- Cullman, Alabama


May 19, 2013


According to the dictionary, the word “nostalgia” describes sentimentality for the past, typically for a period or place with happy personal associations; the state of being homesick. A wistful or excessively sentimental yearning for return to or of some past period or irrecoverable condition.

I knew what it meant, but had never seen what the dictionary said what it meant. I agree with Webster — it is a state of yearning.

These are some of the things I yearn for sometimes on a hot day: The sound of an old screen door creaking open, its rusted spring in need of oil, then slamming as kids rushed out to the constant reminder “Don’t slam that door!”

I miss dirt roads. The kind that curve and wind back on themselves. The ones that have a canopy of trees shading them as if it were a green tunnel down which all kinds of mysteries might lurk.

I miss fishing with a cane pole. My husband feels that I should learn the art of swinging a rod and reel. I feel that it takes the relaxation out of the whole sport.

I miss records. Forty-fives, seventy-eights and thirty-threes…nothing has sounded the same since the eight-track came along. A friend’s son, upon seeing an album for the first time, said, “Cool, Mom! Big CDs!"

I miss the days when summer was so long that you could actually get bored. “Go find something to do!” often came just before, “Don’t slam that screen door!”

I miss, of all things, shelling peas with my aunts and grandmother. Who could have ever told me that I’d say that?

Hearing the round, shiny peas hitting the bottom of those big dish pans and the Snap! Snap! as they were broken, but mostly hearing my grandmother and my aunts talking about the family goings on, or the community news. Just quiet voices, occasional bursts of laughter and a lot of love was shared on those afternoons.

I miss taming kittens in my grandfather’s big barn, and the sound of cows being milked — the first squirts hitting that metal bucket in a two-count rhythm.

I would never have thought I’d miss the smell of school, but I do miss the scent of those yeast rolls they made every Friday. You could catch a whiff all over the building as we changed classes.

What I don’t miss about school is everything else….

Well, it was fun seeing friends everyday — but that was all.

I miss flying kites in a pasture far from electric lines, playing hide and seek, and playing Red Rover. I miss roaming all over my grandparents’ farm with a dog and a couple of cousins, and no one even came looking for us until it was almost dark. I miss laying in the grass and not worrying about getting dirty — my country grandmother was never afraid of dirt the way my mother was.

I’m nostalgic for old country stores – the kind where the owner or his wife would slice bologna and hoop cheese and serve pickled eggs from a jar near the register. The kind of place where old men sat on benches playing checkers or whittling, while trying to out-lie one another.

Where there were shelves stacked to the ceiling with denim jeans and overalls, big jars of penny candy, push-up popsicles and liniment, the cure for all that ailed us kids. I can still smell it right now. (Liniment was what they put on your knees when you were learning to ride a bike, or cut yourself on something in the yard after they told you to go find something to do — and not to slam the screen door…)

I miss climbing trees, building forts and corncob fights from the vantage point of the barn loft. Many a bloody nose resulted from those corn cobfights, but we were tough…and there was always liniment.

I miss feeding my grandmother’s chickens, gathering eggs, and sitting down to the table with various cousins and assorted family members and whoever was visiting. There was never a shortage of food there.

Dinner was a big midday meal, served on a long, tressel-like table, covered in a plastic oilcloth. After the meal, everything was put in the center of it and covered with another cloth until suppertime. No one in my whole family has ever been diagnosed with salmonella or died from eating food left out all day.

I’m nostalgic for a world where people didn’t form a committee before they went to help a neighbor — they just went.

I’m nostalgic for the sound of voices that filled my childhood, saying the most mundane things, like, “Be sure to wash behind your ears,” “Hurry, you are going to miss the bus!” “I told you not to tease that rooster,” “Here, give me that hook, you are going to lose this worm,” and “Don’t slam that screen door!”

I wish I could hear them just one more time…

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