The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

Visit us on FaceBookGenerations of Memories
from the
Heart of the Blue Ridge

Generation Found

By Laddie Fisher © 1986

Issue: October, 1986

I'd never seen a porch quite like it. Wide slabs of concrete mounted on concrete risers and flanked by pedestals just made for my thirteen year old musing site. Two sets of at the side making access from the road with groceries or mail or the apple orchard easy... one in the center, for the seventy foot long porch needed more than one means of egress. The center steps ended in grass and placed morning dew close so my bare feet could caress if not corral it.

From these steps I often wandered through the croquet court to the flower garden. The garden was my aunt's special touch of civilization in an otherwise natural setting in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Fields of brown eyed Susans and those miraculous orange and yellow day lilies on daylight schedule gave way to iris and phlox and special flowers coaxed to bloom. Here in Virginia the morning glory, I so carefully nurtured at home, was a weed threatening the more desirable Canterbury bells. Sweet peas just grew; no pre St. Patrick's Day planting required.

Maintaining bouquets for the house was one of my assigned duties. It was here in this house, Hohenheim, that I learned to treasure daily chores... polishing three story banister to a sheen that even the chandelier lights could not brighten... tracing the streaks of brown in the marble top table... winding the ancient Victrola and playing its one remaining record from the flapper era, "Wild Woman," while I dusted. I contrasted the sternness of the patriarchs with the gold pebble of the picture frames and looked for embers in the ashes of the fireplace.

Then there was the library. I'm sure at least three generations before me thumbed through the books for something to read on the porch glider or in the towering elm's mottled shade. Of course I had a wonderful excuse to climb up the shelves clutching the molding till I reached those very top volumes. All the classics were there. I found my Dickens and my Thackeray, my Scott and my Sabatini but I also found myself dreaming about my grandmother. She was the first of the twelve children that I knew of who had lived in this mansion and I had lost her just three years earlier.

I could imagine her wispy body for she never reached ninety pounds, as she struggled to open the library drawer... the same one I had yet to get to open. I could imagine her... Addie, she was called and she was the first Adelaide Louise... I was the third... I could imagine her stepping primly around the stuffed wildcat to inspect its variegated coloring. I could imagine Addie with the dainty embroidery she always had nearby... pulling out the less than perfect French knot. I could even imagine her foot on the needlepoint stool I dared not use. The drawer was terribly heavy, I could not guess what might be that heavy but I also had the curiosity that demanded I find a way to pry it open. Every morning as I dusted, I worked on the drawer. It was at least a foot and a half high and maybe two and half feet across. There was no lip to pry, no handle to pull. Even my foot would not slip under the bottom edge to form a lever.

Every day I moved the drawer front infinitesimally until after literally weeks of trying, I was able to slip my hand through the opening and pull the top magazine toward me. The magazine must have swollen with age for I still could not get one out.

I even began to spend extra time in the library pulling exasperation. I was rewarded when one by one I pulled St. Nicholas magazine from the drawer. I didn't really understand how valuable their dates from the 1860's made them; I do today. But their value was there for me in confirmation of my imaginings of the children sharing this treasure trove separated only by time. A sort of continuity of generations of children shared my feelings. I could imagine Addie leafing through these magazines much as I did through Child Life. I suppose each generation has its special magazines but the sameness to share is child perspective.

My aunt didn't really want me delving into the drawer. In fact she insisted that we replace the magazines and shut the drawer "against dust."

I don't know what happened to those magazines but every time I read in the library which was almost every night when the mosquitoes chased me from the porch, I found my imaginary friends slipping out of the drawer to play with me.

They were with me when I wrote a letter home explaining to my folks that I was sitting above the clouds for I could look down the side of the rise and see a cloud hovering over the field below... hiding the grass but with trees reaching through to the sun. That sight is rare in flat country. There was magic in being above a cloud, at least to my would be writer's self image. That letter is preserved for my children...a message from St. Nicholas and my grandmother.