Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Grandmother’s House

As a small child I often spent time with my Grandmother and Granddaddy Daily who lived in the southern reaches of Colbert County, a fair distance from the larger metropolises of Tuscumbia, Muscle Shoals, and Sheffield. Today it might be easy to find the old home place on Daily Loop, but then most of the roads were known only by landmarks. But Granddaddy had no fear and always enjoyed a long ride around the countryside. He always reminded me that every road must come out somewhere so we couldn’t get lost.

I’m not sure my children would easily relate to the way of life we had when visiting Grandmother’s house. Television really didn’t exist there except in years after my early childhood and then only in black and white with only two stations. We really didn’t have need for the television. I must admit I was lucky to have been born just across that famous line in a family’s history where, thanks to modern industry’s movement into the Shoals Area, children became a luxury rather than a necessity. But I was exposed to a way of life that my children will never be able to truly experience.

Many cold nights today we turn up the thermostat and wait for the heater to knock the chill off the room. But at Granddaddy’s house we stepped outside to get another log for the fire while Granddaddy took the iron poker to stir up the ashes for more heat. I would sit back while the fire popped and crackled until it settled into a slow steady burn. After stoking the fire Granddaddy might recede to his chair, pull out his shape note song books, and return to singing those comforting old gospel songs that stay with you for a lifetime. I would sit back and watch the fire dance while remembering the game of checkers Granddaddy had played with me earlier. Checkers was a definite favorite of his when work had ended and some time was available. His songs slowly lulled me to sleep until I wandered slowly into the back bedroom crawling under the stack of feather quilts and snuggling to the warmth they soon captured.

Now I am quite certain Grandmother had heard us pass away the late evening, but she had already gone to bed because her day always started early. I can only imagine it was a routine she developed long before I came into this world. For a working woodsman family breakfast was the meal meant to carry you through an entire day of hard work. Just before daylight Granddaddy might stoke the fire one more time or get a fresh log. Soon after Granddaddy had the fire going Grandmother would head to the kitchen where she prepared the main meal of the day.

Breakfast often consisted of bacon, fried eggs, and biscuits. However for me the eggs had to be scrambled. A little bacon grease always kept the iron skillet well seasoned. I never really took to fried eggs which is probably a missing part of my Southern upbringing. Rest assured I didn’t miss the biscuits, homemade all the way down to the sifted flour and the rolling pin. The smell couldn’t help but draw you out of those feather quilts no matter how cold the room. I quickly dressed and ventured into the kitchen where I joined Granddaddy at the table near Grandmother’s cooking. While I might drink a cold glass of milk, Granddaddy always had his concoction of coffee and sugar into which he would dip his biscuits. I always got the maple syrup. Jelly just wasn’t part of those breakfasts.

While many modern restaurants carry recipes that often mimic those breakfasts, none hold the true taste of home. That taste warmed my mornings and carried me through a day of adventure. That taste was honed through years of the necessity to carry many people through hard times and hard work. Those memories bring much comfort. Today we sit down to our microwaved precooked breakfast nuggets and watch the latest news or weather on our 140 channel cable or satellite connected color television. Hopefully we gain enough nutrition to make it through that traffic jam on the way to work.