Monday, January 18, 2016

Sunday Afternoon Visitin'

My series of reflections on Journey continues…...
(For background, refer to January 3 entry.)

My father was one of six children, all born in the family farmhouse in Pine Grove, Arkansas - a smattering of farms, houses, and churches - just a "stone's throw" from Sparkman (today's population 419.) Only two of the siblings remain, my Aunt Carolyn and Uncle Nat. I rarely saw Uncle Nat during my growing up years, but Aunt Carolyn was a constant. She was the Auntie Mame in my life, with her cool sportscar and designer sunglasses, trendy Dallas apartment, accomplished nursing career, and hip Christmas presents. I wore her elegant lace and organza wedding dress when Drew and I married. As years passed, I unconsciously dropped "Aunt," and Carolyn became my friend.

Carolyn spent last week with me, transitioning from Florida to Arkansas (no, not the other way around) after retirement. Fifty years of nursing! In the evenings, she drank a glass of wine while I sipped tea, and told me stories. Stories that sounded vaguely familiar, from when my grandparents used to tell them, as they rocked on their front porch. But I never listened. Old stories. Who wanted to hear those? I do, now.

"On Sundays we'd all pile in the truck and go to church at Sardis," Carolyn began. "We'd always be late, Mama and Daddy trying to get us six kids out the door. Some Sundays, we'd have 'dinner on the ground,' with everybody bringing something. Mama's fried chicken and egg custard pies were scooped up in no time. Then we'd go visiting (visitin'). I hated it. All those adults talking and talking. To Cousin Lou Bert, Virginia and Sue's house, Aunt Liza,  Rufus, Cousin Willie, Uncle Jeddie…."

"Stop. I'm lost," I said. "You went from one house to another all afternoon? Where did all of these people live? I need to see a picture of this."

I tore a piece of paper from a sketching tablet, grabbed a pencil and placed them in front of Carolyn. "Would you please draw it for me. Start with the farmhouse and show me where you went."

She began slowly, adding more and more details as her hand moved across the page . "Let's see, our house was here, the church was here…"



Within fifteen minutes the paper was filled with lines, names, arrows - flowing from relations to friends and back again - until Carolyn had sketched much more than a Sunday afternoon journey. She had reconstructed an entire community of people who had touched her life. A map of memories.

One day soon - it doesn't have to be a Sunday - Carolyn and I will take the map and drive to Pine Grove. It may be a long day, so we'd better pack a lunch. I'll fry the chicken if she bakes the egg custard pie.


  1. How sweet! I love to listen to my Aunt Violet tell all the old stories. And each visit we get in the car and she shows me all the houses, cemeteries, and shops that are important in the Benner history. I have started writing down some names. Luckily she is writing all her stories for us all. I think that a memory map would be great.

  2. I'm glad you have an Aunt Violet to tell you her stories. I've let too many stories go by as family members have died. Carolyn is my link to my family's history. I will be doing a lot more listening! Thanks for sharing, Laurie.

  3. Sadly my last aunt died a year ago, and there goes the final link with the past. We have to ensure we keep telling all the stories to our children and grandchildren. They are so precious.


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