Magic in a Young Girl’s Heart
My father’s father was called “Pa” by all of his grandchildren. I was the first of thirteen who would call him that name. Rural Virginia was where he and my Granny called home. It was a magical place.
Every summer, during the 50’s, our family would pile into our dependable blue and white Chevrolet and drive north. Leaving before dawn, while the world was sleeping, held a sense of enchantment and wonder. This was before interstate highways and it would mean ten hours of close personal contact with my younger siblings.
These weeklong visits with my grandparents were an occasion for all of the aunts, uncles and cousins to descend upon their comfortable farmhouse. I can still call up the smell of black-eyed peas and stewed tomatoes. Pa’s special contribution was hot buttered yeast rolls.
A few miles before reaching Drakes Branch, my father would joke about the real name of the town being “Duck’s Puddle”. This confused my younger brother and I, but we knew enough not to argue or question.
Then Dad would go into his speech about how children should be seen and not heard. He would sternly remind us that Pa had suffered several heart attacks and we should stay out of his way. Then came the last instruction. When we pulled into the driveway, my brother and I were told to immediately run around the house three times and get all that noise out of us.
As we arrived, Granny and Pa would emerge through the screen door and stand waiting on the long covered porch that spanned the front of the house. Mom carried my baby sister and Dad hauled heavy suitcases as he and Pa brushed by each other with a gruff nod.
Perhaps Pa’s heart had been beaten down by the task of raising five children during the depression. His relationship with his only son, my father, was estranged at best. Yet Pa would welcome me into his arms after the obligatory running around the house.
Soon, when everyone was settled, he would invite me out to the backyard. Sitting by the old tool shed, with the red clay of Virginia beneath our feet, my grandfather taught me to whittle. He shared the wonder of creating something beautiful from what appeared to be nothing but a discarded scrap.
I believe that an old man with a broken heart can nurture a young girl’s magical spirit with quiet attention and by handing her a stick of wood and a very sharp knife.
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