Recntly I took a literal drive down memory lane after dropping my best friend off at her house-It just happens that she now lives a few miles from where I ‘grew up’. ‘Where I grew up’ is a loaded phrase really, and is one that my answer for probably doesn’t match what most people know about me. While I physically spent more time of my childhood in one city with my mom, I consider that I ‘grew up’ where I spent my weekends-out in the country with my grandparents. While I’m not sure what the actual percentage was, I’m certain that I spent every other weekend with my grandparents (who, technically, would be my maternal grandfather and his wife, my ‘step’ grandma. My maternal grandmother passed away when I was 5. I remember her briefly but we’ll save that for another day). This is a story about ‘growing up’.
My grandpa was my best friend. He was my resiliency factor. He is the person at the center of my life that continues to push me forward even today. To know Wayne was to love him and to love him was a treat. He was incredibly creative-making up ghost stories (I have a cassette tape of one of these-complete with sound effect!), drawing whatever I asked him to, and creating amazing things out of almost any medium (wood-working was by far the one I remember most. I posted some of his work on my Instagram). I was his shadow and now I consider him mine. So when he got sick in 1996, I was concerned and scared but ultimately didn’t think he’d die. Sadly, that wasn’t how it worked out and he passed away shortly after the story I’m getting ready share.
My grandparents lived in the country-surrounded by woods and wildlife and dirt roads and people who all knew each other. I road my bike and played in dirt and waded through creeks (pronounced ‘cricks’, just in case you were wondering). I listened to country music and weeded the garden and ate anything I could grab from said garden. When I think back to what really were just several short years of my life so far-all I can remember is happiness. I remember going to sleep every night feeling safe. I vividly recall what well water tasted like and learning to cook with grandma. They both taught me so much in those few years (1991-1996) that I still use to this very day.
And one of those skills just so happens to be driving. What comes next is a story of a rite of passage that happens ‘out in the holler’: An eleven year old kid getting their first driving lesson down a dirt road in a pick-up truck.
|About where we pulled over|
I remember it was early winter and, actually, it may have taken place the last weekend my grandpa was alive. We had just driven to ‘town’ (sadly I drove through this ‘town’ and it’s nothing but a ghost of what it once was. The library where I checked out my favorite book on how to make drawings out of your thumbprint and Nightmare Before Christmas for the first time was still open. And so was the gas station.) for who-knows-what and were on our way back to the house when Grandpa turned down a side road and pulled over. He looked at me and said, “scoot over, you drive!” and I remember being so confused and excited that I did just that without any hesitation. Now, I barely remember what I had for dinner last night but I can say that I can recall this moment like it just happened. He jumped out as I moved over to the driver’s seat and got into the other side. I put on my seat belt, he moved the bucket seat as close to the wheel as it would go in his ’94 Chevy Silverado, and turned the radio down as I started to put the trunk into drive…and we were off. I probably went 5 miles an hour but what.a.rush.
I often drove (rode?) the riding lawn mower around my grandparent’s 3 acres (which was actually a ginormous hill? I’m still not sure how I’m alive but hey) but driving a truck was incredible! The gravel crunched under us, the sky was a steel-blue, and my Grandpa was teaching me how to drive.
He taught me so much that I can’t even put into words. Yes, he taught me how to drive a car but ultimately he showed me how to navigate my life. It was a few short years but it is when I ‘grew up.’
This was the first moment in a very long time that I decided to stop long enough to remember it all and to feel all the emotions that flood back when I think about my childhood. When I drove down the gravel road to their former home I found myself holding my breath. The house has changed so much but the barn is still there. There were remnants of the garden. My favorite trees still stood tall.
(the past is always closer than it appears).
Close by the house is a spot I loved to go to and was lovingly referred to as the ‘The Bridge’. It’s only about 50 yards from the house at the bottom of a hill. “Grandpa, I’m riding my bike down to The Bridge!” “Let’s go walk to The Bridge and throw sticks in!” (My favorite game, which was modeled after Pooh Sticks if you know that one.) Instead of being a super creep and pulling into the current owner’s driveway all I-used-to-live-here-so-can-I-be-weird-and-park-here-while-I-go-reminense?, I decided to go park at The Bridge. I didn’t stay too long. But I felt it. I know it’s kind of cliché but truly, I felt my childhood-in the air, in the rocks, in the sounds. The warm sun, the butterflies (okay I know I’m being all sentimental here but can I JUST SAY I do NOT remember insects growing up and while this moment was uber important to me it was interrupted by my annoyance of being dinner to some 50 freaking mosquitoes. Who let those turds move in?)-it was everywhere.
While these pictures truly won’t mean much to anyone and are probably just some mediocre ‘wilderness’ shots, know that this is me. Those trees reverberate the beat of my heart. This is my protected and sacred ground. You never know what you’re really going to remember, or what is going to impact you as you mature. Adults never know if what they’re ‘doing’ is what is ‘best’ for youth. So I guess what I’m trying to say here is two-fold: appreciate who and what has molded you. You can have roots and wings but your heart will always know where home really is. I’m also trying to convey what we read on inspirational posters everywhere-take the moments you can when you have them. Quality will always prevail quantity. I had 11 years, and really only 6 ‘down in the holler’ with Grandpa and Grandma-yet my heart still knows where it belongs.
We often when out looking for deer.
This pretty lady showed up.