tech who were able to get jobs with the WPA (Workman’s Progress Adminisration,} kind of like what Obama is trying to do with the stimulus/work programs now , but not sucessfully.  )  All of these new graduates of Georgia Tech back in the  30’s were engineers and architects, and they were given jobs building everything from county courthouses to dams.  to all sorts of publilc buildings.

Before coming to Rabun County  to build the courthouse (the little rock house on the corner of Main Street), and the Gymnasium, and some other buildings there, we had been in Dalton, Washington (Ga), and Dawsonville ( don’t remember Dawsonville, but have good memories of Dalton  and Washington,  which are stories for another day)

(Old) Betty’s Creek Road Was my home.  We were up on the hill,. about a city block from 441.  )(The house burned down years ago and there is a dinky little house there now.) It was the first house we had lived in:  I was born in an apartment on Collier Rd (right off Peachtree, Lived in the wonderful old hotel in Washington Ga (another story) and an apartment in Dalton .(another   story)

When we first llved in the house, (I think it had belonged to old MR Vandiver, Ernie’s father) there was only an outhouse in the back yard, and a fence with chickens.  I remember an old tree stump where someone (was it Nana?) used to take the squwaking chicken by the legs and chop it’s head off with an ax.  Could it possibly have been Nana?  My daddy soon built us an indoor bathroom, complete with a tub! There was a  big front porch  that I loved and played on all the time, you could see for miles, to Rabun Gap and Beyond, all the mountains and valleys.  There is nothing that thrills me more today  than the sight of mountain ranges.  There were huge boulder outcroppings in the back yard, where i would climb up and sit and look at  the world, and ,on the rocks, what  I thought was blood from the indians of long ago.  Another thing I love today:  big boulders in the yard.”

In the living room was nana’s beloved piano, which she used to play, and the music would resound all over Betty’s Creek Road:
“Some of these days, you’re gonna miss me, Honey”, “Oh, my man, I love him so, he’ll never know, all my life is just despair, but I don’t care, when he holds me in his arms the world is right..”, and so many more, .  Years later,  when we would come back in the summer time and th war was on, It was “Gonna take a sentimental journey..” and “accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative, hop on to the affirmative, don’t mess with Mr Inbetween” and “don’t sit under the apple tree with anyone else but me til I come marching home.”

There was also a big old radio in the living room, where we would listen to President Roosevelt’s fireside chats every week, and the  “soaps”   during the week .  No  televeision, back in those days. Stella Dallas was my favorite    soap, I remember listening    to her , leaving on a train, (chug chug),leaving  her precious daughter Lollie (Boo Hoo}  , and I would burst out in tears  with her.    Another voice that I thrilled to hear was a cheerful voice that told about all the wonderful sales going on in Atlanta at Davison’s, and she would always end with “so, come on down to Davison’s”, which would thrill me, knowing that  once a month we would go to Atlanta and “come on down to Davisons” and get my clothes and then go across the street to Grant’s (the 10 cent store) and get my supply of coloring books and paper dolls for the next month.

At night in my bedroom  I would lie awake and listen to the crickets and the whipper wills, and the hoot owls, and thought they were all my friends,  Keeping away all the boogey men , protecting me for the night.  It was a beautiful forest, I thought, that I lived in the middle of.

I loved my house on Betty’s Creek Road, and all the folks that  lived around me, a mixture of  the poorest land grubber and a few “summer houses” of wonderful folk, and they all played a memorable role in my life, to this day.  There were the McClures, who were literally out of
(      What was the name of that movie?,with   the little boy who played the banjo?  Delilverance, that was it.  )  I remember sitting with old mrs McClure in front of her fireplace, where she told me old stories , pausing long enough to spit her tobacco juice in the fireplace, where it would sizzle for a minute , punctuating her tale.  There were always some kinfolk roaming around and even then I had a feeling that some of them weren’t thinking real straight, but they were all very comfortable to me.  The little boy with the banjo was one of them.

