I spent some time in the mountains this weekend. We were all feeling a bit of cabin fever due to the recent cold and snowy weather…my parents much more than I because they are retired. Yesterday we decided to take a ride to my mother’s childhood homeplace. It’s a little place in the mountains called Spring Creek, NC. My mother spent a large part of her childhood there, although she lived in several areas in Western North Carolina due to the fact that her father was a minister. Spring Creek has a special place in my heart because I spent some time as a child at the old homeplace there. My grandfather held onto the land and the house until shortly before he died. The house never had indoor plumbing. Water came from a spring, and there was an outhouse…yes, an outhouse. Believe it or not this 42-year-old woman has used an outhouse a few times in my life. So, whenever we’d go stay at the house at Spring Creek it was more like camping. Let’s just say it gave me an immense appreciation of indoor plumbing. To this day when I flush my toilet I don’t take it for granted. What also amazed me on those visits to the Spring Creek house was that the eight people in my mom’s family lived in that tiny house at one time. I really doubt the house had more than 800 sq feet if that.
That house is now gone. The new owners tore down the old house and put up a small vacation cabin…a very cute cabin, but its still sad to see that the old house is gone. They did repair the old stone foundation, so at least there is a little bit of it left…a visible legacy of my grandfather’s handiwork.
We drove into Spring Creek from Haywood County yesterday. Even though I had taken that trip many times I became extremely sentimental on that trip. I listened as my parents described their memories of area between Haywood County and Madison County. They pointed out several old homesteads of relatives and friends and told stories of their childhood.
My dad told a story that particularly moved me. For a few years of his childhood he lived in the Crabtree community of Haywood county, and went to school at Crabtree school. He talked about his favorite teacher and pointed out her house (which is still standing although she has been dead for many years). He said the teacher was so involved with her students that throughout the school year she would invite the students (two at a time) to spend the night at her house. She and her husband would fix them popcorn and treats and tell them stories and play games. He said it was such a shame that they couldn’t have children, because they would’ve been wonderful parents; however, their childlessness allowed them to invest a lot into the children of the community some of whom had challenging home lives because poverty was still pretty rampant in those mountain communities at the time. By the end of the year every student in her class would’ve spent a night in her house. He talked about how much that meant to him, and what an impression that made in his life. Today, such caring by a teacher would lead to suspicion, and inviting your students to your house for sleepovers would be grounds for dismissal. Kind of sad how much times have changed.
That story as well as the others told by my parents on our ride through Haywood County towards Madison county made me painfully aware that my parents are now “the old timers”. I drank it all in while holding back tears because I realized time with my parents is growing short. Oh, how I wish I had brought a tape recorder. We were too far back in the sticks to download a recording app on my phone.
I was once again hypnotized by the beauty of the mountains. Now that I live in the Piedmont and the mountains are no longer background scenery for my life the mountains mesmerize me more than ever. Experiencing them in the wintertime is so different than in the warmer months as the true detail of the mountain structure becomes very vivid. The power and majesty of them are so raw, and the beauty of their stark nakedness is almost an overwhelming emotional experience for me. Mountain folk talk about how the mountains get in your blood. Its a mystery but its true. I feel as if God took some of the mountain soil and formed me from it. They are a part of me. They are beautiful, but at the same time there is a loneliness to them…especially this time of year. It’s like I can almost feel the many years of struggle humans endured in trying to tame them and make them a livable place. The beauty of their barrenness is almost too much for the heart to soak in. They never fail to move me to tears.
I really needed the solace of the mountains, the stories of my parents, and the memories this weekend. I needed to be removed from my present urban life if only for a couple of days. I needed to be rocked in the arms of the mountains.