Georgia in the springtime
Bell the hound dog
Southern charm and art galleries
Tennis and the swimming pool
Bell was a bad-tempered dog. I mean, we grew up together, in some ways, so she wasn’t too mean to me, or maybe she sensed that in my innocence, I would pamper her. She always ran ahead when Granddaddy took us for walks, and would loops back around, nearly knocking me over and scaring me half to death in the dark woods.
My southern accent disappeared, but it struggles to come out from hiding when I am with these relatives. Natives of Alabama, Tennessee, and Georgia, half of the family still has the Southern roots strongly grounded in the soil…atheistic roots, for the most part, which made things interesting at times.
Granddaddy and Grandmommy met in art school after World War II, and they made a living on their art throughout their lives. Granddaddy did illustrations and portraits, Grandmommy painted landscapes. Our home is filled with their paintings and drawings.
The creek and trees behind their house used to be a dark, cool place full of mystery, but housing developers turned that magical place into a sad stand of pine trees as I grew older. We caught crawfish and threw them back, and I will never forget my awe at a tire wrapped around a big old tree.
Everything in their house has been in the same place for the last 40 years. I can still remember where the phone books are, the cereal, the board games, and the cookie drawer. The furniture is in mostly the same configuration in their ranch home on the top of the hill.
We would play with the neighbor’s kids, and in the summers go to the neighborhood pool, where Grandmommy swam and Granddaddy played tennis. They did this into their 80s. They had their 50th Anniversary in the clubhouse there.
Dinner table discussions could almost be guaranteed to turn into a minor debate or intellectual discussion of some kind. I mostly learned to hold my own, but have never gotten over my dislike of contention, and so did not enjoy them as much as others may have.
I can’t draw. A cousin recently told me, “This monkey does NOT look like a monkey.” Hey, best I could do, kid. I didn’t inherit the ability to capture life on canvas. My uncle taught me to whistle through my teeth and quack like a duck…thanks for passing on those skills, they’ve been quite handy.
Great-uncle and great-aunt had a wonderful house near a swamp, with a small barn and horses. Great-aunt would let us ride the horses around the field, and I always felt so loved in their home. When they passed away, I mourned them in quiet silence.
Grandmommy painted in the basement, and sometimes I would sneak down the long stairs to sneak looks at unfinished paintings, the bright oil paints smeared on painting boards and brushes, and the pile of animal skulls in the corner that my uncle collected in college.
We always came into the house through the kitchen door. The front door hadn’t been used in so long that there were giant cobwebs around it. Everything was always casual…I don’t remember any sort of formality in all the years we visited.