Then, right across the road from our house  were the Speeds, Sara Bell was probably in her early teens, but since she was the only woman in the house, she seemed older.  She churned the milk on the back p;orch, drew the well water on the back porch, cooked on the coal-fired stove, and “swept” the front yard with the wonderful apple tree in it, to this day I never eat a hard, crunchy sweet apple without thinking about the Speed’s apple tree. Sara Bell was very kind and protective to me.

Down across the field, on New Betty’s Creek road were the Darnells, a dozen of them, one born every year.  Albert Darnell was my age and used to come play on my front porch with me.  I introduced him to color books and crayons, and some simple  board games that we played for hours.  Essie May Allred was also down across the field, I remember her Daddy, who was a tall, affable man , who was a friend of my father, and  for some reason, used to pull my baby teeth.  EJ Allred was one of their sons, and years later I would see EJ at the square dances in Mountain Çity, leading the Square dance, with the meanest buck dance you have ever seen.  I think Essie May died young.

Going on up Betty’s Creek Road was Miss Hazel Gwinner and her “partner ” (I don’t know what we called them back then, didn’t even know  anything except they were two loving women who loved to have” Baby Ruth ” come and see them every day”.  They were from Macon, probably retired school teachers,  and they made muscadine wine which they gave me a small glass of every day, and to this day, I love muscadine wine and all the memories it brings back.

Next to Miss Hazel’s was the Shephards house, Mrs Shephard , who was a widow, and Dan and Mary, who were my friends for many years.  Mrs Shephedr’s husband had been an old doctor from Çommerce who invented “Hadacol”, which was, I think some kind  of cough medicine.
Dan and Mary and I would play for hours in the red clay hills surrounding the driveway, building roads and little twig houses, kind of like playing in the sand at the beach.  Mrs Shephard was a wonderful friend, who in many ways changed the course of my life, which is, like Mrs Dillard (the Dillard House) and the Fry’s from Rabun Gap, a story for another day.

Thank you for letting me share.  I’ll try to do it more often. Mom
,
On Jun 26, 2010, at 10:10 PM, Vanna Pilgrim wrote:

The World cup has been the only thing comparable to the bulldog games since I arrived in New York, except the World Cup is much much more popular of course. Every weekend there’s an energy in the air, despite the crazy heat there’s a breeze of excitement flowing down the streets accompanied by TVs blasting from the open sports bars. Unlike the typical Athens football weekend, dress isn’t important and no one is looking around distracted by people’s attire. Instead, everyone watching the game is glued to the screen packed shoulder to shoulder in whatever space they fit in, regardless of the maximum capacity or fire code. It’s comforting, and seeing that soccer is really the only sport I appreciate or understand it’s exciting.
My roomate Taji is much hard core than I am. She gets up early every weekend and switches on the first game and then rushes to meet friends at the bar for the next game in which she actually cares who wins. I’ve been pretty slack about my involvement although the energy like I mentioned before is almost enough entertainment for me. The US lost to Ghana today, and at the risk sounding unpatriotic, it seems appropriate. We can’t be perfect at every sport and other countries deserve a chance right?
I met up with a friend last night (from Atlanta) and we decided around midnight we were hungry… again. So, as expected from two foodies, we gorged. Thank goodness this was on his tab, not mine seeing that he decided we should “go all out” meaning that until about 3 in the morning we at a dozen blue point oysters, a nice sized lobster and a lobster wedge at one of the best restaurants in my neighborhood. I think he gets a kick out of treating me to amazing meals and I would hate to disappoint him… Not to mention we both have a sick fascination with fancy food, a terrible habit.
I wish I could fly you up here tomorrow for brunch. Walk around in my little happy neighborhood and have a picnic in the park. I love you.
xox

On Sat, Jun 19, 2010 at 4:02 PM, Ruth Read <ruthread@bellsouth.net> wrote:

At this stage of my life,  there is nothing so important or joyful  than  this kind of  feedback from  my “little jewels”.  (  I know I have told you the story about the sorority sister whose boyfriend broke up with her, and her mama came to the house and said “he doesn’t know what a llittle jewel he has lost”,and the  poor girl  spent the rest of her college years being called “little jewel”.  But I  know how that mama felt, now.

