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)

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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)

Looking in the Ashes

For those of you that have been reading along, you know my father was less than perfect and was an alcoholic. His drinking started out much like a lot of people. He would have a few cold beers after work until they ran out. On the weekends he would have cold beer until he had no more left and started hitting the liquor, that’s when Dr. Jeckyll turned into Mr. Hyde. Usually, this wasn’t all seen throughout the course of the day, because he was cavorting somewhere he shouldn’t be, with someone he shouldn’t be with, trouble he ought not be in, so we didn’t see that part. Usually when he became intolerant, someone from wherever he may be would find one of my older brothers and tell them to come get him before he got rolled or hurt. That usually turned in to an altercation itself between he and my brothers, that lasted well into the night, before he finally passed out. There is a fine line crossed by some into a delusional land where they can no longer tell right from wrong. Most of the time any compassion they own turns inward and lets out hate. There is no return from that land until the person passes out on their own and is left alone. Many are the days in my young, formative years, I have seen my dad in this condition. I suppose many of these memories are what causes me to have such aversion to alcohol and rough housing.  I am not above anyone having a drink. If I want one, I will have it. If it is hot outside and I want a cold beer, I will have it. If I want a mixed-drink, maybe two, I’ll have them. I find nothing wrong with it. I have a very hard time at parties or social gatherings when people don’t know their limit. When ones personality starts to change into stupidity or aggression, innately it is time for me to leave. There was a  particular weekend, probably a year or so after my dads mother had died that is etched into my mind.  It was not a long time after my dad’s mother had passed. I think it was a Sunday. Usually, if he got drunk on Sunday he wanted us all to sing hymns or read him the bible. “Don’t ask me, it was a strange combination”.  By middle afternoon dad had gotten hold of the bottle and not a bottle of beer. Being this drunk always made my dad curious about things and very emotional, sometimes not in a good way. I do remember the most important mementos that dad had of his mothers were kept in the cellar. He would often go into the cellar to look at is mothers things. Her death had changed him. This day, we saw dad bringing things out of the cellar, in particular two camel back trunks that mom had wanted to use in the house, but dad couldn’t bear to open or look at them. You can imagine they must have been very nice, for my grandmother was born in 1880 and her things were well taken care of. After he dragged them from the cellar, he loosened the buckles that kept them closed. I could see he was on a mission. I can see the leather straps and the eyelets the buckle slipped through. He began going through them one item at a time, slowly, sort of like a hoarder looking at items they can’t throw away. He built a fire in the middle of the yard, a short way from the cellar. Each item he removed was held on tightly for just a second, whether it be a shoe, a beautiful hat with a feather in it, or her hand-sewn dresses. He would cry at the mention of his mother after many, many years. Anyway, as his grip would loosen on his object, he would throw it into the fire and watch it burn, burn completely, with tears rolling down his cheeks. Over and over, holding onto his possession as if breathing life out of it and again throwing it into the fire, watching it burn. This ritual went well into the evening. After he had both trunks empty and was reaching to heaven, wildly he took the beautiful banded trunks with beautiful locking buckles on the sides and cast them to the fire, watching them burn. Now, almost everything he had personally collected of his mothers was gone. I suppose in an odd way, he couldn’t move on without the separation of that dysfunctional attachment he had with his mother. After what seemed as an eternity, dad had drunk himself into a stupor and fell asleep on one of his mother’s old bed frames he kept under a group of shade trees, in an area we always called “the shade”, for there was no sunlight there. He slept there all night, as he had many nights just to wake up in a fog in never never land, not knowing what happened. He never remembered the day before, never! He would break his own heart every time this happened. I remember him looking in the ashes, finding buttons and buckles and the like, putting them in his pocket to do who knows what with. He had a saddened face and a look of abandonment that had been replaced by a different mood. He looked bewildered, and we loved him . There was no solace to find in his wife or his kids at this time, when he needed to cling on to who loved him, to give him peace and ambition to move forward, he didn’t know how. He loved us, I know he did. I believe he personally felt passed over in a time of grief. People say grief never ends for some, for others it takes a lifetime, but his closure never came for his mother. It was a terribly heart wrenching scene to play out when you are a child. A child without the tools or ability to use them if you had them to help someone out of the crisis he was in. His only solace was his self-medication of the bottle. We knew another round would start soon, it always did. Then some other inanimate object would be the reason for his cause, sometimes my mother, those were the worst. You wonder, “well, why didn’t she leave him”? Where is a woman to go with at least 7 children? There were no shelters, there was not enough room at her mom and dads and they lived in another town. There was no money. Even through the harshness of abuse, and my mothers own mental demons, there was too much pride to ask for help, even though there were cries for it. I suppose in his infinite wisdom, God gave my mother so many kids because he knew she would need us more into her older age than any other help he could possibly provide. We gladly loved, honored and helped my mother with all things that were possible. I continue to feel that pain my father must have felt, but it is only because I miss my mother and I understand we are only given one another for just a moment in his time. I have a few of my mothers keepsakes and they are proudly displayed. They feel more like trophy’s that she won and handed to me. I am blessed. In closing, I suppose there should be a heart of hate for my dad, but there is not. When my dad was good, he was the best. He was a troubled soul, born in a time when men weren’t supposed to be “weak” and did not share his feelings. Because of his addiction, I understand some of his dysfunction now, even if now doesn’t make then right.

