Four Oaks. Main Street, Austin’s Drug Store. One of the windows displayed the most recent comic books. Betty Pearl, holding my hand, asked which I would like. I spot a Superman and a Woody Woodpecker and a Donald Duck and a Bugs Bunny. “Donald Duck, please, Betty Pearl.” “Yes!” she said. We crossed the railroad tracks, which were blistering hot in the summer noon sun, and I took the comic book home and looked at the pictures and imagined the story until someone later read it to me. Look back, Bill. Go back. Way ago. Sixty years and then two or three years more. Four Oaks.
Lewis Street. Home. Next door Doc Ed and Della and three sons, Bernard, Tom, and Robert. Across the street, Mutt and Goldy and then Mary Hockaday and around the corner Bertha Baker. Doc Ed, who cussed as a matter of being; Della, who made us picture treasure maps and hunts and scared five of us to sleep with the story of the English Ghost; Mary, who had pansies (see their faces?) planted around a tree, who during her illness had to have holes drilled in her head, whose death was my first knowledge of Heaven and people going there; Bertha, who filled the neighborhood with stories and laughter and told me that thunder was Grandma Moses moving furniture around in the clouds, that when it rained while the sun was shining the devil was beating his wife; Mutt, who frying fish in the garage acorss the yard from their house, offered the five of us fried fish tails and threatened, as he held up his fish kinfie, to cut off our ding-a-lings if we bothered him. Goldy, who putting her pies on benches on the patio to cool, added five small pies for us, to keep us from raiding her big pies. Mutt and Goldy, friends to neighbor children. Our back yard, scenes of adventures of Flash Gordon on Mars, hiding treasure, playing at circus, swinging high and jumping off, pine cone wars. Look back, Bill. Go back. Way ago. Sixty years and then one or two years more. Four Oaks.
The Methodist Church. The yard at Easter Egg hunt time. The moss-grown and -smelling steps that led to basement Sunday School. “You better watch out for Mrs. Jackson. She’ll paddle you good if you cut up in there.” The frowning woman who pounded the piano to provide us songs to sing: “Jesus loves me, this I know,” “Jesus loves the little children / All the children of the world,” “Onward, Christian soldiers, marching as to war.” Vacation Bible School, coloring Bible story pictures, listening to boring stories, doing crafts with glue and scissors and construction paper. Look back. Go back, Bill. Way ago. Sixty years and then two or three more. Four Oaks.
The Cemetery. Walk there now. Marker stones for Doc Ed and Della and two of their sons, Tom and Robert, peer-friends, dead too early. Dead at eighteen and at thirty-one. Carlyle and Betty Pearl. Where are Mutt and Goldy? Here in me, where everything is. Look back, Bill. Go back. Way ago. Sixty years and then two or three years more. Four Oaks.
An old Christmas post card. The card was made by F.A. Owen Co., Dansville, N.Y. The picture on the front is a framed rectangle of overcast sky and two stretches of evergreen woods separated by a river. The colors are green-gray, brown under the four featured evergreens, blue-gray and clear spaces of winter light in the sky. Mistletoe drapes around the sides of this picture and leads to “Christmas Greeting.” There is this part of a poem by Cornwall: “O brave is the laurel! and brave is the holly! But the mistletoe banisheth melancholy.” The message handwritten in black ink on the back is “Dear Edith: Hope this reaches you and that you have a Merry Xmas and Happy New Year. Aunt Althea.” It is addressed to Miss Edith Reeves. There is no mailing address, and it is obvious that the card was never stamped and mailed. There’s a story there, should we care to write it.
A Christmas Remembrances. My grandfather, Pop, takes me to the Christmas pageant at Centenary Methodist Church in Smithfield. I know the story, and I am enjoying watching its presentation up at the altar area. I’m small. I’m standing on the pew to see. Suddenly, I hear a rustling in the aisle beside me. I look to see an angel standing there. I am struck with awe, “sore afraid,” almost speechless. I turn to Pop, with what must have been a look of wonder and amazement, and I manage to whisper, “Pop!” as I point to the angel. He sees the angel, looks at me, smiles, nods his head and leaves me in absolute amazement and wonder.
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