“Raise the Glasses, Look Back, and Smile”
…thoughts from the past.
I wrote this for the “Harris County Journal” January, 10 years ago. So you have to add a decade to every number.
My dad passed away almost three years ago. But I continue to hear his strong, steady voice telling a good story — always with a hefty dose of humor.
Ten years have passed. But I still raise a glass, look back and smile.
Amazing how the word changes with time.
Remember when you couldn’t wait for them to roll around?
“I’m almost 13…can’t wait until I’m 16…finally — 18…ah-h-h, sweet 21.”
And then it changes.
One day you’re 21, and before you know it, your youngest kid is going to New Orleans to celebrate the milestone.
And that was almost five years ago. Next month, my son will be 26.
But my Dad is the one who defies the calendar.
Last weekend he turned 87, but he is far from old. In fact, he sets a very high standard. He’s like that battery bunny that just doesn’t stop.
“You got one coming up yourself in a week, don’t you?” he asked me as he looked across the supper table Saturday night. “How old will you be?”
“I’ll be 58,” I answered slowly…my voice sounding like fingernails on a blackboard.
“Never thought I’d have chillun’ that old,” he replied. “Seems like yesterday I was a chap myself.”
“Where were you born?” asked my sister-in-law.
“Down there in that white house next to the church. Mother always said the icicles were a foot long that morning. Uncle Marvin and Aunt Eunice delivered me. They lived on this corner where your house is, Pam. He practiced medicine here before they moved to LaGrange.”
Dad talked about the changes and the things and people he missed. He had lived at Jones Crossroads his entire life and knew the surrounding area’s history well.
During the first decades of the 20th century, he said that Harris County was extremely rural and remote. Automobiles, of which there were very few, did not make the scene until the 20’s. The only paved road was U.S. 27, and the main mode of transportation was the mule-drawn wagon or horse and buggy.
“People didn’t go to town back then. There were little country stores everywhere that sold they needed – mainly coffee, sugar, overalls, and work shoes.
“Folks raised hogs for meat, grew all their vegetables, and canned or dried enough produce to carry them through until the next growing season.
“In fact, y’alls great grandfather, Uncle Rob, had a community preserving plant at one time – I guess you could call it a co-op – where the folks in the Hopewell and surrounding communities could bring their produce to be canned.
“But the biggest difference in the Harris County then and the Harris County today is what our claim to fame was.
“During the 20’s and 30’s, we were famous, or should I say infamous, for being the best place around to buy corn liquor – white lightning,” he said with a grin.
We raised our champagne glasses in a toast, saluting the fact we were together and that our kids appeared to be doing well.
After everyone left, I thought about the changes in my life…about the number of years that have passed since I moved back to Harris County – ‘twill be 30 this fall.
I sat down and opened the photo album I started for my Dad a few months ago. I added the prints I made for his birthday – photos of Hal and me when we were wee ones, a picture of our family in Boston in 1958 when my Dad was named “Master Farmer of the Year,” and my brother and I posing on the seawall at Panama City when we were tweens.
The joys and sorrows started flooding back…the memories of my youth, the dreams I had, the nightmares that haunted me, and the blessings my children have always been to me.
I started to feel that familiar wave of tearful loneliness.
“No,” I said aloud. “Don’t look at the scrapbook any longer.”
I closed the cover and stood up.
Memories are just that – memories. You can’t go back.
When ghosts emerge from old photos, it’s time to put them away.
I felt the tears subside.
Yep…I’m a year older and I’ll never be 21 again.
But at least I’m here.
And I hope to toast my silver-haired chillun’ when I’m 87, tease them unmercifully…
…raise my glass, look back and smile.