Copyright @coffeewithcharles.blog (Charles D. Grant)

Plastic Curtains

I drove out to the old farm house today. It was the first time I had driven out in a while. As I turned off HWY 83, driving down the old familiar road, I noticed the billows of powdery, brown clouds laying wake in my path. The same ones I have written about. As I turn down the sandy road to familiarity, I see the old house is still standing, albeit the sky showing through her weakened frame.  She still has her pride, glory and majesty, and oddly curtsying as if to say “hello”, it’s been a while. Or” hey”, I remember you and she looks happy, as if she remembered I belonged. I look into the old house through door-less entries and hear whispers of passed sounds that echo from every corner, forming words that cannot escape its gaping holes and shingle-less roof because they were made by more than just me. Every inch of the old house had seen us, had been us for a long time. At one time she was an embarrassment, but now she is part of a majestic legacy, beautiful in her distress and unwillingness to give up. As you can see her on this page, she seems to beckon you (the reader) to come inside. The floors are warped, partly gone and caved in in places, places where baby steps and grandmas use to stand. The windows are all gone but display the clearest of view when looking in any direction. She doesn’t fear the elements anymore, for now, she can let down her guard. She did her best and pulled her weight for many a year. I touch her door facing and see all those who had entered in, as if looking into a crystal ball. The wind is blowing straight through from one side to the other, carrying her infamous grains of sand. Staring, I can see the new, plastic curtains, bought from M.E. Moses that have been hung, displaying the pride the adornment meant to us, as trivial as that was. I look into the kitchen where all the meals had been prepared, where we prayed and spent so much of our time. The old cabinets are releasing themselves from the walls and the drywall is all gone. It has fallen into a scattered oneness of memories. The old water heater sat in the southwest corner of the kitchen. I can see three cigarettes on top of it that dad left mom every morning when he went to work. The bedrooms look so much smaller now than when I was a child, they too are weathered and seem to be taking the brunt of time and an existence that has been too long for it to endure. An old, old Victrola, way beyond repair sets against the wall in the twin’s bedroom. I have memorized the sounds that it could make, if it could make them again. This place was the shutters and boards that coddled and protected us when times were rough. She now stands alone, in a lonely field, displaying her weathered grayness, becoming less of herself each day. The once tall porch doesn’t look as tall as it once did, it trembles and crumbles with age, yet still has strength to stand. If I look closely through the windowless kitchen, I can see the large fruit trees that used to be behind the house. There was an orchard of peaches and apricots and I can see myself climbing each one of them, sometimes with half ripened apricots in between my teeth. I am glad I got to see you today. Thank you for the memories (good and bad) you have given me my friend. Seeing you reminds me of then!

Copyright @coffeewithcharles.blog (Charles D. Grant)