I  just opened my computer for   the first time  since you wrote this, and remembered  our promise to each other.The days and weeks fly by so fast,  there is so much   I want to hold on to, relish, it’s like grabbing at rainbows.  Yesterday I called Aidan to wish her a happy birthday, and was so poignantly reminded   of  the telephone birthing call, how we jumped in the car (was it the middle of the night?) and rushed to Athens.

We didn’t get to see her immediately, like we did when you were born, , right fresh from the womb, where we passed you around and you turned to your daddy’s voice, like, “Oh, there you are” and you looked at each of us as we held you before you went into your cocoon again.  Looking back, I am so grateful to your mother for doing it the natural way,  where you entered the world wide awake instead of drugged by
her sedative.  I wonder if that immediate closeness has contributed to your empathy through life.

Jessie called yesterday from  Vermont.  She and Katie had 24 hours off and they had gone into the little town of   Rutland (?} to a B&B to get a shower and warm bed.  She said she was absolutely freezing, and the outhouses don’t have stalls, so everybody does it together, , only one close to the Kitchen does have stalls, so she tries to get to that one.  I asked her if there was a place to eat in Rutland , she said she didnt know, right now all she cared about was the toilet, the bath and the warm bed.  She did go into a wallmart somewhere to buy a sleeping bag.  She put her comforter inside the sleeping bag and all her clothes on and was sleeping better.  She’s a cook,  along with a crew of 12 or so,  and is” having a wonderful time”  Katie has a cabin of really young girls.  Can you imagine what it’s like in the middle of the cold night, taking them to the outhouse?    I remember  when Henry was about 7 and your mama was 8.  They went to camp Dixie (boys an girls in different camps).  Your mama wasnt’ happy, and Henry talked about how cold it was in the middle of the night to get up and go to the outhouse, so everybody just wet the bed.  Ah, for the good old camp life.  And now your mama loves it!  I  know Jessie has sent you her address, but just in case:  Jessie Read,  Indian  brook, 263 Farm & Wilderness Road, Plymouth , VT, 05056.Needless to say, no other form  of communication unless she get out for another 24 hour time.   I’m going to  try to get a letter off to her today.

I promised Aidan  I would finish her picture book in the next month, and I want to get yours and all of them done.   You’d think
old Mom wouldn”t have anything else to do, but it doesn’t seem to work that way.  WE are still trying to get the estate settled, and the boathouse finished, which is taking all of my available money without gong into savings,  which is why I have not been able to help my girls.  But it is almost finished and I am very proud of doing it without any help.  I guess that is the best gift I could give to you all, anyway.  Charlie and Tommy are spending some time up there now.  It’s still hard for me to go.  I spent one night and sat where we always sat with our arms around each other, watching the sunset for almost sixty years together.  I watched it by myself, and it was hard,  but I felt like I had to do it.  Maybe next time will be OK.

Glenna and Henry went to ASU and found a very nice new townhouse five minutes from town, just built,  and a roomate  to share the expenseThree bedrooms,   two baths, and balcony with a view.  Sounds pretty good, doesn’t it?  Well, after four years at Georgia State, it’s good to  be getting your master’s in comfortable surroundings.   Wes won’t be going with her.  She has mixed emotions about it all, but I think it will work out.

