My Home of Yesteryear
by Mary White
Situated on the bend of a horseshoe-shaped dirt road that intersects a back country highway is the place I called home as a child. Here my elderly father raised his two girls without the help or companionship of a wife.
The house is set back about 200 feet from the road, and as we saunter up the narrow dirt pathway, lined with neat rows of flamboyant orange gladiolas on each side, the tidy appearance of the small, unpainted frame house entices us to enter. Up the steps and onto the porch, we can't help but notice a high-backed rocker on one side and a bench worn smooth by age on the other. Both remind us of the many vesper hours spent here in the absence of modern-day entertainment.
Turning the door knob and entering the parlor is like taking a step back in time. There is no lock on the door and no curtains on the windows, only shades yellowed with age, to be pulled down at night--as if you needed privacy out here in the boondocks. Dad's big over-stuffed armchair is set beside the well-stocked bookcase where he enjoys passing a hot afternoon with a good book. His bed, an old army cot, serves as a couch when company comes. One lone plaque with the words "Home, Sweet Home" adorns the wall over the mantelpiece.
Just to the left is a doorway, minus a door, beckoning us to investigate the aroma drifting our way. As we step into the kitchen we are overtaken by the rich smell of freshly baked bread. Dad is removing the loaves from the belly of Old Bessie, our coal-burning cookstove. He leaves them to cool in neat rows on our homemade plank table.
Turning toward the back door, we see an honest-to-goodness ice box, and yes, there's a genuine silver quarter for the ice man to take in exchange for 50 pounds of dripping ice. I can picture him now as he snatches the tongs tightly into the frozen block, causing tiny slivers of sparkling ice to fly everywhere. Swinging it down off the back of his chug-a-lug of a truck and instantly throwing his other arm up to keep his balance, he staggers with his load toward the back door. Hoisting the block of ice into place, he gives a long, loud sigh of relief and drops the shiny quarter into his pocket.
Stepping outside the back door, we suddenly realize there is no running water in the kitchen, for here stands the only water pipe around. The galvanized tubs, set upside down by the steps, indicate that here is where most of the bathing occurs. A little footpath leads us to a hand pump, somewhat rusty but still providing a cool refreshing drink--if we can prime the pump. As Dad douses its rusty throat with water, it gurgles for a minute or two, then belches back a flood of sparkling clear spring water, free from the chemicals the law requires of modern water systems. But the pathway doesn't stop here. It winds on out behind a dilapidated shack. No imagination is needed to know where it ends.
As dusk approaches we must slip around to the front porch and relax as we enjoy a country sunset. The sky is absolutely breathtaking with its soft ribbons of orange and violet. The sun, ablaze with beauty, casts our long shadows across the porch and onto the wall behind us. Everywhere nature is praising its Maker and singing its night songs. Off in the distance the whip-poor-wills are just starting their nightly lamentations. The crickets and frogs join in while bats dart overhead in search of a juicy tidbit for breakfast. Bats, you see, begin their day at sunset. The house itself joins in the chorus with its creaks and cracks of contraction as the coolness of the evening settles around us.
Indeed, a visit to the old homeplace brings back many fond memories, almost making us wish we could turn back the clock to enjoy a few moments of peace and innocence.
For practice in re-creating the sentences in Mary's essay, see Sentence Combining: My Home of Yesteryear.