I'm back! What a trip I had. There is so much to tell, some good, some bad, some just interesting.
First bad news: I forgot the card to my camera. Not a problem, right? Just buy a replacement, which I did. It seems, however, that the replacement I bought was not the right one, and although I took pictures without a problem, they won't download on my computer. I'm so sad about that because I had much to show you. However, it is what it is, and you will have to create the pictures in your mind from my words.
I left last Sunday, driving across West Virginia to my sister's home in northern Virginia. It was a good trip and I was looking forward to some sister time, some storytelling time, and time with friends. Sunday evening I visited with sisters Theresa and Mary before getting to bed, then Monday morning Judy arrived and she, Theresa and I set off on an adventure. We explored some thrift shops, made several good finds, and ate lunch at Kline's Drive-In, a retro place that has been in existence since I was a child. It is owned by the family of my best friend in high school and the food is still as good as I remember.
An unexpected part of Monday was a drive by the house we grew up in. My parents sold it in the late 80's to move to a smaller, one-floor place and it was a good move. The old house has seen many upgrades since then, but the big surprise wasn't its appearance, it was how small it looked! In our memories, it was huge, a rambling giant of a house that had plenty of room for our large family of 15 people. But now, it looks so tiny, as do the other houses on the street. There has not been a lot of change in our particular block, although I was sad to see that all of the big trees were gone. Why, I wonder? They made the street a shady oasis, but not there are very few trees left. The back yard, which we also remembered as huge, was largely occupied by a garage. Even the field where Mr. Detwiler used to drive his old 3-wheeled tractor and raise truck crops--even that was not nearly as big as I remembered. So many memories were stirred as we drove around to the "back street" to look at what was left of our past.
We had approached the house from the opposite direction than was our norm, and even though there has been much change on that end of Quarry Road we still saw some landmarks. There was a lady who cleaned the Catholic church who lived near the end of our road (it was a dead-end back then, I believe). Her name was Sarah Maggie and we loved her. As we came up the road, I immediately recognized the place where Sarah's house had been. There are only two huge trees shading the vacant lot now, but Sarah once had thriving flower gardens and an overflowing garden on that plot of land. She kept bees too, and it was her bees, so my mother said, that killed her. I never knew the details of Sarah's death except for that one statement by my mother.
I remember visiting Sarah once. We were not allowed to go to her house alone, and I did not understand why. But one day we dressed up in our Sunday clothes, right down to the white gloves and flowered hats, and went with our mother to see Sarah. I don't remember which sisters went, but I do recall that it was only the girls who went on this visit. Sarah was so pleased to see us and had tea and cookies ready. We sat in her living room like ladies, and afterward she took us on a tour of her gardens. I thought my mother was acting very formal while we were at Sarah's house, not her usual comfy self. It was years later that I understood the significance of that visit. Sarah, you see, was black, and this was in the late 1950's or very early 1960's. For a white lady to visit a black lady in Virginia at that time was probably a rare thing indeed. But Sarah and my mother were friends, and Sarah stopped daily at our gate to chat. I have wondered since then about how my mother felt about the visit. When I asked her about it some years later, she did not remember it at all--yet in my mind it was a significant event.
More stories later this week. There is a lot to share, especially my visit with Ellouise Schoettler which you can read a bit about (and see pictures!) on her blog, and my adventures with my car's transmission that left me poorer by about $3000 but thankful all the same.