The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

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from the
Heart of the Blue Ridge

A Special Letter From A Reader - May, 1991

By D. Helton

Issue: May, 1991

Dear Editor,

Having lived my childhood in Tampa, Florida, I can't begin to tell you how special or how much I cherish the memories of going to Virginia to see my grandma and grandpa. I'll try and give you an idea.

I was born in the fifties and we had all the conveniences of "City Life." I'm a city girl, but my heart is in the Blue Ridge Mountains. My grandparents loved the simple things in life. Their happiness came from within and being with family and friends. You don't see too much of that in the city. Busy, busy, busy! Everything is fast.

Grandma and Grandpa were never in a hurry. In fact, they enjoyed the way things were. They didn't need to change. And because of that, I was blessed. Yes, truly blessed with memories of "going down to the branch to fill the bucket with water." There wasn't any running water in the house. I can still taste the spring water in the tin ladle when I return to that precious farm in my mind. I can honestly say I have never tasted water that tasted as wonderful as that since then.

Believe it or not, I have fond memories of the "Out House." I adapted to that strange thing even though I thought it was amazing that anyone could live without a bathroom attached to their house. But I will admit I did worry about "falling in" a lot. Ha! I am thin. Now I weigh 100 pounds.

Which brings me to my Grandma's goal whenever I was up there - to fatten me up. Oh! To be able to wake up on a chilly morning once again upstairs in the poster bed. Grandma "tucked me in" the night before and put one of those homemade quilts on me. She climbed those steep stairs for me, my brother and sister. And every morning I'd wake up to the sounds of a busy kitchen. Grandma putting wood in the stove. Yes! They had a wood stove and furnace. The smell of sausage cooking. I was up in a flash. I'd help Grandpa milk the cows and feed the animals and even though I got in the way a lot, Grandpa always would take me with him. I'd come back and help Grandma make homemade biscuits and gravy. I wish I had been old enough to remember how Grandma made all those wonderful things to eat - like chicken and dumplings, cherry dumplings (picked from their cherry trees), homemade sausage, etc. I've never had anything to compare to those meals made with love.

I'd go help Grandpa in his garden. And he never lost his patience with me! Can you imagine just how much help I was? Ha! And even though Dad had always got us cars that were "loaded," I always looked forward to Grandpa putting me in the box on the tractor and I'd ride with him back to the barn. Sometimes he let me sit on his lap and I helped him drive and change gears. Wow! Best mode of transportation I ever used! Grandpa even drove it to town to get groceries. They didn't even have a truck. Amazing!

There are so many things I could tell you about. The memories are flooding my thoughts and since Grandpa and Grandma are no longer with us, it makes my memories even more precious. I'd give ten years of my life if I could wake up just one more time in that poster bed to the sounds and smells of Grandma in the kitchen. I'd love to help Grandpa milk the cows just one more time.

I am very lucky that my Mom was born so that I am here too. Mom and Dad don't even know it, but they gave me something much more precious than the toys and conveniences they provided. They gave me precious summers with Grandpa and Grandma. What contrast, for a "city girl." And to this day, my heart is always happiest with the simplest things in life: Love and togetherness of family and friends and memories of a little girl helping Grandma and Grandpa on their farm.

D. Helton
Crystal River, Florida