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When I was a kid, I did not (ever) walk five miles in the snow to get to school. I didn’t have to get up at three to milk the cows or muck the stalls. The things I did as a child weren’t seen as ever a hardship, but simply what I did. I neither saw it as hard or easy, but simply a part of my living.

Until I was a teenager, I shared a tiny room with a sister and a brother. Later, I shared a slightly larger room with two sisters. I shared a bathroom with all of them. I shared shampoo, towels and toothpaste. When times were really tight, as the oldest, I was last in line to use the bathwater.

Was it disgusting? I don’t recall ever thinking that. And, up to this point, I’ve suffered no long term trauma as a result.

Maybe I already knew it wasn’t all about me. Regardless of how bad or easy I had it, I already knew there were others who had it worse.

granny's house

Until my grandpa died, he and my granny lived in a plain clapboard house they had lived in most all their married life. The only electricity was on the ‘cold porch’ where they kept a fridge (which was a huge upgrade from their earlier icebox). There was no indoor plumbing. A cold drink was dipped from a bucket on the kitchen counter.

Almost every Sunday, my grandparents’ children and grandchildren would come for church and stay for dinner (aka lunch in most parts of the country). An average Sunday might include thirty people. There was a huge dining table, but ladderback chairs covered the front porch, the side yard, and back stoop.

Now, I realize there are plenty of people nowadays who cook like that for family on holidays or maybe even on Sundays.

But here’s the difference.

We’d have fried chicken, homemade biskits, white gravy, corn on the cob, green beans, and at least two kinds of cobbler. On special days, we’d have homemade icecream.

Doesn’t sound like much, does it?

But (remember) there was no electricity. Granny had most likely killed that chicken before church or the night before. All cooking was done on a wood burning stove with no microwave, no mixes, no running water, and no air conditioning…..by two little weathered hands.

Those same hands, covered with flour would fold into grace before we ate, offering gratitude for love that brought us into a solitary place.

There were lots of trees in the yard; a side fence separated the house from the orchard, the backyard from the garden, the barn and the livestock. During most months, the song of the cicada was louder than that of the crickets. When they emerged from the ground, it was the trees where they left behind their brittle shells.

I’d collect those shells, lining them up along the porch and down the front path, creating a miniature parade. I would talk to them and pretend they were friends to each other.

I realize it doesn’t sound like much. To anyone who never lived it, it might even sound backward or simple.

But we weren’t. We were rich. We had one another. We had Sunday. My grandpa had a store just over the hill with dirt floors, blue horse notebooks and ice cold Dr. Pepper and Orange Crush.

I can recall spending hours watching feral kittens out the window. They lived under the house, but wouldn’t allow anyone to touch them. The closest I could get was the bedroom window.

We had the coldest water I believe I’ve ever tasted, and apple pie like nobody knows how to make anymore. We had a pond that froze in winters, and woods filled with Christmas trees!

Was it always perfect? Of course not, although I can’t seem to recall moments that weren’t. I believe that who we become in this life isn’t due to a series of experiences, but rather what we choose to keep.

We had the beginning of a story, and hands that warmed around us.

when there was nothing
I remember you –
a name within my mouth
a thunder slipping
soundless
through the night
when there was nothing
all we had
was enough to fold around
when there was nothing
all we had
was everything

. . .

Author’s Note: Inscription on the back of this photo –
First rule of life. Never be without someone to love. ❤

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