Right now my mom and dad and aunt and uncle are at my grandparent’s in the big metropolis of Greeleyville. It’s been over a year since my Ganny died and close to a decade since my Gandaddy died and it’s now time to start dismantling some of the home they created. I don’t really like dismantling used in this context, but in the next couple months as family begins to decide what heirloom or furniture or keepsake goes where, it feels a little like that.
My mom called a little while ago and was asking about some of these pieces and what was going where and although I know that we can’t keep the house exactly like it was forever, there’s a part of me now that can’t imagine it any other way. So I was laying in my bed, pondering what home means and admittedly crying – call me a sissy – yes I cry at series finales, heck sometimes just regular tv shows – and I realized that I could be laying there all night if I didn’t get up and try to write this out.
Growing up as a preacher’s kid, you move to a lot of different places over the years. We had amazing church families and we always managed to make parsonages home. You can do a lot with pictures, lamps, and other odds and ends. I can’t imagine my life though with out Ganny’s. I seriously can’t.
The very first Christmas we spent out in Greeleyville, was my first Christmas. So the story goes, there was no heat and the wind was whistling up through the cracks in the floors and the walls. Apparently everybody slept in sleeping bags together on the floor and Mom kept looking into the crib in the night to make sure I hadn’t frozen.
It wasn’t fancy. It wasn’t all dolled up, but it was family together. It was love being shared. To say we spent a inexplicable amount of time there is true. Whether being dropped off as mom and dad led a youth retreat or when Caleb was born, (Josh and I had chicken pox), we weren’t there just for holidays and milestones but everything in between. It was our safe place when we were children and always a running joke that if the end of the world came, we knew we had a place to go because no one was going to come looking for anyone in Williamsburg County. We’ve talked about many a dream we’ve had and no matter what was on the outside whether monsters or wolves, a la our fear of Scar Face from Wilderness Family fame, we were protected in that house.
As I think about us packing things up over the next few months and disbursing things throughout the family, I begin to go over each room in my mind and what I love about it. Even the most random thing can be so dear.
Before Gandaddy died, their room was upstairs. I’ll never forget her closet of bathrobes or the huge basket of makeup she kept in the top drawer of the upstairs bathroom (that took forever to build, much less put a bathtub in. Still to this day, I’ve never seen someone with that much makeup in one place. Everything was in tip top clean Ganny shape. Make up in the top drawer with the lipstick worn down in a way that I can’t even describe but I’ve only seen her do. Her brush, mirror and comb were in the next drawer. I’m telling you – neat and orderly – no matter what.
Ganny liked her cleanliness, even in the midst of Gandaddy’s “hunting lodge.” We heard a lot about crumbs, putting coasters down and not putting our feet on coffee tables and a whole heck of a lot about germs. “Dog” germs, “cat” germs, “school” germs. When Ganny would give us baths as children, she would wash our faces and say that she was cleaning the “dirt beads” around our necks that we had missed. As a child, I honestly did believe that she could see a dirt necklace right there if I didn’t wash up well enough.
I remember watching Dallas and Dynasty and all the CBS soaps – The Young and the Restless, The Bold and the Beautiful and her two favorites that are now off the air – As the World Turns and not Guiding Light, but The Guiding Light as she would call it. I had no idea what most of these things were as a child but I do remember her getting hopped up about Priscilla Presley being on Dallas and her always reminding me that she had listened to As the World Turns and The Guiding Light on the radio with her mother, Nana.
I’m telling you, each room means so much. I never slept in the twin bed room upstairs, but I’ll always think of that as Josh and Caleb’s room. And I’ll always know that the lock to that door was broken because me as a 2 or 3 year old accidentally locked myself in and couldn’t figure out how to unlock it. I barely remember sitting on the other side of the bed (whose bedspread never changed) and my Gandaddy busting the door down and the lock never working right since.
The double bed room was the room that I slept in growing up til I upgraded to Ganny’s old room when I married Mike. There was many a night that I would stay up until the wee hours of the morning reading a book until I finished it. Ganny never complained or scolded me about that, because a lot of my love of reading had to do with me seeing her read ALL the time. Seriously, all the time. I remember the rattly old windows as the wind would blow and thinking oh my goodness, something is going to get me.
