As my family drove down the gravel road that led to my grandparents' homestead, we stopped the car to take in the view one last time. My grandma's house could be seen long before it was actually reached. All my life, I'd welcomed the view of the old house on the hill. As we drove closer, I would watch to see whose vehicles were parked in the driveway. Sometimes we were the only visitors, but more often than not, we were welcome additions to a home already filled with conversation.
Now that hill stands void of the home that held a lifetime of memories, but I was blessed with quiet moments of solitude spent documenting and reflecting on my most cherished memories there.
A white gate greeted visitors at the front of the yard. As children, we would ride as it swung closed. The gate kept us within the safety of our yard games of make-believe, tag, and tree climbing. When we were given permission to explore the land beyond the yard, the gate opened to the grove of trees in the field, from which would would yell at the hill beyond and wait for our echos. The maze of tree roots proves the perfect floor plan for games of house or school. Sometimes we'd trek even further, to the creek and the rock hills that were scattered with wildflowers in the summertime.
The swings were old, made of wooden planks and rusted chains secured to a heavy, metal frame. If you were a seasoned swinger, you could stretch your legs all the way through your toes and just brush the trunk of the old tree that stood before the set.
Beneath the old hickory tree stood a pump house, filled with canned goodies from the garden and fresh cool water that was carried into the house for drinking. When the old heavy door was swung open, I was greeted by a cool, fresh dampness almost like air after a spring rain. A wooden swing hung from a branch of the tree. It was replaced over the years, but the swing always proved the perfect place to visit with my grandma. As children, we'd gather hickory nuts and crack them open on the concrete base of the well. Piles and piles could be gathered at the right time of year.
When Grandpa was alive, we'd watch with anticipation as he stood at the front of the dock, spreading a coffee can of fish food atop the surface of the lake. Sometimes there would be a frenzy of perch, but the real excitement came when someone spied the whiskers of a catfish gulping the pellets. Then it was time to cast the lines and watch for the bobbers to disappear into the water. On overnight visits, we'd take the old fishing boat onto the water and set baited jugs for the catfish, and in the morning, we'd pull the jugs in to see what we'd caught. What a shock it was to find a snapping turtle hooked one morning!
Though my grandparents' home no longer stands behind the old Dinner Bell, the memories and stories are not forgotten. And although it was a sad day when we gathered as family under that roof one last time, I was able to see the excitement of my younger cousin who, at 18, rang the iron bell for dinner for the first time. I was able to hold my grandma's hand and watch my children play with their cousins. I was able to help my kids select trinkets to carry home with them and receive special pieces of my own, so that each of us have a part of that home with us.