My grandparents have been rather on my mind of late. They died when I was rather young. My father inherited the farm they lived on. My brothers did a bit of clean up around the old place and used it as a place to just get away from the suburbs. I had always dreamed of the old place being restored. It never will be. It's now collapsing.
But when I was little, we would visit my grandparents frequently. My father was a good son, and he visited his parents on those weekends not just to chew the fat, but to help them out. I remember when he dug the line and installed the pump in the kitchen to carry water up from the spring. Before that, you walked down to the spring and the spring house with a bucket to bring water up to the house. I remember him covering the windows on the back porch with heavy plastic to help keep out the winter cold.
What I really wished were that I had asked my grandparents about their grandparents. I think the first thing I asked my grandma for was an odd little table that sat on the back porch. It was a washstand. She happily gave it to me. It had been made by her grandfather, Thomas Pemberton. It has always sat beside my bed and does to this day.
But what was her Grandfather Pemberton like? I know he made things. We have other pieces from him. In fact, the same table and bench that used to sit on Grandma Bess's back porch and where we'd eat on hot summer days, swatting flies, and downing tall glasses of very sweet iced tea and carefully breaking the cornbread with our hands (Granddaddy Chance had been raised that you must never cut bread; since our Lord broke it). My brother inherited the wardrobe he made, a massive piece of cherry. I know that Grandfather Thomas married Anne E. Bullard. I have many of her old school books still, and if she ingested just half of what they contained, she was one very well educated woman. I know that her brother was a jeweler down south, I think in New Orleans. But what were they like? Thomas and Anne? What did MY grandmother remember of them? I never asked. I never learned.
Same with her mom, Minnie Pemberton and her husband Horace Maupin. She never spoke of them in my hearing, or at least when I was paying attention. I'd give so very much to sit down with her and ask her about her childhood, her relationship with her siblings, her aunts and uncles and her grandparents on both sides.
All of that flows into who I am, even if I don't know it. We're shaped by all that comes to us from our parents. We know the sad inheritance we have from our first parent, from Adam, but inheritance comes in many, many other ways. Did any of them love music and enjoying making it? I know on my mother's mother's side they did. What did they think of various stories in the Scriptures? What did they enjoy doing?
Grandma Bess and Granddaddy Chance surely thought of their grandparents and their parents as they lived out their last years. It was a quiet life. I always remember the quiet when daddy turned off the car and we stepped out. I don't remember hugs per se, but we must have because I remember thinking my grandmother had a distinct smell. And I remember she always inspected behind my ears to see if I had washed properly (and often enough, wasn't satisfied with what she saw!). But the quiet, the coffee on the wood stove, the sweet iced tea, feeding her birds the remainder of the day's cornbread and seeing so many beautiful ones flock to the plank in the side yard. In the quiet, did they talk about the past? Did they ever tell stories from their childhood as they sat together in the light of a setting sun, rocking on their front porch and listening to the whippoorwills begin their songs?