Childhood Summers in a Small East Tennessee Town

27 07 2009

Me and My Siblings in Summer 1962

Me (the oldest and holding a cat) and my siblings in summer 1962

Ah, the summers of childhood. Those were about eating watermelons picked fresh out of Grandmother’s garden and competitive seed spitting with the cousins and siblings. They were about long days at the enormous city pool where huge throngs of people would come and they even had a 3-tier dive platform the heights of the ones used in the Olympics.

They were about taking picnics there or to the Smoky Mountains where we would build dams with large stones across the ice cold creeks, go for small hikes, and skip rocks. They were about playing outside all day long with the neighborhood kids, building forts out of logs from the giant oak tree that was felled by lightning, organizing and holding a 4th of July parade with decorated bicycles and the younger children pulled in wagons, walking to Kay’s Ice Cream or downtown to the movies, and just generally having freedom to go most anywhere our two legs could carry us.

They were about church and music camps and Girl Scout activities and still practicing the piano. They were about creating plays complete with ukuleles and singing and performing them for our parents. They were about long bicycle rides and lots of Kool-Aid and iced tea and marching band practice and living with no air conditioning. Every other summer they were about summer vacations to my Great Auntie Ann’s rented boarding house in St. Petersburg and frolicking on the beach and sunburns.

Those summers of old were about freedom and fun and being a kid. Ah!

And then there were those summer visits to the farm and staying with my grandmother and granddaddy. I don’t remember how long we stayed each time…a week? two?…but it was long enough to get comfortable and start feeling like a farmhand. We’d awake to incredible aromas of a big country breakfast that my grandmother cooked every morning. What a treat that was!

I’ve never had a breakfast since that could compare. Fluffy homemade biscuits, gravy, sausage patties and bacon, hash browns, scrambled eggs, grits, homemade strawberry jam, some kind of fruit, fresh orange juice, and that grainy coffee substitute Postem.

When we were little, we could scoot off after breakfast to go explore. As we got older, we were expected to help wash dishes by hand and dry them. Then it was off to watch my uncle milk cows and even try our hand at it. Or we’d go up in the hayloft and find the eggs the hens had laid. Or go feed the pigs. Or run fast enough to jump over the fence when the big bull was chasing you. Or follow my grandmother out to the enormous, industrial-sized garden and pick home-grown tomatoes for lunch or a watermelon to share with the cousins later.

There was time to sit on the porch swing and look out at the gorgeous rolling hillside or time to walk up to my cousins’ house and follow them as they did their chores of feeding their latest 4H hopeful pig or calf. There was time to go down to the pond and go fishing or to climb in the trees and make what my grandmother called the “monkey tree” with all us young’uns hanging out of it.

There was time to play the heavy old beat-up piano with real ivory keys that was always out of tune. Or to watch my grandmother when she unpinned her perfectly brown hair that hung to her bottom when it was down and she brushed it. There was time to eat the sweet mulberries that fell from the trees or go running through the vineyards. There was always church on Sunday and potluck on Wednesday nights at the little Niles Ferry Baptist Church where my uncle and grandfather were deacons.

Those were times I always looked forward to…those times spent at my grandparents’ house in the country in Greenback, Tennessee and at my enormous two-story home with 12 foot ceilings…the outstanding home of 1910 in our area…in Maryville, Tennessee.

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One response

5 08 2009
Chris

As I read your post, almost everything you said was a carbon copy memory, except my memories were from California and trips to the midwest in summers…..dispite the distance, how connected we all are at the heart!!!!

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