"From this hour I ordain myself loos'd of limits and imaginary lines, going where I list, my own master total and absolute, Listening to others, considering well what they say, Pausing, searching, receiving, contemplating, Gently, but with undeniable will, divesting myself of the holds that would hold me."
Walt Whitman (1819-92)
"When I look back now over my life and call to mind what I might have had simply for taking and did not take, my heart is like to break."
Akhenaton (d. c.1354 BC)
And now, the current weather, from some random person we pulled off the street:
Sunday, June 13, 2004
leg-a-cy Function: noun
Etymology: Middle English legacie office of a legate, bequest, from Middle French or Medieval Latin; Middle French, office of a legate, from Medieval Latin legatia, from Latin legatus
1 : a gift by will especially of money or other personal property : BEQUEST
2 : something transmitted by or received from an ancestor or predecessor or from the past
3 : Darlington, South Carolina, in my mind.
I can still see the town in my mind, just as if it was mapped out onto an old black and white movie.
My grandparents on my father's side lived in a little town in South Carolina named Darlington. That was only about ten miles from our home in Florence, so we would go over there every single weekend.
Darlington was one of those little southern towns that so many books, movies and TV shows were fashioned on. They had a town square with a courthouse in the middle. There was street after street lined with massive oak trees and graceful homes sitting in the shade of pecan trees. At the far end, a graveyard, the only real significant one in town. And of course, a railroad track near the town center.
Darlington was a town where nothing much happened, and when it did it happened pretty slowly, except for two weekends a year when they had the NASCAR race at the local racetrack. Back in those days though, NASCAR was nothing like today, so even those weekends only drew from the surrounding communities.
On the town square was an Army Navy store. Now, I'm not talking about one of those "A&N" stores that they have now that sell mostly sport shirts and jeans. No, this was a real one. They sold military surplus stuff, odds and ends, and strangely enough, guitars.
Matter of fact, they had a really nice selection of guitars.
The owner would take the instruments and wrap a coat hanger around the head somehow, then hang them from the columns near the cash register. When he would take one down for me to try, it would already be tuned and have new strings on it. The moment would always be magic.
Several of my earliest guitars came from there. So did my Jew's Harp (also known as a mouth harp, but the box actually said "Jew's Harp" on it), a harmonica or two, guitar stands, music stands, guitar cases, guitar strings, lots of stuff.
Not bad for a military surplus store.
There was also a restaurant on the square that featured real country cooking. Not that they went out of the way to do that, it was just that they had a local cook and that's the way she knew how to cook stuff, which was fine since that's how everyone else did too.
On any given day, they would have all kinds of dishes depending on what was in season or what they were in the mood for. One day maybe it would be liver and onions with squash on the side, and even if you didn't normally like liver you would not be able to resist it. Another day they would have ham steaks, slabs big enough to cover half the plate. And yet another day they would have, of course, fried chicken.
Any social event downtown was held in this restaurant. They even had a real nice room in the back, covered with cheap imitation wood grain paneling, that would be used for the purpose. The plates were white and well used, the ice tea glasses were real glass (and the tea ALWAYS sweetened!) and the placemats always paper.
It was top notch.
I always felt a little odd going in there though, because every single one of the people in there would always know each other except for me.
Grandmom and Granddad lived only a couple of blocks from the town square. Their home was a typical old southern home. The rooms were huge, the ceilings were high, and there was a long central hall that reached from the back to the front so you could open the house up in the summer and create a breeze through it.
Granddad also had a garden and kept chickens. The chicken yard had old license tags hanging on a pole at the gate so you could use them to scrape your shoes after you had been in there.
Amazing the stuff that you remember.
They had at least three massive pecan trees, and every year these trees would bury the yard in pecans. We could have all we could pick up and they were glad to get rid of them. Still to this day I can't bring myself to pay grocery store prices for pecans.
By the street were these concrete blocks about a foot tall, a foot wide, and three feet long. These had been placed there as carriage steps when people were still using horse and carriages. I always thought that was cool.
Inside their house, they had divided it in two. On one side, they had created two apartments that they rented out. On the other, that was where they lived.
We always came in through the sun porch and the kitchen. Grandmom would have African Violets, huge ones, growing out on that sun porch. I've never once seen any African Violets like that.
And the kitchen, it was one of those eat-in kitchens. There was a small kitchen table in the center, and a gas stove in the corner. On the wall opposite the stove, there was a metal thing that kind of looked like a paper plate turned upside down. This was to cover the opening for the chimney of a wood stove that was no longer there. There would also be an old farm calendar, or some years one that was cross stitched.
In the next room they had their living quarters. There was a bed in there and also two easy chair recliners and a small TV. Granddad would sit in here every Saturday and watch wrestling, which he dearly loved for some reason.
He would also play guitar in here. It was always the same small riff and a few words, ending in gleeful laughter. Up on a chest of drawers would be the most recent issue of "Grit" magazine, a staple in that house.
There was a gas heater in here too, every room had one.
The next room was the guest bedroom and where they had their dressers and hanging clothes. It was in here I think that the smell of the house was the most distinct. It smelled slightly of mothballs, and had a scent of old wood and many years of life to it.
There was a little sun room off to the side, which was I believe at one time a part of the porch. I'll get to that in a minute.
At the far end of the house, which actually was the front of the house, was the living room. In this room was magic, because they had a real working player piano. Not a reproduction, but an original one. These were made for evenings with family and friends before there was radio or TV, when you had to actually fire up a real instrument or open a book or even talk to get entertained.
Out the big double front door was a massive front porch. This porch was not one of those little things we have nowadays that you have to turn sideways to walk down, no. This was a porch you could live on.
It was just about big enough to play a respectable game of badmitten on. And it was all wood with beautiful white railings all around except for the grand set of stairs leading up to it from the sidewalk.
Over to one side, there was my very favorite place to be. The hammock.
They had one of those freestanding hammocks in a frame, and the porch was certainly big enough to get a good swing going in it as long as you were careful not to tip over. I can remember spending many wonderful Summer hours in that hammock, just plucking at my guitar and listening to the sounds of this beautiful little town, the cicadas, the birds, and hardly anything else.
Grandmom and Granddad were incredible people. Even though they never had a lot of money, they raised eight children and were pillars of their communities. They were honest, hardworking, good folk.
I know that right now, out there, are thousands just like them. If you have one in your family, you are blessed indeed. And even more so, if you are one of these people, may God bless you deeply.
Grandmom and Granddad have passed on, and one day I will tell that story. But not here. Here, I want to finish up in that hammock, listening to the cicadas, eyes closed, enjoying a sleepy summer Saturday afternoon.
Call it a clan, call it a network, call it a tribe, call it a family. Whatever you call it, whoever you are, you need one.
Jane Howard, "Families"