Bill used to think it was just a childhood dream that somehow stuck in his memory. It was a miserably sultry day, perhaps late spring or early summer, and they were riding in the old ’47 Plymouth with the suicide doors in back. All the windows were down and the wings were cut full in, but it still felt like an oven in the old car. The mohair upholstery made it seem all the hotter as he sunk into the prickly, itchy stuff there in the back seat between his Grandpa Roose and his Grandma Helena. His sister, Agnes, was in the front seat between his dad, who was driving, and his mom, who was sitting on the passenger side.
Somehow, Bill knew that they were heading for Race, West Virginia, just below Spence, the county seat of Sorrel County. That would have meant that they were going to visit his mom’s Aunt Dovie, his Grandma Helena’s sister. Strangely, he didn’t remember being at Aunt Dovie’s that day, though he was sure they made it. What he did remember was driving up a gravel road that skirted the right side of a narrow little valley. They then turned left across a small run and pulled up to the left side of a small, white, well-kept frame house with flowers growing in a row around both sides and the front of the house. His dad parked the Plymouth behind two other cars that somehow gave the impression of not being native to the homestead (perhaps due to the fact that the driveway ended at an open-sided shed covering an old pickup truck).
A small group of old folks came from behind the house and shook, hugged and howdied all around with his folks, his grandparents and him and Agnes. They then led the group back behind the house and under a covered breezeway that spanned the distance between the back door of the house and a cellar that was dug into the hill, perhaps 16 feet from the house. Unfolding a few of those cheap aluminum and nylon lawn chairs that took the country by storm in the late 50’s, they asked them to sit a spell. Once they were all settled in, the eldest lady took orders for lemonade, iced tea or ice water and disappeared into the kitchen just inside the back door. She soon re-emerged with a tray of tall sweating glasses full of cold drinks which they all appreciatively drank down entirely too quickly to be considered mannerly. But, it was hot and their hostess laughed with them more than at them.
In spite of the heat, there was a slight breeze coming up the valley and sitting there in the shade of the breezeway, refilled drinks in hand, it actually seemed comfortable. At least Bill wasn’t sitting on mohair! Listening to the older folks visit, he looked with interest at the unusual moss growing from between the rocks in the dry-laid stone wall on either side of the wet-laid stone cellar. The moss was covered with yellow blooms and the honeybees were working the blossoms energetically. They were there for what seemed like a long while to Bill; then they loaded themselves back into the old Plymouth and headed home. Bill’s memory of the dream stopped there; just like he didn’t remember being at Aunt Dovie’s.
It was over four decades later that Bill finally found out the truth of the matter. He and his wife had taken his mother down to Race on a Sunday drive. They stopped at a couple cemeteries and drove by the place where his Aunt Dovie’s house used to be (his mom had lived there with her folks a few years before Aunt Dovie bought it.). They also stopped a few seconds in front of the house where her paternal grandparents had lived when she was a kid. Then, she asked if he’d mind taking her to one more cemetery before they headed home.
As they traveled along the country road, Bill told her of his “dream” and asked if there was any such place. He saw a strange look on her face in the rearview mirror as she said, “Well, you’ve just described Uncle John’s place perfectly, but you were never there!” (Uncle John was a brother to her paternal grandmother.)
“Do you have any pictures of it?” he asked.
“Not a one.”
“Have I ever seen a color picture of the place anywhere else, like at Uncle Clarence’s, maybe?” (Clarence was his mom’s brother.)
“No,” she replied, “any pictures he would have taken of the place would have been from before he went in the Navy. He only took black and whites at that time, because color film back then wasn’t what it was cracked up to be.”
“Then, barring psychic abilities, how could I describe the place so perfectly, right down to the lawn chairs, lemonade and yellow moss blossoms if I’ve never been there?”
“Well, let me think about that.” She replied. A few seconds later she admitted that they’d been there the April before his second birthday, which fell in June. “But, you couldn’t remember back that far!” she added.
“Sounds like I just did.” he said, as he smiled at her in the mirror.
Not five minutes later, his mom said quickly, “Stop in front of this next house!” As Bill brought the car to a stop, she pointed to the left and explained that the place he’d described had been up the hollow behind the brick ranch house which sat spanning a narrow hollow from side to side. When he asked how there could be room for such a place as he’d described in such a narrow hollow, she told me that the hollow widened out considerably after the first hundred yards or so. Looking at her in the mirror, he saw one lone tear run down her cheek and realized that, except for his sister, everyone who’d visited happily with one another on that long ago day now lay in their grave, except for he and his mom.
As they rode along silently for the next few miles, he remembered thinking that his life hadn’t really begun on the date given on his birth certificate. His presence in this world was only making memories for others until that day up the little hollow in Sorrel County. That was his first lasting memory, the one that, for some reason, survived all others prior to that time. So, he figure that his life really began when they went to Uncle John’s on that hot April day long ago—the day they sipped cool drinks in the breezeway at the back of the house and he watched the honeybees flit from blossom to blossom on the moss growing from the stone walls by the cellar. Copyright 2018