A few tentative snowflakes have drifted through the air today, as if testing their welcome into the hills. Snow has been predicted, and the air has a bite to it that promises colder weather to come. The children watch eagerly for a real snowfall and neighbor Chester hopes we get at least a foot of snow.
I must confess that I am not as excited about snow as I was when I was young, yet I like to reminisce about those days when we sat around the fire and listened to the snow softly splat against the windows. That was the time when Mom and Daddy could be persuaded to tell stories of when they were young, and we listened eagerly.
We loved the tales of when Mom was a child down on Big Laurel Creek and we would beg for a “Big Laurel” story. Her hands were always busy with the endless mending for a large family, darning the holes in socks or sewing patches on overall knees. Her eyes would get a faraway look as her mind went back through the years, and she would begin in a soft voice of life long ago.
Oh, those sweet winter evenings of yesterday! This is my first Christmas without Mom. As the cruel hand of Alzheimer’s gripped her tighter, she was not the same “Mom” as before. I miss her the way she used to be. I miss her stories of “down on Big Laurel”. I miss her wise counsel and wry sense of humor.
Thank God for the good memories. I can hear her voice now, describing life in the old days, when a family of eleven children, and a mother and dad eked out a living on the banks of Big Laurel. She would describe her childhood in such glowing terms that I longed to be a little girl at that time and grow up with her.
The three youngest girls were close in age, and played through the sun-drenched days among the rhododendrons that grew along the creek bank. They went after the cows that grazed in the Copen field, and brought them down past “Water-pour-over-the rocks.” That was their Indian name for a waterfall there.
The hillsides were so steep that they once had a cow to fall over the hill and land in the creek, injuring her seriously. Nevertheless, it was an idyllic place for little girls to grow up, despite being a hard life on a rocky, hillside farm. They grew almost everything they ate, and worked hard as soon as they were old enough to do their part.
They swam and fished in Big Laurel, and when winter came they would build up a big fire and skate on the frozen surface. The fire would be roaring in the fireplace when they came in from the cold. Someone would bring a bowl of apples from the cellar, and they would pop corn over the fire.
“Tell us about Christmas,” we would beg Mom. She would then describe how the bigger boys—Grover or Enos or Dick—would go up on the hill and cut down a pine tree for them to decorate. Trimmings were mostly homemade– paper chains and strings of popcorn. There was a tinsel rope carefully hoarded from year to year, and stars cut from tinfoil. They thought it was beautiful.
They would be so excited as Christmas grew near. The night before, they hung their stockings on the mantel and waited anxiously for morning. As they ran down the stairs the next morning, they could see the lumps in their stockings. There would be an orange, a couple of apples (just like the ones in the cellar, only different because Santa Claus brought them!) a handful of hard candy, a few Brazil nuts, and sweet cakes made from molasses.
Entranced, we listened intently as the snow piled deeper outside, and the wind played a winter song around the eaves of the house. Mary Ellen and I would be playing with our paper dolls, and the boys made whirligigs out of the innards of an old clock. It was a peaceful time.
Then Daddy would tell us about what a saintly old man Grandpa “Hooge” was, and how he brought up his brood of eleven children to love and respect the Lord. He had such reverence for the Bible, that when it was tattered and torn and beyond use, he would bury it. I feel that his influence has been carried on down through the generations.
Then it would be time for Daddy to read the Bible and we would all pray in turn, and go to bed with dreams of Big Laurel Creek running through our minds. Those were the innocent days of childhood, when it didn’t take much to make us happy. Memories are precious.
Rev. Ralph Lane of Bickmore is looking for the words to a couple of old songs once sung in church. He can remember the first verses, but the rest eludes him. They are “I’ve Got a Home in that Rock” and “I’m Gonna Eat at the Welcome Table.” Any help you can give will be appreciated. We will print some of these songs when space allows.
Due to circumstances beyond my control, I will not be able to mail out “Homesick for the Hills” until January 9. I do have gift certificates I can issue, and plenty of “This Holler is My Home.” I am sorry, and beg for understanding. The price for each is $15.33, and the mailing address is 2556 Summers Fork Road, Ovapa, WV 25164 or email email@example.com.