The Roaring Springs Reunion

What wonderful memories were made this past weekend in Roaring Springs, Texas. Family reunions have their way of bringing sweet nostalgia to life. I see the movements of my mother’s sisters that copy her in so many ways. I see the faces of my brothers in my cousins. I see the eyes of myself in my uncle. The smiles of my Aunties that look like one another, as my sisters continue a mutation of them. The voices in my aunts singing that sounds like my mother if my eyes are closed, seeing her there. The care in the younger ladies to their children that I once saw in myself and cousins in times that seem so far away but were here just yesterday. Enough familiarity to bring back my mother, grandmother and grandfather, my aunts and uncle that have gone before us all live in what I saw this weekend. The spirits possessed in the past lives, lives on and that makes me happy. I remembered being a child, when life was simple, and love was genuine and felt. To my Aunt Sarah that is happy, beautiful, full of life, loving and willing to pray at the drop of a hat, I say thank you for teaching me to grieve loss and accept life. You are amazing to me and I appreciate you. To my Aunt Rosie, with the beautiful voice that I had never heard before this weekend. It must have been one to have been revered. Your soul is genuine, and I love you. To my Aunt Mary, full of life, musical and giving. Your laughter cannot be duplicated. You remind me of my mother most of all. To my aunt Barbara, the concrete that is left of my childhood memories with you and the cousins. The memories I have at your house cannot be compared, you make me happy. To my uncle Charles, whom I did not know, yet feel the belonging. I am sorry we never got the chance to be all we could have been for and to one another. To the many cousins I have been blessed with, the hugs that felt as they did when we were children. To my older cousins of whom I was to small to play with in my youth, I have finally arrived in your plane of maturity and enjoy each of you on so many levels. To the memories spoken, engraved in our minds, like the pictures placed all around that continue to speak to us through their stillness, just as the lost new cousins have. I just wanted to say thank you to the generation before me that are still with me. I want you to know what you mean to me and how much I appreciate your carrying forward the importance of love and family. Years of pain from losing members of our families has taken its toll on us through the years, yet we resiliently remember through the tears how they brought joy and served their purpose. My hope is through the next generation that we can continue to bring forth the goodness of love we were given.  Thank you, Grandpa Charles Otto Underwood and Lottie Rosetta McClain Underwood, for leaving the legacy of what was at the reunion. I know you are proud, and I know how incredibly lucky I am to have been born into a family that cares about each other, a family of nurturers, men and women. Thank you family, I love you all!

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Loss

As the days go slowly by, we find ourselves in situations that expend our energy beyond what we can give, yet we keep giving. We ask ourselves why and how much more is left, until someone we love hurts and needs us more than we need the energy it takes to sustain our own selfishness. You see, many days come and go without revelation, while others occur and bring with them joy insurmountable and others steal our joy and leave us wondering why these feelings are so extreme. In reference to loving our children, I am not only reminded lately of the beautiful little girl named Timye that my wife and I lost many years ago to the resounding loss of a great nephew allowed to live for 77 days. He lived to be beautiful, with fingers that stretched across his mothers’ fingers. He had eyes that were wide awake with anticipation of what this place was and how recognizable the faces he saw were. This is a story of my own witness that encompasses the loss of many. I include you in the continual heartache, whether your little one was just born or had lived to give you much joy. The loss is real and often inconsolable. I am a true believer in grief, but the kind that lasts as long as it has to. For me, I know my grief for our little Timye continues. I imagine her today as a gorgeous, 26-year-old successful young woman with raven black hair and blue eyes like her mom. She carries herself stately, with empathy that saves others from unnecessary diluted denial. She was here only a short while, but her impact left questions and applied a learned behavior in those of us that held her. That saw her beautiful face and put her night cap on. It was lovely, it was short, and the pain continues to find portals of entry that were thought to be healed and closed. For my niece, whom I love unconditionally and feel her abandoned support of self, even though there are those that love her and are there, we are meaningless when the loss is so great. They say time heals all wounds. This my friend is not true. What time does is allows us to finally accept the loss that has occurred. It has done nothing to lessen the magnitude of loss. Yes, usually life goes on as usual all around us. Sometimes we do not want to hear laughter, because we want others to share what we feel, to understand that it is real. Grief is real, long and takes the energy of endurance to a level of mega exhaustion. I say this in tribute to my great nephew Jase and my own little baby daughter Timye because they deserve recognition. They served a purpose and were great teachers of the soul. Don’t misunderstand me, many losses may not bring about the magnitude of eternal emptiness on this earth as others. It is what it is, and we can’t change that. What we can change is the way we look at loss, especially the loss of a child. Jase and Timye were supposed to be ours, they were supposed to grow and bring forth goodness abundantly. I know this because the seeds they planted in us have continued to grow and bring forth fruit of forgiveness, understanding and empathy towards those who do not understand, to those who think one can pull themselves up by their boot straps. My friend, sometimes that is impossible. I know this is sad, it is sad because it is sad. Forgive your children often, kiss them and hug them when they least expect it and support them in what seems so insignificant to us if it is bringing them joy. Often, we want to change places with innocence knowing this is impossible. Often we are sad and depressed with situations and life, but to carry life forward, their lives, we must find a way to bring them forward in us to let the best of ourselves be given to others.

