Olde Time Memories

More Than A Day Away by Mike Steely

One of the benefits of getting old, which we assume begins at age 60 or 65, isn’t just qualifying for social security, retirement, Medicare or “senior discounts” but age bringing back memories of childhood. We can forget or push back bad childhood memories and pull up the good ones.

I was born in my grandma’s house. My mom was working at a factory in the next town over and my siblings and I lived with one grandmother or the other until I was about six years old when my mom re-married and we moved.

Those early years in an old frame house were full of the warmth of family. My many cousins also stayed at grandma’s house now and then and I remember sleeping in a large bed with three, four or five other kids. I recall waking up in bed as the sun came up and seeing the sunbeams flickering through the cracks of the old house and dust devils dancing in the streams of light.

Grandma had only one coal heating stove, in the living room, so sharing the big bed with the other children kept me warm all night. She also had a coal cooking stove and each Saturday water was boiled on it and poured into a large wash tub where, one by one, we kids took baths.

Everyone in my family, from aunts and uncles to my two grandmas, loved to talk and tell stories. Maybe my ability to share stories and become a reporter started on the front porch in that little house where we’d sit with our legs over the ledge and listen to each other take the stage in the front yard and tell made-up stories to the family.

I never thought of being poor back then; we all ate well from groceries, the garden, and the animals we raised or hunted. We never thought anything of using the outhouse and don’t remember seeing an indoor bathroom until I started first grade.

Like many country kids, our cousins were our first friends and I’m still in touch with some of the many cousins. We share those stories and, until recent years, had occasional “Cousin Reunions.”

I often visited my grandmother’s house after we moved away to the nearby town and before and after the move I loved to explore the mountain behind my grandma’s house, venturing up old paths, poking into abandoned coal mines and rock shelters, and playing with little cars on the hillside at her house.

I learned a lot about my family history at the knees of my grandmothers. Whether fact or fiction, those stories stayed in my memory through my adult years.

I recall visiting my grandmother with my kids and explaining some of the old country words she used, like “ponder” or “reckon,” to my sons. I also remember how proud she was of me and her other grandchildren.

One of my favorite adult memories of my grandmother is when I gave her a gift wrapped in a newspaper from where I was working.

Growing old allows us to be selective with the memories we share, picking the best ones and sharing them with our families or readers in stories like this one.