I remember Ganny’s upstairs room where, when it was still her room, I didn’t really go into it very often. It was a little intimidating. You knew if you moved something or put something out of place, she would definitely notice. Her crystal jewelry boxes, one with a donkey and one with a swan on them and her perfumes all laid out. I have no idea why one was a donkey and one a swan. This may be a little gross, but I’ll also never forget her showing me this stain beside her bedside table where I had thrown up one time as a child and her not saying, well that really is terrible because you messed up my blue carpet, but her saying it matter of factly and almost as if she was proud that it was there because she saw not just the good and clean and nice with us but also the real and sick and wild with us.
When I think about the house and the “things” I might like to have from it, most of them are architectural. Gandaddy restored this late 1800’s house and there are so many pieces of it that could never be replaced. The huge fireplace in the middle of the great room, the steps that served as a stage, a boat, a runway, all sorts of things, the wrap around porch where we played for hours on the hammock, the church benches, and the rocking chairs. All of these things made this house something different.
Some of the stuff I cherish is long gone now. The “train” of old bus seats that Gandaddy mounted to trailers to cart us around through the woods on a mini tractor seeing “Godwin Land” with Touchdown Teddy and a statue of Mary among other things. The bus that Gandaddy gutted and added army bunk beds, a tv, chairs, and the most random assortment of odds and ends imaginable – a white clay hand, bowling ball, old telephone. We played for countless hours in that bus. These things aren’t there any more and neither is the swing in the grape orchard, but they’re still right there in my mind.
You see, as much as I love that house, and don’t think I don’t, what makes a house a home is the people inside it. What makes this house special, or at least to me more special than a lot of them, was that Gandaddy and Ganny infused it with their love. It’s felt in every piece of wood or tile on the island in the kitchen. Even in all the complaining Ganny did about getting her “new” kitchen. Have mercy! It’s felt in every one of Ganny’s sometimes prissy decor choices – liked the fringed curtains in the great room. This house is not just any house, but love seeps out. I’ll never forget at the visitation for my grandfather Ganny telling people, that these grandchildren weren’t just the apple of their Gandaddy’s eyes, they were his very eye balls. (I know that sounds sort of strange but that’s how Ganny was and how she said it.)
So I don’t know who will get what. And I don’t know what I will do when we start moving things out. There’s a part of me that wants to just remember it as it was and not step a toenail back. I can’t imagine seeing some of those rooms empty and I’m glad that Dad is taking pictures now for us to remember and I’m thankful for Lindsay’s pictures of the cotton that she gave us at Christmas and the pictures Karen and Guyeth took of the family all together. There’s a part of me that knows that the love in that house, is just a piece or a glimmer of the home that awaits, where we’ll all be gathered just as crazy and off kilter as ever. Both the wonderful Godwin-Burch-Moore clan and the equally as memorable and hilarious McClendon-Jackson clan. I keep thinking of the line in Steven Curtis Chapman’s song, “We are not home yet.” That great cloud of witnesses may have grown over the past years, but they’re all here in our midst!
We may not be home yet, but I think we can help create a little bit of home everywhere we go. If we open our hearts and our homes to those around us offering, sharing, giving, than we will experience God in more ways than we can count. That’s part of what made their home, home. You never knew who would stop by, from former students (both public educators) to the amazing folks of Greeleyville UMC to family whether blood or bond. You knew there would be hospitality and almost all the time laughter and stories. You see, their legacy was not just this house or this furniture or this land, but their’s was all the people they loved and all the lives they touched.
I hope that whether we have the physical Ganny’s as true north anymore or not, that we share our homes, that we treasure our times with our loved ones, and that we pick up and carry forth the legacy.
I’m finally starting to wind down to fall asleep. Wohoo! But I leave you with these questions – where is home for you? What does home mean to you? What makes you feel at home? How do we share that with others?
This song always makes me think of all of the granparents and wise elders we have lost – including my beloved and always candid and cracked McClendon family. I am grateful for the tremendous legacy left to each of us on both sides of the family.
I’ve always enjoyed this song. Even though it’s more romantic in nature, you can get the sense or “feeling” of the enveloping love in it.