- Friday, October 18, 2013
It is Sunday and I am busy preparing dinner for my family. It is a tradition we hold dear to our hearts, as the whole family gathers for dinner every Sunday after church. Today is a bit different, though; my great-grandkids have asked to interview me about my childhood.
The door opens and my tiny house is filled with the joyous sounds of children. I have two boys and a daughter visiting, along with their families. My only granddaughter, Elizabeth, has three gorgeous kids. The twins, Grace and Brooke, are doing a research paper about East Tennessee. They have chosen to write about my experiences as a student attending the Greenbrier Schoolhouse. I cherish this opportunity, eager to pass my enthusiasm for history on to their generation.
The sounds of their voices filled the room as soon as they trotted into the kitchen. I couldn’t help but smile as they talked about their project. At times, it’s hard for me to imagine how much the world has changed since I attended school. I’ve seen the invention of numerous items, lived through wars, visited every state in the country, and traveled to other parts of the world. Through the years, I’ve lived in various areas of the Southeast, but nowhere felt like home until I returned here.
Today I’ve chosen a typical Southern meal to prepare for the family: fried chicken, pinto beans, and cornbread, along with fresh veggies from the garden. The smells and tastes of this simple meal have my mind drifting to the past, and memories flow through me like fog flowing with a stream.
My eighty-seven years seem to be catching up to me, and I sit down at the table while my daughter, Lucy, takes over the cooking duties. She brings me a cup of tea and I try to gather my thoughts about what I would like to pass on to my grandchildren. I want them to know how different our lives were back then but also to know how very blessed we were.
I hear Grace say my pet name, Great-ma, and I turn to her. Her eyes shine with excitement at the chance to question me. I can understand. When I was her age, I loved the opportunity to question an adult’s life. I know Grace dreams of spending her days doing television interviews, so I do my best to encourage her interest. Brooke doesn’t share the same dream, but her interest is spiked through Grace.
“How old are you, Great-ma?” Grace questioned.
“My last birthday, I was 87 years young,” I say.
“Don’t you mean ‘old’?” Brooke chimed in.
“No, my dear, age is a mindset; you’re only as old as you think you are.”
Grace grinned and moved into their next question: “Tell us about your school; what was it like?”
“School was much different back then compared to now. We didn’t have school buses and had to walk several miles to school.”
“You had to walk to school?” Grace asked, shocked by my statement.
“Yes, Grace, we walked to school most days—church too. We had cars back when I was little, but most people couldn’t afford them. We didn’t have one for many years. In fact, when Papa had to travel to Maryville, he took a horse and it took him three days to get there. Now, when you go visit your Aunt Janie, it takes you less than an hour right?”
“Wow, three days is a long time, Great-ma. If we had to travel by horse, we’d never get to see Janie!” Brooke seemed to share in Grace’s earlier disbelief.
“We didn’t travel as much back then as we do now girls. Life was harder, but we were blessed in so many ways. Even though walking to school seems rough, it provided us with plenty of exercise. It also gave me the chance to bond with my sisters and brothers. The five of us walked to school together, and to be honest, we fought some along the way too, but riding a school bus isn’t the same.
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