The little white house where my great-grandparents lived looks much the same today as it did when I was a child. I drove by one day to look and remember. A new family lives there now. Children romp and play in the yard. I wanted to stop and tell the young mother the rich history of her home but I drove on, not wanting to intrude.
I have many fond memories of life in the unimpressive little house on a gravel road in rural Mississippi. Since Grandpa died when I was four years old, any memories of him are probably prompted by old photographs more than actual events. But there are pictures etched in my memory of their plain, simple country life.
Grandma’s house was fascinating to a young child growing up in a new era. A porch lined with benches and straight-backed chairs ran across the front of the house. Firewood was stacked on one end.
There were two front doors. One led to a bedroom and the other to the front parlor. The bedroom was sparsely furnished with an iron bed, a dresser with a blurry mirror, a chiffarobe and an old Victrola.
A row of rocking chairs faced the fireplace in the parlor. These were no ordinary rocking chairs. They were “traveling chairs.” As you rocked in front of the roaring fire, the chairs would “travel” backwards across the room. This was convenient because the fire was so hot it would blister your face if you didn’t move.
Mama, Grandma and my aunts set up their quilting frame in the parlor. Long hours of painstaking work accompanied by cheerful chatter produced many handmade quilts. We used the quilts until they literally fell apart, not realizing what a treasure we had in our possession. I’d give anything to have one of those quilts now as a keepsake.
Memories of our annual Mother’s Day reunion bring to mind the dining room table laden with food and surrounded by hungry relatives. I also remember a pie safe in the kitchen where Grandma kept biscuits. She made me a snack once by poking a hole in a cold biscuit with her finger and pouring in molasses. This was accompanied by, of all things, a fresh radish from her garden.
Grandma’s house had no running water, but there was a covered well on the back porch. To draw water you lowered a long metal bucket attached to a rope into the well and turned the handle to pull it back up. Everybody washed up for dinner by pouring water into a basin on the porch shelf. A towel hung on a nearby nail. A bucket held water for drinking while another nail held the dipper. We all drank from the same one.
Because there was no indoor plumbing, a trip to the bathroom proved to be an adventure for a curious child. A path through the pecan orchard led to the outhouse. It was a three-seater – small, medium and large!
These relics of the past are gone now along with the old wash house with the wringer washer. The smoke house, chicken yard and the black iron pots once used to make soap are no longer needed. The barn where we played in the hayloft has been torn down as well as the car shed that held the old Model T.
Though Grandpa and Grandma have been gone for many years and only the house remains, they are still there in my memory and captured in faded pictures. Grandpa is sitting in a straight-backed chair propped up on two legs and leaning against a porch post, his white hair standing on end. His adult descendants are draped all over the porch while the children are pelting each other with chinaberries from the ancient tree in the front yard.
Looking back I can still see Grandma as she takes her long yellow-white hair down from the braided coronet and combs it out in front of the fireplace at night. And if I listen closely, I can hear her playing "When the Roll Is Called Up Yonder" on her French harp. Later she will undress in her bedroom closet and put on her long cotton gown. Then pulling the string attached to the bare light bulb, she’ll turn off the light and climb into bed in the little white house on a Mississippi gravel road.
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