Did I mention that I am a Georgia peach by birth? Though I’m sure it will be harder to tell by reading my posts than in person, hearing that southern twang in my speech. But I am most definitely a southern peach, born and bread, or at least partially. It wasn’t until I was fourteen and about to start my first year of high school that my daddy moved us to North Carolina. What a horrible time that was. All my family, sisters, aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents, nieces, nephews all lived closely there in our small rural town in good old Georgia. Red clay, country roads, family gatherings, church singings, Sunday dinners with friends and family, all my life long friends; friends I’d started school with and thought I’d grow old with, left behind. I can’t say I blame him, daddy that is, he was only doing the only thing he thought he could to help us move on. You see, my brother had become addicted to drugs early in his life causing my parents a lot of heartache and worry. Then committed suicide by shooting himself in our home while we slept, when I was twelve. It nearly killed my mama and she just couldn’t get past it. It was all she ever wanted to talk about and she cried a lot there being stuck in that house and that town with all the memories. So daddy was offered a similar job to the one he was working in Georgia, here in North Carolina and he decided to take it, thinking the change would take all our minds off my brother. I guess it worked , for the most part, though it was a very hard thing to get through. In the beginning we made an annual trip home to Georgia and my sisters would come to North Carolina to see us once a year, then as the years past those visits got fewer and farther between. It put a strain on our family and I don’t think my older sisters ever forgave daddy for moving mama away; though it very may have been what saved her sanity.
It had been seven years since I’d set foot on that Georgia red clay, and to be honest, I had no intensions of going back, when my cousin called to tell us that my uncle had been diagnosed with stage 3 cancer in multiple parts of his body. I had to be the bearer of this wonderful news to my parents. I had several other aunts and uncles who were now in bad shape, health wise, and it got me to thinking. What good would it be to wait until the funerals to pay our last respects and mama and daddy were depending on me now. They had managed to stay close to some of their siblings through phone calls, and it was these that I wanted them to be able to see, just one last time. So I suggested a visit, took two days off from work and loaded the car. Eight hours on the road with just us three, mama, daddy and myself. I dreaded that trip like the plaque, but it turned out to be a most pleasant time of reminiscing. Sometimes I get so busy with the hustle and bustle of life that I forget to enjoy the time I have left with my parents. That’s what I did on this weekend trip, I just enjoyed my parents. I didn’t check homework, didn’t cook meals, didn’t wash dishes, didn’t hurry off to work, didn’t make time for my boyfriend, didn’t pay bills. It was just us, me and my mama and my daddy.
The first morning on our trip we went for a long drive with mama and daddy pointing out places they had grown up, gone to church, met, dated. They talked and I snapped pictures. Thoughts of scrapbooking came to mind, but I know I may never get to that, but it’s a good thought nonetheless. We visited two cemeteries where family members that have gone on were buried.
I heard stories of their first home on Buford Highway in Lawrenceville, just down the road from papa and granny’s house. We drove past where they fell in love while working together at the sewing plant. Where they went to a tent camp meeting on one of their first dates, right beyond where mama went to church at Walnut Grove.
They showed me where they pulled over on the side of the road and got their first kiss and told me all about it. Mama had asked, “why are we pulling over” and daddy replied, “I want to get me some sugar”. Such sweet memories for them. After our session of reminiscing we ended up at mama’s brothers house where we visited with uncle Quill and aunt Nancy and aunt Lula Mae, who had been brought from her nursing home, for the remainder of the day.
The next day I thought we’d visit some of my old memories and set out for another long drive. The house they rented from the Clegghorn’s when I was born had been torn down, all that remained was an empty lot, but our house on Freeman Mill Road was still there and it was vacant. So I was able to get out and walk around in the yard and peek in windows. Memories that I had long ago forgotten came flooding back and I didn’t want to forget them, so I started writing down what I remembered, like the sunroom where we had all our thanksgiving dinners. I could see the table set with the feast layed out before us, in my mind’s eye. The garage that my daddy and my uncles turned into a small apartment for my aging grandparents. I could see our swing set in the back yard and my brother riding up on his motorcycle. It’s funny how things seemed much bigger in my mind.
The Formosa tree, that was now cut down; when I stood in the hole where it once stood I could remember sitting underneath its umbrella of limbs thinking about life and talking to God at a young age. I remember crying there for a lost puppy, and again when my daddy was away on a business trip. And I remember crying there when my mama was upset about my brothers addiction, not knowing what to do. I remembered God sending someone, a boy on a bicycle who found my puppy. Even then, I knew God was with me. It seems I’ve always turned to some form of nature for comfort. In later years I would go to the cow pasture behind the house to talk to God and reflect and now I head out to a lake or river to do my thinking.
Anyway, after we left our old house we headed over to where my grandparents had lived, beside Crowe’s General Store and Bait shop. Neither existed anymore. Where they once stood, a strip mall had taken their place. But just down the road was one of the churches we had attended as a family, the Lordsmen Church. I remembered riding down the road on the lawnmower on daddy’s lap to go cut the church’s grass and sitting on mama’s lap while she taught Sunday School to us kids, and even lying underneath the pew during preaching pretending to play the piano. There was no nursery or children’s church back then.
We drove past the Elisha Wind House where we attended a fair / festival once a year when I was a child. I couldn’t go to my old hometown without making a stop at my old school, Dacula Elementary / Middle School. So many wonderful memories at that school.
And right beside the school was my favorite teachers house, Mrs. Wilbanks. I believe she taught me third grade. I think what I liked most about Mrs. Wilbanks was that she not only taught us education, but about God, through her words and actions. I remember seeing her pray with one particular student several times, that really turned his life around. The tree I helped plant on Arbor Day for the newspaper still stood firm in her front yard, though she’s long ago passed. We talked about going to the Bluegrass Barn in Suwanee every Saturday night with my aunt Caroline and uncle Donald and cousin Stephanie. The Bluegrass Barn and church were the only places I was allowed to go with my first “real” boyfriend, Todd Turnbull, chaperoned by my parents, of coarse. There were so many other places we’d loved to have stopped by, but time was getting away from us. We headed on over to my cousin Wanda’s house and visited with her family and my uncle Donald and aunt Laura. Then stopped in on my aunt Sandra and uncle Gene and little 2nd cousin Riley for a while. After a full day we headed back to our hotel to pack and get ready to head back to good ole North Carolina the next day.
Even among the wonderful memories, gatherings and reminiscing, mama still tried to revisit the harshness of the past by talking about that horrid night, the night of my brothers suicide. I saw the change in her eyes, the sadness trying to creep in. This time I stopped her, and asked that we not ruin our time by talking about “that”. I told her that we needed to focus on the good memories.
I know that moving here was what was needed all those years ago. Though often, it crosses my mind, would my life have turned out the same had we stayed in Georgia, would I have had to go through all the things I have gone through. I’m quite sure it would have been different, in ways, but there would have been other hardships, other trials, other heart breaks. I wouldn’t have had my children, that are my world and my life. So I wouldn’t trade moving to North Carolina for anything, but I still get Georgia on my mind sometimes.