Fingerprints

My oldest sister lives in my mother’s cozy, little home. Since mom’s been gone the house continues to absorb memory after memory, constantly purging them forth year after year as we ready another year for our family reunion without her.  My dad and my mother produced nine children, three girls and six boys. There are eight of us still living. Each of us begin a project for the reunion and auction it off to the highest bidder. The money made from the auction goes towards the next year’s reunion. As we rummage through the past, finding things that are freshly remembered, I become embraced and entranced in the small things and think of what and where they have been. I touch the few items left behind and know I must be smudging the fingerprints they left behind. I am reminded of moms secluded giggles she would make when the slightest risqué remark was made. I see the reflection of myself in the twilight in her evergreen eyes as I gaze into her photographs. I see my dad watching television with his sunglasses on. Sunglasses my wife bought him thirty plus years ago.  I found them today, unexpectedly in mom’s pantry in the kitchen, aged with time and glazed over with a film of years. I touch them, held them in my hands for a while and began the journey backwards. Sometimes it seems like it was quite a distance, but really it isn’t far away. As I continue to immerse myself in moments of years gone by, I find my daddy’s signature on documents, payments, bills and correspondences he made with people, realizing at that moment, that he too was human with responsibilities and duties. I study the signature for just a few minutes, visualizing his heavy, thick hand writing a beautiful cursive signature, almost too feminine looking to have been a man’s, but there it was, a moment in his time, part of his existence, leaving his parting gifts to be found, like this old leather, weather beaten, scratched up cigarette case with his name scratched into it and a flap that slips into a loop covering the cigarette package. In its oldness and accrued weatherization, I find a moment of childhood rest left in its secrets. Awakened from my simple lapse of time, I hear my sister say, “do you remember this”? She holds up a multicolored, striped towel that had been folded over with eight pockets sewn into it. My mother used to hang it next her bathroom. It held her talcum powder, perfumes and slippers, you know the ones that use to fold into themselves? It had a memory for every pocket. Soon my sister said, “I am going to put this in the auction”. It will be called the memory pockets. “There will be something in each pocket to bid on, something of mother’s, but no one will know what is in the pocket until it has been bid on”. “This will be great” she said. I see my sister now, beautifully aging like my mother, resembling her through the tears. I can feel her loss and see her kiss the empty pocketed towel that will soon be filled as a Christmas stocking, full of my mother’s goodness. Many things anew were discovered this morning, oh not in that what we found hadn’t been seen or touched before, but that everything we looked at served a purpose and that every purpose attached itself to a string in our hearts.

