Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Life in the Country

This is about the comment from an old acquaintance we saw at Billie Hall's funeral that really surprised me. See the house picture posted yesterday? This was our "new" house after ours burned. It's a Jim Walter home. It's about the same color it was when built, probably asbestos siding - pale pink, thus called the Pink House to distinguish it from the Burnt House.. The "lean-to" part was added after we lived there.

"You had money, a new house, and a boat," he said.

The Pink House was built after our house burned. The gravel road that runs through this section of land is still the only one not paved in this area. Every other county road we used to walk up and down and ride our bikes on is paved. This is the only occupied house of two on that stretch of gravel road. It's pretty isolated, and in the early 1960's we had no phone. The TV we had barely picked up any channels and we watched Dinah Shore and Bonanza on a snowy screen.

The boat... well, that was a complete surprise and wasn't something we really needed. We had as much use for a boat as we did for a hot air balloon. The boat was bought after I'd gone to Goobie's. There were other things we could have used much more, like togetherness.

The money... W had a good job; he was an electrician and he worked for TVA and Reynolds Metals that I remember in the area. He was smart - he knew things like logarithms. He worked hard - when he worked. Maybe we did have a new electric stove with the oven on top, and a shower on our porch, but we still had an outhouse. We had a pump that froze in the winter. We kept cows and chickens for our milk and eggs. We still hung clothes out to dry - or freeze on the line - depending on the season.

So I was pretty surprised when this guy who was probably a couple of years older than me, said yes, he remembered us - we had money, a new house and boat. Considering our Life in the Country, this was the last thing I would have thought anyone remembered. Did he remember our house burned? Did he remember we had to stay in our barn for a couple of days and nights before we moved to a shack that you could literally see through the wall boards and through the floor to the ground? Or did he know this? Did anyone know? But we thought everyone knew about our Life in the Country. There was very little peace at home - did he know that? I left home to live with my grandmother when I was 15 - did he remember that? I missed my family and didn't know if or when I'd see my mother, brothers and sister again - did he know how that broke our hearts?

It makes me sad and surprised that after almost 50 years this is what someone remembered about us. But on the other hand, our world was very small and evidently contained within our section of land, and the universe didn't revolve around it like we were afraid it did.

There were no ghosts haunting me on that quiet gravel road this time. No ghosts over the old Burnt House place. No ghosts hovering around the seventy-foot pines. The Barn is showing signs of age and looks tired of being haunted and glad to see the wisps of dreams curl out and away from it. It's a beautiful place - the rolling hills of northwest Alabama. For the first time, God's beauty was what was most prominent. Time: stretched out behind us; forgiveness: our petitions to God and from Him receiving grace - sometimes daily - dispel the ghosts of the past. This time, we were part of the older generation. Maybe the ghosts all flew away from there when Mama was finally at rest... They had haunted her - and us - long enough.

I got a big rock from the side of the road. I'm sure it was there 47 years ago. Think of it - that rock - I could have walked right past it, stubbed my toe on it. That rock was a witness to so much. I put it beside the day lilies in my own back yard, witness to forgiveness. On some days I'm sure I will need a reminder to forgive all the way into the future. Just as Christ did.

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