This summer I took my husband, David, home to meet my kin and to see where I spent a good part of my youth: Deer Lodge, Tennessee.
The last time I’d been home was for my Papa’s funeral in 2000. Not much had changed. The barn we used to play in was still there, although its a bit dilapidated, and off limits as repair days draw near. My grandmother’s house is still there. And although its been recently redecorated it still has that “I’m at Grandma’s” type of feeling- warm and welcoming and filled with love.
My great Grandma Strand’s house was gone, sold to the church my Grandpa Strand helped build. Twin Bridge’s was still there, although one of the bridges had been rebuilt. The General Store has long been updated. We didn’t get to see the Fourth of July parade. And there are no more square dances. Some things stayed the same, some things change. And life goes on.
Dave and I took a five-day Forevermore jaunt down, via Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Kentucky. We spent the first night on the road in a rest area in Pennsylvania, then continued driving the next day onto Tennessee. Dave was amazing, working til 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, then hopping in that car and taking us all the way to Pennsylvania before we stopped to sleep.
My sister Jeana, and my two nephews James and Matt, headed down a day earlier, and were staying in a cabin they rented with our cousins, Alisa and Brian, and Gayle. Jeana and I hadn’t been to Tennessee together since the 90s so it felt good to rekindle the memories and share the love and make more memories together.
Once we pulled up in ‘Mother’s’ drive we were met with lots of love and hugs from my Uncle Donny and Grandma and Aunt Liz. We did what we do best. We hung out on the porch and talked. We got to listen to my Uncle Don share philosophies and stories of the old days. We had a surprise visit from our cousin Teddy, whom my mom adored. He regaled us with history lessons about the South and Tennessee and what role our ancestors played in the early days of our country.
David and I walked around the grounds, and I showed him all the hot spots. “That big ole tree used to have a swing on it and all the kids would climb on and swing.” “Here’s Papa’s barn. We used to play in the loft and see that space right there… there was always a snake curled up there.” “Here’s where my grandma’s garden used to be.” “Here’s where Papa’s field was. He used to have horses we could ride.” And cows. And pigs.
I wish there had been some way to show him what I really wanted to share, my happiest childhood memories were here. But I couldn’t show him the memories, only the landmarks that now spark the memories.
We spent that evening reconnecting with my cousins I hadn’t seen since Papa died. It was as if 20 years disappeared with a blink and a tear. We hugged and laughed and caught up. And I remembered how much I loved and missed my cousins Alisa and Gayle. We’re all grown now. Our kids are grown. We’ve been married a time or two, have a few more grey hairs than we realized… but the love is still there.
I got to see my Uncle Jerry and Aunt Jill and my cousin’s Lindsay and Noah, and Lindsay’s soon to be husband, Charlie.
While we were there, we got to meet a fellow TearDrop lover, Mike Foster -owner of the Youtube Channel, Camp and Camera. We gave him a tour of our Little Guy until the heavens opened up and cut it short!
My cousin Tim came down the road to share a drink and a laugh with us on my grandma’s front lawn. We were all sprawled out just laughing and getting to know each other all over again. Tim and I raised hell in our day, and it was good to see he hadn’t changed much, and our bond was strong as ever.
Wednesday and Thursday passed so quickly, filled with rides down memory lane. There were images I’ve carried with me throughout my life, images I made immortal in one of the novels I’ve written but never published, Prairie Wind. There was a field that met the sky in my grandparents house they lived in when I was a toddler. And the Twin Bridges/Jet Bridge swimming hole. Both these are scenes in Prairie Wind. One day that will be available to read and you will get to visit the those beloved memories as I relive them in writing.
For now, here they are:
We went and paid homage to my ancestors. My beloved Papa. My dear sweet Aunt Leila. And this angel who wouldn’t let me pass without a picture or two. I wish David had gotten to meet Papa in person, but that would have brought us back 20 years, and he and I were not finished becoming the people we were supposed to be in order to live happily ever after.
We got to visit with my cousin Timmy and his family Tammy, Sheneka, Dave, and assorted grandkids! We were disappointed that we did not get to meet Timmy and Tammy’s son, Timmy, but we’ll be sure to do that next time! I was also bummed to get a call from Timmy on our way home, about a half an hour north and heading toward Kentucky. On the other end of the call was my cousin Keith, Tim’s younger brother. He raised a little hell because I left so soon and didn’t wait for him. NEXT TIME. I also didn’t get to see my cousins Melinda, Wanda, or Kenneth, but three days just wasn’t long enough.
I’m hoping to plan a reunion of sorts for next year, and hopefully my kids and their partners can take off to join us. I would love to have them see where I grew up. In the meantime, we have Facebook and Instagram, Zoom, and of course the old fashioned phone calls to keep us all connected.
The thing about kin is this. Yeah, we are bonded by blood, but that doesn’t mean anything. You’ve got to be bonded in love for it to be worth anything.
And I’m so blessed to be surrounded by all that love.
If you want to see more pictures, look for the link to all my photos I’ll be uploading. Or find me on Facebook or Instagram.
To my kin: thanks for the memories and love. Can’t wait to hug you all again.
Ohio Rest Area for our return home sleep over.