I headed down a country road to a family reunion held at the school my dad started attending during some of the hardest years this country has ever known—The Great Depression.
Updated a bit from that time, the building now serves as a community center, but used to house nine grades in six rooms.
“Girl’s bathroom used to be that way,” Dad says and points toward a wooded area grown over now with kudzu as we walk toward the schoolhouse. “The boy’s was up there on the other side of the school.” I follow his gesture and see another path indiscernible because of sixty or seventy years of disuse.
“Had two basketball courts, both of them dirt.”
We pull open the screen door, enter the center hall, and turn right into a large beaded board paneled room. He takes a seat at a long table of relatives. “Used to sit right over there.” He points to an area by a window. “Had to bring in the coal for the potbellied stove.”
I scan the crowd around me, and
see the mostly gray heads, and wonder what will happen to the gathering after
this generation passes. The current generations hardly know each other as they are several times removed from those eleven
whose births bridged the turn of the last century.
|My dad in 1933|
I read my ancestor’s names on the genealogy chart my cousin Iris has made—Buford, Hollis, my grandfather Silas, Otis, Ides, Luke, Dillard, the twins Paul and Hall, the only girl, Lorena, and Gettis. All of them gone now, and few of their children remain.
Makes me a little teary.
However, I found a way to keep some of these close to me.
I named a character after my grandfather, Silas, in Home to Currahee. I gave the protagonist the last name of Callaway, another family name. In addition, the character Jubilee, is one of my ancestors, too. Even used a variation of my dad’s name in the book. For my cousin Iris’ trouble of making the genealogy, I named a character after her, too. I shamelessly used my mother’s name, my aunt’s name, and my grandmother’s name among many other cannibalizations of my family’s monikers. Now, the characters in Home to Currahee are fictional people, but their names remind me of those I’ve loved or those that were loved by someone I loved.
When I open Home to Currahee, I’m sitting right in the middle of a family reunion. Oh, the joys of writing fiction.
I find it good to be home.
“Do you see what this means—all these pioneers who blazed the way, all these veterans cheering us on? It means we’d better get on with it. Strip down, start running—and never quit! No extra spiritual fat, no parasitic sins. Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in” (Hebrews 12:1-2 The Message).