The screen door next to the front porch slams behind me as I enter my grandmother’s sweltering house. Dad and grandpa are sitting comfortably on the couch, reading a newspaper that seems extra thick compared to the previous day’s dispatch. Still wearing a plain white dress shirt and sporting a skinny, solid black tie, my father is wearing what my mother would always refer to as his “Sunday go to meet’n” clothes.
The rare sight of this hardworking, God fearing man in a suit by someone who knew him, on any other day of the week, would most assuredly elicit a question along the lines of “Roger, who passed away?” But today is the Lord’s Day and though my Dad was never one for trying to impress folks, he was a firm believer that church was a sacred place and “if going to God’s house it’nt reason enough for a feller to dress up, then there ain’t no reason in the world good enough.”
The time is around 1:30 in the afternoon in 19hundred and something Appalachia.
The dusty and dark coalfields of home are exceptionally bright on this humid summer afternoon and everything in the world is perfect… or so I believe.
The me who now has wrinkles on her face and gray hairs falling from her head is but a rambunctious child of the mountains on this day and my legs are young and my body is fast — oh what I wouldn’t give to be eight again!
In the distance, I can hear the comforting voices of my mother, grandmother, and older sister laughing, but bustling away in the searing and overcrowded kitchen.
Behind me, the screeching door squawks one more time as my cousins come running through the living room and join me at the doorway to the kitchen.
Just as she is about to yell for us to get out of the busy and scorching kitchen, my mother recognizes the grass stain on my new Sunday dress — a victim of 8-year-old child’s play from a bygone era.
“I told you not to get your dress all dirty,” says my mother in a frustrated tone.
“Y’all need to get out of my kitchen and go back outside and play,” interrupts my grandmother, as she slips through the kitchen holding a massively large boiling pot of potatoes.
“Go on,” seconds my aunt, and in a flash, we’re rushing back outside into the green grass just beside the creek, just beside the road, just beside the mountain.
Our yard wasn’t that big, but it was big enough to double as a baseball field — a game my brother and older cousins would beg me to play.
Home plate was dusty patch of ungrassed ground. First base was the pine tree at the corner of the yard, while second was the dogwood. Third base was a rock… Or at least that’s what I always heard, I never made it that far.
Though I wasn’t a big fan of baseball, it seemed like time would fly by as we played these Sunday afternoon games — “Y’all warsh up,” ordered my granny, as once again, I heard that screen door making that distinctive thump as it clacked against the base of the door’s frame.
Upon reentering the house this second time, I can’t help but notice just how different the scene inside the house is this time. The men are all standing by the table and the dining room is quickly filling up with cousins, brothers, sisters, grandparents and parents as the women make the final preparations to their masterpiece of a meal.
Moments later, all of our hands are locked together and everyone’s eyes are all closed while my father is praying – well almost everyone’s – I couldn’t help but look around at everyone’s faces, ever so subtly, in order to make for sure no one was being bad and looking around during the prayer!
The grown ups all gathered round the fancy dining room table, but for us kids, there was a “fend for yourselves mentality,” this generally meant that you would catch a seat on the couch, but today there was no room, so I place my tiny bottom onto the hardwood floor of granny’s house, with back against the couch my cousins and older brothers were all seated on.
Little could any of us kids have imagined the heartache and trouble that would await each of us kids in the years ahead — nothing noteworthy, just normal, everyday, real life problems.
As I think back to the many blessings my parents handed down to me, the blessings of incredible Sunday afternoons isn’t far from it. How I long for the Appalachian Sunday afternoons of yesteryear!
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