Copyright @coffeewithcharles.blog (Charles D. Grant)

The New Used Black Vinyl Couch

The heat is bearing down upon my skin, hot, turning my skin pink. I feel beads of sweat stream from my forehead, easily wiped away with the sleeve of my tee shirt. A mild breeze has stirred, cooling the heat from the intense sunshine. The smell of the grass I am cutting takes me back fifty years ago, to a place that is so familiar. Watching the cuttings billow out of the side of the lawn mower with occasional puffs of dirt reminds me of the money I saved one summer to buy my mother a living room suite. For weeks my brothers and I walked the dirt roads around town like nomads looking for yards to mow or flower beds to clean. On occasion a lady might need us to move heavy furniture, so she could clean and vacuum behind them. Often, we would find pop bottles that could be sold at the grocery store. Back then, the bottles were returnable for four cents a bottle. We would find the clear to slightly green colored Coca Cola bottles, the clear Pepsi bottle with its red, blue and white logo on it and the green Sprite bottles with Sprite written in white. At the end of the day, much like today I continue to feel the heat from the sun radiate around my neck and my face, down my arms with a stinging memory of sunburns. By the end of summer, I had enough money to buy a used living room suite for my mom. There wasn’t a lot of furniture to remove from the living room to have it ready for Norris’s furniture store to deliver it and bring it in. I can see the vacant room, wooden floors worn from traffic from thousands of steps made by us all. I can see it as if it were yesterday, a black vinyl couch, loveseat, chair and ottoman. Yes, it was used but all the arms were intact and there were no holes in it. It was nice, and it felt good to make my mother happy. Her smile was worth all the sunburns I ever had. I remember being embarrassed of the gentleman’s entry in to our home, for surely theirs was made fine. In my fortune of memories made in the past, I no longer feel embarrassed about what we did or didn’t have. The vivid smile and the fine lines around my mother’s eyes are ingrained in a happy place forever within me.

Copyright @coffeewithcharles.blog (Charles D. Grant)

Moments in Time

If you’ve wondered where I’ve been, I’ve been trolling through the card catalog of my mind. A place where rampant thoughts stream across a galaxy of intertwined memories that sometimes have to be hunted for. A place where familiar trails lead to memories not forgotten. Trails of moment’s in time that were not lost but are now worn deep from the walk back and forth to be found. These moments have just been waiting to be remembered, bursting forth as if to say, “tell this today”, making one smile for the gift of memories picked up from the lost and found.  I have several childhood marbles, different colors, all bearing the finger prints of the boys that lost them to me. I see my grandmother’s eyes magnified and distorted as she looks at me through thin rimmed glasses from another era, knowing now, with those glasses she saw me and looked at many things and people through those “windows to the soul” as people call their eyes. I have the knife my dad gave me in sooner years than today that has hardly been opened since his passing. Remembering him telling me that all boys needed a pocket knife for whittling and skinning fish. Remembering those hot summer days, much like today when my dad would take out the clippers and cut all of us boys hair. He never delivered the cut we might have wanted, but then again, he only knew one style for boys in the summer and that was to buzz them off. If I stop and close my eyes, it all becomes real again. I can feel the coolness of the glass marbles between my thumb and forefinger as I attempt to knock my friends marble out of the circle drawn in the dirt with a stick. I can feel the warmth from my grandmother’s body as she sits next to me, holding me with her frail hands, feeling them unnoticeable tremble as they held mine. I can feel my father’s thick fingers and heavy hand with a comb as he burrs the tow-headed hair from my head, hearing the clicking sound of scissors and the clippers all in my mind as I sit in a metal chair in the shade of our yard, with brothers waiting to be next. In the background I can hear the squawks of the chickens and the life of creatures all around that made life real and meaningful. Memories tucked away, bringing joy as I see the faces of near shock on my brother’s bald heads. It is a smile indeed now, more of a chuckle I suppose, seeing the awkward actions we all made in madness from not being in control. What a magnificent tool we carry around. It is with us always. It is now a tattered and worn old suitcase, becoming heavier with every passing year as thoughts and time are pressed and placed inside.

Copyright @coffeewithcharles.blog (Charles D. Grant)

Do You Remember?

