As we near the holidays, I am always reminded of days past. Of a time when life was much more simple, with less stress and a calendar that was not near as crowded. Ever feel this way, too?
As a youngster I can remember Thanksgiving morning always held a special tradition I will never forget. My brothers and I would wake up early, my Dad would dig out his hunting coat and we would travel up to my grandparents house outside of Danville to go rabbit hunting. We never usually saw anything, but it was the time together and the joy of shooting those shotguns at nothing but air, the smell of gunpowder and the noise my Dad’s coat made as we trudged through the small woods. It is amazing how the senses can bring back memories that seem to fade through time.
We longed to be a grown up when we were little. To have a driver’s license or to go out on our first date. I can also remember begging my big brother Mike to take me “cruising” with him for the first time. Yes I know, that was a dreaded word in Hillsboro, but those were things we always dreamed of doing. I can remember my parents taking us on a special trip one time. They kept it a secret from us, and we could barely contain ourselves. We didn’t typically go on trips. My Dad was a farmer and my Mom was a domestic engineer, as some put it now, so we typically stayed pretty close to home. But this trip was different. We were headed to the big city – Cincinnati. We typically only made it to the city for Straight A Reds games. Remember those days?
So, as we made our way to Cincinnati my Dad spilled the beans. We were headed to what is now US Bank Arena to watch an indoor tractor pull. We were beyond ecstatic. We grew up farming and tractor pulling, so this was right down our alley. They even bought us shirts at the event. Looking back, I wonder where my parents got the money to afford such a gift. As a parent now, I realize that money tends to be hard to find some days.
The simple life seems like a long way away these days — almost like it doesn’t exist.
Another memory from yesteryear takes me back to Sundays at my grandparents’ home in Sugar Tree Ridge. As I mentioned in a previous article, Harry and Marie Emery were my Mom’s parents. Every Sunday we would attend church at the Sugar Tree Ridge Church of Christ, then we would walk down the hill and to grandma’s house we would go. Many of my Mom’s family would gather there for Sunday dinner. We all crammed into that house that still stands today, and there would be laughter, storytelling, arguing, great, and I mean great, food, snoring, and eventually some very intense games of volleyball in the yard. This was at a time when Sunday’s were much less busy. I would typically retire to the hammock in the front yard under the maple trees.
As typical with big families, several of the Emery clan lived farther away. One particular funny story involved my aunt and uncle from Elizabethton, Tenn. They had traveled north to visit with my grandparents and the rest of the family one week. As tradition would have it, we typically ordered steak hoagies (or as they called them strombolis) when they were visiting. I am guessing this was cuisine they didn’t have in Tennessee yet. So, they called a local restaurant in Hillsboro, and my Dad and my uncle ordered a very large order of hoagies for my very large extended family.
My Dad and uncle traveled to Hillsboro from the Ridge to pick up the hoagies, and you won’t believe what happened — they didn’t make them. Interestingly enough, my uncle and aunt happened to be named John and Mary Smith. See the irony? A very large order of hoagies in the name of one of the most common names in the USA. Needless to say, my Dad and uncle John didn’t find it funny that the store thought it to be a prank. I do now. The aforementioned restaurant made good on the order and they were the best hoagies ever. They were just a little late getting to their destination.
Another childhood memory involved traveling up the road with my father to get milk from the Davidson Dairy Farm. We had two glass gallon jugs, and Dad would walk into the milk parlor, dip that pitcher into that big tank and out would come the most beautiful smell possible — fresh farm milk. Dad would put the money under the phone and we would be on our way. Every day as I travel by the dairy farm still in existence today I don’t smell what others do — the not-so-good smell that typically comes along with cows. Even on the hottest summer day I smell that rich fragrance of fresh milk and see my Dad dipping it out of that stainless tank. The worst smell can’t erase that memory of a wonderful moment in time.
I find family to be as important today as I seemed to take it for granted as a youngster. We chase our children from place to place, from sport to sport and event to event. We work our lives away searching for that next promotion or we bury ourselves in our phones or tablets only to miss the things that are most important to us — each other.
I entitled this article after a song. It was from a song I heard when I was a youngster from an artist by the name of Sandi Patty. Some of the lyrics go like this:
I’ve always heard there is a land; Beyond the mortal dreams of man; Where every tear will be left behind; But it must be in another time.
There’ll be an everlasting light; Shining a purest holy white; And every fear will be erased; But it must be in another place.
Another time and another place.
As we enter this holiday season, may your mind be taken back to a time that was much more simple for you. Let’s focus our thoughts and time on a more simple life — days past, where family was more than just a title. I hope some of the simple stories from my childhood spark some wonderful memories from a more simple time in your life, a time that seems so far away, yet just at the tip of our fingers.
Chad E. McConnaughey is the Highland County recorder.