Captola’s House

captolaThere is always a best in any category. This includes places where we find our most joy. Mine was my grandmother’s old two-bedroom house in a teeny town in rural Arkansas. Ironically, I never knew it when I could go there. But now that she is passed and the house sold, I realize what it meant to me.

My Grandmother was such an amazingly strong woman. My grandfather had serious mental problems as a result of what happened to him in WWII. He was often non-functioning or just too drunk. They had 9 daughters and lived on a sharecroppers farm in rural Arkansas. If you’ve seen Walk the Line or The Painted House, that’s exactly the area, and the time-frame that my parents were raised. My grandmother worked all day as a seamstress, then came home and worked in the gardens, or the fields, and cooked dinner and cared for the house and raised her 9 daughters. Yet was always kind to everyone, always had love and patience to share. When my grandfather passed of a heart-attack, my grandmother was only 46. She put herself through college, and obtained a teaching certificate age 50, then taught Special Education until she had to retire for health reasons at 65.

Her family consisted of 9 daughters, spouses, 20 grandkids-some with spouses, 15 great-grandkids, with 2 more on the way, my cousin and I were both pregnant when she passed. I did end up losing that baby just a couple weeks after her death, but I think he was sent to be with her, so she wouldn’t be apart from all her family. Even as large as her family was, her funeral was standing room only. The funeral home notified us that they didn’t have room enough for everyone they expected and suggested we move it to the Baptist Church which had far more seating available, and yet people were lined up along the walls in back and up the sides of the aisles.

At her funeral I realized that her love and patience wasn’t just reserved for her family; even though we were an army by ourselves. After the formal part of the funeral was over, the Pastor opened the floor for people to give remembrances of my grandmother. Our whole family was shocked and amazed at these stories about her. One that particularly stands out in my mind is that a very poor girl got an opportunity to attend the University on scholarship, yet her family had nothing to help her with books or spending money. As little as my grandmother had, she sent this girl $20 a month just so she could get those little extras she needed. There were other stories of how she would tutor children for free, or be available to give someone a ride to a doctors appointment or church, never expecting a thing in return. We never knew just how much she was giving to those around us. We knew how much she was giving to us, and I think couldn’t fathom how much more she had to give.

Usually when we would visit, having lived in Michigan at the time, it would be a holiday, and so everyone would be there. The house was full to bursting with family cooking, eating, laughing, playing games, talking and just enjoying each other. A certain smell sticks out in my mind, with so many people there was constant dishes to be washed, and my grandmother always used lemon joy. It this smell I most remember from her home, the way it mixed with the water and the cheap plastic cups we drank from, created the smell I still associate with comfort to this day. (Luckily, I’ve been able to find a scent almost exact in a bath gel).

As wonderful as these family gatherings sound. There is one time that stands out the most. My (now-ex) husband was on his first deployment to Afghanistan in 2002. I didn’t have my house then, and was alone here in NC, so I went to spend some time with her. I got two-weeks with her, just her, not sharing her with the brood. We just existed peacefully together, cooking meals, reading silently, battling at Scrabble (she is the one person who really gave me a run for my money) and talking. I got to learn things about her I never knew. I got to see into her heart, hear her struggles, listen to her life story. It is still the most peaceful time in my life.

As if all this wasn’t enough, there is another reason why her home particularly represents a haven to me. The contrast with my father’s family. My parents never knew how I had suffered sexual abuse at the hands of this family, because I never told them. I remember crying and begging not be made to go, only to be lectured that family is family and I must show them love and respect too. (Later when I was 13 and told my parents about what happened when I was younger, I was never forced to go again). Returning again to Grandmother Curry’s home was always a place of safety.

Now that my life is in turmoil again. My husband’s infidelity and our subsequent divorce, my ongoing health issues, raising an autistic child alone, and being unable to find a job, I’ve been finding myself revisiting my grandmother’s house in my dreams at night. At first she was there, and for a while now she hasn’t been there in the dreams, just the house.

My soul longs for the simple love and acceptance I had there. It longs for the haven it was from my worst nightmares. I want to be as peaceful as it was laying in bed at night at her house, content, listening to the songs of the cicadas as I drifted off to sleep.

But mostly my heart longs for the woman who I have always wanted to emulate.

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12 Responses to “Captola’s House”

  1. Casdok Says:

    Such a moving post and beautifuly writen.
    I hope your soul finds the things you are searching.

  2. Brent Says:

    You have real depth and feeling. You are a very good writer, and I’d like to keep up with this more. Very much so. I like it. It sounds like the makings of a good book, M.

  3. Rachel Says:

    What a beautiful, heartfelt tribute to your grandmother. Some of it even gave me the chills. Like you, I’m a survivor, and my grandmother (and my grandfather) were my haven in a comfortless world. My grandmother was a very loving, giving person, even though she had endured many disappointments and hardships in life.

    It’s wonderful to think of her tonight. Thank you for your post.

  4. Melissa Says:

    Thank you Rachel, Brent and Casdok for your encouraging words. I have been apprehensive about blogging because I felt I had nothing to say. You guys make me feel good!

  5. gina long Says:

    Missy this was wonderfully written. I to am a survivor. It took a long time to say that. Your grandmother was a wonderful woman she opened her heart and home to anyone who needed it. Great job!

  6. Rikki Leigh Says:

    Missy, what a beautiful illustration of life, endurance, and resillience. Grandma was and is by far the most influential person in my life. Reading your story and memories were both heartbreaking and joyful. As the reader I was able to connect to your story on such a personal level. And not just because of some of those shared moments, but because of the true vulnerability.

    I have many special moments and memories and while not facing the same challenges, us Curry women have definitely got the genetic make-up for survivial and making the best of whatever situation we face.

    I hope that one day our fates bring us closer to one another – geograhically and hope you are compelled to share more of your experiences, however painful, joyful, or difficult. Fear is not something you will find here – on these pages, with these people, you will always be safe.

    Thank you for sharing your story with us all! I look forward to reading more when/if you are ready to share it.

  7. Rikki Leigh Says:

    It would probably be a good thing If I didn’t post things when I’m being interrupted with “Mom” questions. Can you say “spell check”.

    • Melissa Says:

      lol..I’m rarely fussed about spelling. I didn’t even notice it in your comment to be honest.

      Also you have a much different experience with Grandma and her house than I do, seeing as you lived there for so long. I’d love to hear your perspective more as well.

    • Rikki Leigh Says:

      I do have a different experience, I had nearly three year with her, and she was very influential in a great deal of things. I find myself saying things to Austin and Mackenzie she once said to me. It it crazy.

      Grandma would wrap both of you in love and with one hug, she’d make even your hearts smile.

  8. Melissa Says:

    I still can’t even read this without crying, and I wrote it.

    I was sitting here going back over it and the comments, and wishing she could meet Cade.

  9. deepti Says:

    Beautiful post! I had tears when I finished reading it..I am from a different country and culture but I identify so much with all your emotions..it proves their is only one religion ..and that is humanity!

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