Southern Scribe
    our culture of storytelling


 Porch Tale    



A Short Journey


By Pam Gurule


This past weekend I was to meet with old friends who, unlike me, still live near the small mill town we grew up in.

As I was driving down the interstate, my radio playing Christmas music, Big Rigs blowing my doors off as they passed me, I noticed that, by the clock, I was an hour early.

On impulse and at the last minute, I put my turn signal on, and in the manner of all those I regularly cuss, I swerved off I-85 onto the Duncan/Moore exit.

The streets of my long ago childhood, no longer single lanes and mostly empty, lay painted perfectly between a landscape that could not have been imagined by those who once called this place home.

Gone is that sense of open spaces.  Where once you could look out your car window and see fields Indians might have trekked, now buildings crowd the view and each other.

It's not as though I have not been here many times over the years. My family is still in the Lyman/Duncan/Startex area.

Was it the Christmas music that put mind to wandering back to my childhood? Or, was it because I had made a decision the week before to start closing doors to certain rooms in my house of memories? Closed but not locked. Ah, that may be the key to keeping memories from escaping.

They are not "bad" memories. The rooms they dwell in are just too expensive to keep up. So, like rooms you don't use too often, you close the doors.  Emotions can be costly too.

These memories are not content to be shut away.

OK. I decided not to have a fight in my head. Me on one side of the "door" and frightened memories on the other side, pushing so as not to be left in the dark.  It just would give a whole nother meaning to "head banging".

So I drove down side streets that represented my childhood. What was I looking for? What do these memories want of me? I stopped at the bottom of a hill where my family had once lived in the last house on the street. Oh, my God. Did we really live in that tiny house? All eight of us? I had to adjust my glasses, the house was gone.

I pulled into what must have been our driveway. Grass covered all signs of my family's life here.

I got out of the car. Where is the barn we hung a tire from the door rafter to swing in gone? The woods where we played and dammed a creek to swim in?

The old Oak Tree that provided tender shade on those long ago summer evenings? Is that you, I asked a lone wooden statue whose sturdy branches we used to climb trying to reach the winds of imagination that only children feel.

I sit on one of the massive exposed roots.  Leaning back, I feel I am being wrapped in the arms of an old friend.

Echoes of fighting. No, not those memories, please, I whisper. And then I see her. She is so small.  She is walking towards the field with her dog. Her best childhood companion.  The hurtful sounds of bitterness and damaged hopes fade and disappear the further she goes. Soon they won't be able to reach her. Soon she will be free of them, for a while.

I feel beneath me the ground of my childhood. I realize that, although I have not traveled far from the dirt I was born in, I am miles and miles removed from that small girl.

She is no longer visible. Too short to be seen over the tall grasses.

Standing, I understand now that my dreams were born here. That they are still here, right where I left them. In fields of innocence.

I get back in my car. I drive back up to Main Street and head towards I-85 to continue on my way to visit old friends.

I won't forget you, I whisper. Just let me close the door for a while.

Our porch photo is of Wallow Lodge on Sapelo Island, Georgia.

Pam Gurule is a native of South Carolina. She has loved to "tell stories" since early childhood. In grammar school, she told after lunch stories while the class rested a bit. Making them up as she went along. Today, Pam continues to tell stories. Her inspiration comes from living in South Carolina with her two sons, one daughter and one granddaughter. She has worked for Ma Bell for 35 years and now is on the Headquarters Staff.
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2005, Pam Gurule, All Rights Reserved