Just thinking this morning about the goings on of my childhood. I remember the Masons for whatever reason having hot coffee, hot chocolate or chocolate milk at the four way stop, handing it out to drivers by, all dressed up in their attire. I remember when the carnival would come to town and how excited everyone was. Weren’t times different? Its hard to get the young ones excited now-a-days about the simpler things. I can see the paper cone being swiped around the cotton candy machine with swirls of pink sugar making spider webs and sticking onto the paper cone, going around and around until it was ready for sale. Taking a bite of the cotton candy was like taking a bite of sweet air, the way it melted so quickly, leaving a dark pink wet spot at the corner of my mouth, sometimes pulling what looked like pink clouds from the cone, sharing it with your brother or sister. I can remember the air coming up from my feet as the tilt a whirl would swirl around and around, knocking you into each other, eventually making me say stop. I think it was also called the tubs, but what fun! Back then I can see the Ferris Wheel going, it looked so large when we were kids. I see grown ups with their children and laughter all around. I see friends that went together, staying in a clan, each trying to knock the little dolls off the wall, three baseballs for a quarter. Moving on the octopus, a ride that is dwarfed at the site of those made today. They made me sick every time. I was one of those throw-up kids, yuk! “No roller coasters for me”. In the memory bank I can hear the carnival music going and the loud voices calling one over to ride or play. I see the carnies pulling their levers and pushing their buttons. The occasional clown that would show himself and once in a while an elephant and maybe a zebra would come in to view. Hot dogs, pop corn and soda what a perfect meal. Rodney would make me sick wanting to ride the rides, often the allowance we were given partly went to my brothers to ride, remember, I was the throw-up kid. This was a time when family had an outing, even my mother would come sometimes all dressed up at a carnival and dad in his work clothes and his always lit cigarette in his right hand. My big brother Johnny being ordered by my dad to keep an eye on the twins, but which eye was never told. 😉. They had their fun too. Kenneth running around with Roy, Roger or both. They are the ones dad should have worried about. It wasn’t all about the money that it cost to go, it was about the outing, the fun and being together as a community and family and the realness of the carousel. The imagination of each horse chasing the other and being prettier than the other, yet masculine enough for each boy and girl. Anticipation was as much of the game as the carnival itself, back when imaginations were used, and distractions were few. No one then had a cell phone to look at every minute as they do today. I don’t know how people keep from running in to each other or have so much to say. Todays carnivals have morphed into a gigantic adrenaline rush for those who can’t seem to find their dream. Swings that are two stories high and the Finish Fling dropping the floor out from under you and leave you to the force of gravity to stay in place by the grace of God. Roller coasters that go nearly 100 miles and hour and some rides that hang over the edges of 50 story buildings. I say to that, “No thank you”. Give me three baseballs and let me try to knock the dolls off of the wall case or toss the rings across the coke bottles. Maybe I’ll win a stuffed animal.

Copyright @coffeewithcharles.blog (Charles D. Grant)

The Waterfall

Another road trip down memory lane takes me back to Roaring Springs, Texas. Recently ravaged by a fire on many of the acres around the springs waterfall; this makes me recall swimming there some in the summers when I was a kid. The swimming pool today looks much different than it did when I was a kid and certainly different than it did when my mom and dad were courting. Over the years, the public pool has been sold to a privately-owned country club. The swimming pool encompasses three acres of property, with fresh water flowing out of it continually down into a large stream. To anyone that has ever been there and swam, they know this is some of the coldest water, probably in Texas. The water comes down a small falls, one that has deteriorated in output over the years, but still falling just the same. The temperature of this water is 63 degrees Fahrenheit year-round. You just have to jump in or you won’t get in. The area where the springs exists has a lot of folklore and history attached to it. It was once one of Quanah Parkers (the Indian chief) favorite places to stop and rest. It is also part of what they called The Quanah Parker Trail. It is a site that was probably visited by Francisco Vasquez de Coronado during his expedition of 1541. He was an explorer, born in Salamanca, Spain. It is interesting to look above the falls and imagine what it has seen in its days. The roaming of buffalo across the plains and other animals calling this place their home and watering hole. The gathering of Indians, using rocks to grind their corn. Vividly seeing the echoes of time through the ripples and drips of water from the falls. The same water fall that helped sustain the life of ancestors and explorers. People are drawn to the falls. It is tranquil, and the earth’s life continues to flow there. Four years ago, this November, my son married his lovely wife in Roaring Springs. They have beautiful pictures taken at the water falls. I still have an aunt, uncle and several cousins that live there. It is a community of less than 400 people. Many of my favorite memories abide there. Even after 50 years I can hear the roar of the falls if I close my eyes and listen.

Copyright @coffeewithcharles.blog (Charles D. Grant)