As we grow, if we are fortunate, we put our roots deep into the deep, rich soil of life. We anchor ourselves in the lessons we have learned. No matter how far away the branches of our limbs reach, we are still anchored, still attached…to home.
As I’ve gotten older, old, I find myself slowly meandering back toward my roots, the memories, the lessons, the people of a place that no longer exists. Not true, it exists quite clearly in my mind.
I was triggered by a rerun of an episode of The Waltons. John Boy reads an editorial he had written that spoke to family roots and the destruction of an old home in the name of progress. Before the quote was completed and fully formed in my mind, I was wondering why progress seems to create so much destruction.
Once more, my broken kaleidoscope of a mind sent me down a pathway toward home, a home that only exists in my mind. A home that was destroyed in the name of progress. A dusty dirt road, a white clapboard house with hip roofs sitting on a hill, a wide front porch, gently rolling fields of hay and stands of pine trees, people and places gone but not forgotten.
The often-quoted African proverb, “It takes a village to raise a child” comes to my mind. It was true in the 1950s and 1960s as I grew up and may still be true in some isolated areas. Unfortunately, the villages have been swallowed up by a monster named Urban Sprawl and the changes in the world we live in have destroyed extended and nuclear families and the pearls of wisdom they might have imparted.
Growing up on my particular wide place in the road, I was surrounded by family on all sides…it seemed I was related to everyone. Aunts, uncles, and cousins from one side of the family on a hill beside us, aunts, uncles, and cousins from the other side of the family on the hill opposite. My grandparent’s home sat on a hill above us…looking down to protect and teach lessons for a lifetime.
Further on up or down the road, more family. On a five or six-mile stretch of highway between my grandparent’s home and my great grandparent’s home it seemed every other house was occupied by a family member, some distantly related, others more closely. Cousins, aunts and uncles, family friends, all intent upon raising all the village children.
As I moved into my dating years a discussion of who might have been on my family tree was a must it seemed. Even then I sometimes went out with distant female cousins. The pool of eligible consorts was very, very small.
The area east of a western meander by the Catawba was sprinkled with small villages. Most took the name of the church that was close by…or maybe the opposite, the church took the village’s name. Belair, Pleasant Hill or Pleasant Valley, Osceola, Steel Hill. In addition to the church, usually, there would be a small general store to serve the smattering of homes around it. These communities tended to overlap and were a part of a bigger area named Indian Land.
There were names like Yarbrough Town or Camp Cox and six or seven miles to the southeast, a true village, Van Wyche. Northeast there was the town of Fort Mill and right across the river, a true city, Rock Hill. Additional family members had settled there, raising us too.
When I was young, I didn’t appreciate the “village raising the child.” It seemed any news of trouble I might have gotten into traveled at light speed, alerting my parents or grandparents before I got home. Punishment would be quick and decisive…more often than not, it was well deserved. “Whatever you get at school, you’ll get double at home.”
I’m sure time has softened the focus of those days…maybe my memories are of a time I wished to be rather than was. The front porch probably wasn’t quite as big as I remember but the roots of my family tree have dug deeper into the fertile ground I remember.
The villages are gone, and family dynamics have changed. Monsters and socioeconomics have changed them. Few parents can make ends meet on a single salary; others find themselves working multiple jobs. Latch key children and helicopter parents are a rule, no longer the exception. Child care is expensive and does little for family dynamics.
Grandparents are working longer and can’t provide or are unwilling to provide the safety net my grandparents provided. We are unable to go back to those “thrilling days of yesteryear” but must somehow realize children don’t raise themselves.
I’ve got to do a better job of imparting my own lessons. Actions over words, practice what you preach. I have grandchildren who are growing up too fast. I feel I have been somewhat absent, an absence they can’t afford…I can’t afford. I’m not a village but I have lessons to be taught, stories to be told. I hope there is still time to teach and to tell…time to impart wisdom and lessons. Past time to help them put roots into fertile ground.
“Work for a cause, not for applause. Remember to live your life to express, not to impress, don’t strive to make your presence noticed, just make your absence felt.” —Gail Lictenstein
Don Miller, a retired teacher, and coach writes on various subjects. His author’s page may be found at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM
The interesting image is a drawing by Jillian Deluca and may be purchased at https://www.saatchiart.com/print/Drawing-Deep-Roots/985383/3619990/view