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Thursday, 18 March 2010

The Little Brown Wooden Box

By Mary B Summerlin who keeps a photostream at Flickr

Grandpa McGee died when I was five years old.
I have a few, very select memories of him.

I remember:
Sitting in the well house door eating raw peanuts. We lived on a southern farm and grew peanuts. When it was time, the whole plant was pulled up, piled on a wagon and taken to the barn. There they were piled on the ground near the well house door. Grandpa and I were picking the peanuts off the plant and putting them in a bucket. Of course, about as many went into our mouths as in the bucket. I remember Grandpa telling me not to eat too many because they would give me a belly ache.

I remember:
Walking down the garden rows with Grandpa. He would stop every so often, look over a plant, pull off two leaves – one for himself and one for me. We would walk, eat and inspect the garden.

I can still see big Grandpa and little me. I can still feel the warm feeling of being with Grandpa. I can still remember being curious and interested in what he was doing. I can feel his serenity.

I remember:
Walking on the path from the house to the barn. A wasp was on the path. It seemed to me that every way I moved to get around him, he moved that way too. I couldn’t get past. I began to cry.

Grandpa came from the barn, picked me up and over the terrible monster. He held me for a minute, put me down and we began our walk – together.

I remember:
A pantry in our house – one with many shelves and bins. My mother always kept it full of canned goods, staples and on the top shelves - special things. I loved to go into the pantry and wonder what all the things were and what they were used for.

I would stand there in the middle and slowly turn around – looking at everything. One of my favorites was a little brown wooden box. When I asked what it was, I was told that it was Grandpa’s and he kept special things in it. The answer was given in a manner that said the subject was closed. I never saw it moved.

Some years ago when my mother was in her early 80s and the pantry was really being cleaned out, my mother said, “Mary Elizabeth, do you want Papa’s old box?” Of course I did!

Now I use the little brown box to hold props for my storytelling gigs – a nesting doll, a ghost made out of Kleenex, a dog biscuit, a felt mouse, a painted stone (like a house), etc. So, the box and Grandpa are still a big part of my life.

His life and values left an early imprint on me, an impressionable young child. The little brown wooden box is my touchstone with my Grandpa, anytime I touch it I feel him near.

Grandpa McGee died when I was 5 years old.

Little Brown Wooden Box

[INVITATION: All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. They can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, memoir, etc. Instructions for submitting are here.]

Posted by Ronni Bennett at 02:30 AM | Permalink | Email this post


Mary, what beautiful memories. I love the way you wrote them up, one memory at a time. You said you grew up on a southern farm. Where? As a Southerner myself with a McGee or two or three in my family tree, I'm just wondering.

To memoir writers, one person's nostalgia seems to revive a similar memory from another person. My dad had a small, ordinary metal box in which he kept important papers. The box was on a shelf in a stand by his chair. The box was not locked, but we kids knew it was hands off. Now the box is in my cedar chest, nothing in it but my memory of a note my sister and I put in the box one summer, asking him to buy us a doll we coveted.

Just a beautiful story..I think those quiet times are the ones we all keep forever..I am always sad when people I know say they have no memories before l3 or l4..my 20 year old granddaughter, the first of 6 grands..lived nearby til she was 3 and often writes to me that her only memories of that time are of being with me in my house, listening to old radio tapes and doing puzzles..it makes me happy I knew it was important to have those quiet times with her..As a 22 year old mother of 3 little ones, sort of l,2,3; I didn't know and often feel sad about #1; she was only a baby herself as two "new" babies were brought home..You live and learn, if you are lucky...Stirred many lovely memories of childhood..thanks..Mary Follett

Mary, I think this is my all-time favorite now of your written pieces. Just lovely.

You revived memories of my grandfather. After he retired he used to go around the cottage court with a tool he had made out of a broom handle and a nail. The nail stuck out of the bottom of the handle and he used it to pick up paper that had been blown in or carelessly dropped. I followed him like a lost puppy. He would reward my by going across the street to buy Dixie cups for both of us and we would sit quietly side by side as we enjoyed this special treat.

Grandpas make for happy memories. Thanks for sharing yours with us.

Lovely story.

Thank you for your kind comments. I'm delighted it brought back memories of your Grandpa.

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