Thursday, June 5, 2014

A snapshot from home

Please join me today at the Stephens County library in Toccoa, Georgia at 10:30 for a reading and later at Troup's at 2:00 for a signing of Home to Currahee. I look forward to seeing you.

A writing instructor once said that if you want to see a writer’s most intense emotion, have them write about their hometown.

I am heading in that direction today for a book signing and reading, because Home to Currahee is set in my hometown, Toccoa, Georgia. Pardon me, as I’m growing a bit nostalgic.

If I could share one snapshot from those years I spent in the rolling foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, it would be from the front porch of my grandparent’s house on Sage Street. Though no one house or character in  Home to Currahee is either of my grandparents, elements of them and their home found their way into the book. In fact one of the characters is named after my grandmother, Addie, who I still long for thirty years after her death.

Though my family lived elsewhere for several years prior to our return to Toccoa, I still have strong childhood memories of my grandparent’s home. Far from being fine by the world's standards, it is a precious place in my memory.

In the spring and summer, my grandfather planted flowers and vegetables in every square inch of the property a stones throw away from the center of town. A sharecropper his entire life, even in retirement my grandfather continued to rise at 4:30 or 5:00 every morning to work the vegetable garden and water the flowers.

My grandparents in their garden

Later in the morning, the ladies in town would come to buy dinner plate Dahlias and roses for their bridge and garden club luncheons. My grandmother would “put up” the produce from the garden by spending countless hours canning.

My grandfather had a Royal Crown bottling plant around the corner deliver crates of RC’s, Nehi oranges, and Nehi grapes. He’d have them stacked on the front porch, and in the afternoons when it was too hot to do anything in the garden, we’d sit in porch rockers, drink Nehi orange, and watch traffic.

Probably seems a mind-numbing prospect to kids today, but the peace and ease of those languid afternoons on the porch still draws me.

As the day wore on, after the evening meal, we’d return to the porch and watch the garden light up with the twinkling of lightning bugs. The moths would buzz the tulip shaped street lamp across the street as the night breezes blew across the vine-covered porch.

When my mother had to go to a rehab facility after a fall in what turned out to be the final year of her life, a friend’s mother was across the hall in her last hours. We’d hear this woman calling repeatedly, “I want to go to Elberton. I want to go to Elberton.”

The social worker in the hospital theorized that she was not just calling for the town of Elberton, but for a time in her life far away from the pain and suffering she was experiencing.

I hope I go out some distant day as my grandmother did. She fell asleep while sitting in a chair and woke up in heaven. However, if I do not leave so quickly, as you pass by my room, you might hear me calling out, “I want to go to the front porch. I want to go to the front porch.” You’ll know I’m thinking of Nehi orange, fireflies, dahlias as big as your face, and a peace that foreshadows heaven.
My people will live in peaceful dwelling places, in secure homes, in undisturbed places of rest (Isaiah 32:18)
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid (John 14:27).


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