I recently attended a family reunion in South
Georgia, my mother’s family homestead. (Homestead is a bit of an
overstatement.) My mother’s paternal
grandmother extracted her from this tiny town when she was eight, taking her to
live in Orlando. I, nor others in my
family, ever learned why she left, a mystery which will remain unsolved since
my Mom died almost 30 years ago.
My brothers and I returned to Omega virtually
every summer, visiting our grandmother, aunts, uncles, and cousins. We stayed in the “projects” a brick three
bedroom apartment building where my grandmother lived. We loved it.
My brother and I loved the wide-open spaces; the elderberry jelly canned
by my grandmother, which spread deliciously over buttered toast each
morning. We loved the old ringer washer she
used to launder her clothes; we loved the homemade vanilla ice cream hand
cranked on the back stoop on Sunday afternoons; we loved the fact we could make
$1.00 an hour cropping tobacco. That seemed
like a lot of money to me, especially since babysitting only paid $.50 an hour.
Harkening all the way from Florida, boys
thought I was exotic. They wanted me to
be their girlfriend. This was intoxicating
to a gangly fourteen year old who had few such prospects awaiting her at home. At one point I told my parents I wanted to
move to Omega to finish high school (secretly I just wanted a prom date since I
thought my options were limited back in Florida). To which my mother replied, “Over my dead
body”. It was kind of ironic my mother
moved away from this rural environment, yet her daughter wanted so desperately
to return to it.
These memories were as rich as the red clay
imbedded in the Georgia dirt roads on which I learned to drive as a teenager.
My brothers and our respective families
traveled back in time this past weekend.
It was fun sharing memories with spouses and children. We visited the cemetery in which family
members are buried. My heritage and that
of my children lay in those plots. My
great great grandmother Spinks died at 104, when I was nine. Family legend has it she and her siblings hid
in the fields when Sherman marched through Atlanta.
Much had changed- family owned independent
stores were now owned by chains; the demographics of the residents have altered
considerably, but much remained the same…the beauty of the open spaces; fields
readying for planting; the smell of boxwood shrubs; my uncle’s sense of humor,
and my aunt’s giant heart.
We spend so much time running from meeting to meeting,
checking off to-do lists. This reunion
provided an opportunity to pause in the midst of schedules and stress to
contemplate our history. Recognizing and
acknowledging our origins is an essential component of understanding who we are
and who we will become. I recommend
these pauses. It’s so easy to resist
them. I hope you can find the time
periodically to pause even for a minute, an hour, a day or weekend.