Ryan is pretty special, .  Yesterday he read some of his poetry to Joni and me.  It is beautiful.  We were both so astounded.  Joni is being courageous, and emotionally stable .  She is between chemo  now for  couple of weeks, and said yesterday her hair was falling out,  but I couldn’t tell.  She looks more beautiful than she ever has. Doesn’t look like a middle-aged jewish mom  any more,. but a really beautiful, silm  young woman. I am so proud of her.  She and I and Ryan and Molly played scrabble till late in the night.  Ryan loves scrabble,  says he went up to the lake with charllie and tommy last wee, and all they did was play scrabble.   He also climbed up the falls the wrong way and almost had a tragic accident.  Charlie said he (charlie} almost had a heart attack watching.

Life is good, your mama and Donnie are back to the earth again, she just brought me zucchini and cukes before they went to Macon to see Martha in some performance.  Also Henry and Lyn went.  How about that for a twosome?  Max had a good camping experience up at Rabun Gap, and we picked him up after his week and spent time just roaming around Dillard, ate at the Dillard House,, rode up Betty’s creek road past the site of my old house. tp  Andy’s trout Farm.  I told him how I used to  go to school in what is now the city hall next to the Dillard house, and how I wentt every day to the Dillard house and ate lunch in the Kitchen with Mrs Dillard, who was like my grandmother, red-headed Annie, the cook, and Wilbur, the caretaker.  But that’s a story for another day.  Max had a good week, was awarded “camper of the week” and  wants to  go back for another week.   Molly’s peach, apple and fig trees are bountiful with fruit, hope we can harvest them when they are ripe before the birds get them.  he yadd is looking really good, she is going to have an afternoon party tomorrow to honor everybody’s father who is gone – just neighbors. Hoope it doesn’t rain.  Max just came over to  measurewhere  Ineed a table between the two desks in the computer room,  so I better stop.  It’s been such a pleasure to share with yoyu.   I love you.

Mom

On Jun 18, 2010, at 1:55 PM, Vanna Pilgrim wrote:

I’m eating an apple in bed and thinking of you but wishing I was having coffee on your porch instead right now. I still have yet to find a more peaceful place than your back porch during the summertime, fans humming, bugs buzzing. Bliss. Last time we talked we promised some email back and forth, letters of sorts, so here I am emailing you… although I may switch to paper if this doesn’t work out. Your handwriting is always a comfort anyway.
If I could bottle up NY in the summer and send it to you I would. Everyone’s so happy right now, even a late train causes a different response. Despite that I love my book, I can’t help but watch people in the subway. It’s become a hobby actually. Studying people- heard it does a world of good for my acting as well which is always helpful.
I watched an anxious model like mother with her three practically identical sons yesterday across from me. They were all about 3 years apart and the oldest was probably 9? She was so frustrated with them and scolded them at first… it wasn’t until she looked up and saw all the women on the train adoring her boys that she let loose. She even giggled at their crazy questions, gently saying “that’s not train talk sweetie”. One older woman commented, leaving the bus “I have three sons, enjoy them now, they grow up too fast”… That’s the thing about NY, one glance, one person can completely change your mood.
Yesterday I couldn’t help but smile at the seemingly homeless man on the train. Tall and skinny, in a black shirt and pants, his long white straight hair, and a crown on his head. It was definitely a king’s crown from a children’s toy box but he also had tied a chain to the top of it which attached to him, maybe in fear of loosing it? Regardless he looked like a wizard of sorts. Sometimes you’re able to see the beauty through the sadness. Some wouldn’t change their life if they could. Perfectly content in the costume of their choosing and the train as their home. Limos and luxury doesn’t have the same appeal…
I’ve been having vivid dreams about being elsewhere or displaced and longing for New York. Longing for the somewhat simple life I’ve created that brings new surprises each day. These dreams in a sense have inspired me, they’ve made me realize that my body is finally in sync with the city. I worry when I don’t hear the stupid song from the ice cream truck driving down the block mid day, I’m learning which side of the train to sit on so I’m able to beat the crowds when leaving, I briskly turn corners daily without looking at the street names. Silly little things, but isn’t it the silly little things that sometimes mean the most?…

Your turn…

 

 

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