Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Camden Weekends

(Kicked back, enjoying a weekend in Camden, 1984)

When I was a little girl, I would often visit my grandparents in Camden, Ark. It was a small town where my grandparents once ran a restaurant. My Memaw was a superb cook. Chicken and dumplings. Beef stew. Fried chicken, homemade mashed potatoes and turnip greens. She made meals that stuck to your bones.

During these years, my Papaw was never in good health. He was confined to a chair. And my first task once we piled out of the car, was to run inside and give Papaw a big hug. He was a sweet, tender grandpa who quoted scripture to me and said long prayers before dinner.

I can remember one incident in particular. Papaw had been praying for what seemed like an eternity and Memaw finally chimed in, "You've already thanked God for everything from the covered wagons to the astronauts landing on the moon. Can you just thank him for the food already?" She was funny like that.

Needless to say, I loved these visits. It was a house of mystery and intrigue. There was a storm cellar in the backyard. Living in Louisiana, I'd never seen one of those before, and going near it would always result in the same story. The time a tornado ripped off my grandparents' roof and they lost, among other things, the original Barbie doll, which would be worth lots of money these days. The storm was so bad, Bill Clinton paid Camden a visit. Standing in my grandparents' front yard, my Memaw told him she appreciated his visit, but she wasn't voting for him.

During the weekend visits, there were several things I would always do. I would always try on my mom's sequin majorette uniforms. They swallowed me whole, but I felt like a million bucks — sparkling from head to toe. I would always let my Memaw paint my nails, but only after she finished painting the nails of her black poodle, Goober.

I would always spend hours playing with the preacher's kids who lived across the street despite the fact that they were mean and horrible. I would always sneak the Bonnie and Clyde book off the living room's bookshelf and look at the scary pictures in the middle of the book (more on this later).

I would always walk with my brother up the street to the Piggly Wiggly and get a prize. I would always make my Uncle Steve, who lost part of his thumb on a camping trip, do his magic trick that made part of his finger disappear. I must have been quite naive considering part of his finger was actually missing.

They were the greatest weekends. It was a time before everything got very complicated in my life. I always knew what to expect. Sometimes, I long for days like that. Days where you know exactly what's coming, and it's always something good. Days where your only responsibility is to play with the kids across the street and "be nice." Days that ended with Memaw's fried chicken.

Grandparents' houses are curious places. When you're a kid, you don't question the quirks because they seem normal. Despite all the wacky events, the home of my grandparents (both sets) is one of the safest feeling places I've ever been.

Share your wacky story with me. I know you've got one.


melissa said...

I loved this story! I wish all I had to do everyday was "be nice"!
Oh, the days!

Stephanie Netherton said...

I know, I think my days would be much better.