Despite what my children may tell you, I was not born during the Colonial period, but growing up in the Tidewater region of Virginia did give me a definite connection to history. I was afforded a unique perspective of life as it is and life as it was. After all, Pocahontas (“Girl-who-likes-to-frolic-and-play”) grew up there, too.
The life of Pocahontas was much more adventurous than mine. Read her real biography when you get the chance. In her short time on earth that girl covered a lot of territory. Pleading for the life of Captain John Smith was only one of her desperate moments.
As a teenager she was kidnapped and held hostage by colonists. She had a bit of a set-to with her father, Chief Powhatan, (OK, she really let him have it!) when she realized he valued her life less than the tools and weapons demanded by the ransom. So she decided to stay with her English captors! Placed under the tutelage of a Christian pastor, she was won to Christ. Feisty young girl redeemed by the blood of the Lamb!
My father used to tell me about the Guineamen, the watermen of Gloucester County. They were isolated, tended to marry among themselves, and had a language of their own. Guinea talk included words like boughshes (pronounced bowshes), instead of bushes. And the ultimate commitment query: “Is you is, or is you ain’t?”
One of my sisters was born in Bena, right in the heart of Guinea territory. My brother was born nearby in Ordinary. Thrust into the Guinea culture when they moved there in 1939, Mother and Daddy learned a few things — one of which was a little ritual they liked to perform in Guinea talk.
When I was about so high, Daddy would come into the kitchen, put his hands on Mother’s waist and ask, “Love I, Hon?”
My mother answered shyly, “ ‘Course I does.”
To which he replied, “Kiss I then.”
Just as they started to embrace, I would scurry to get right between them and be enveloped in the cuddle. It gave me a feeling of supreme security and protective love. I would twist around and crane my neck between the bellies to watch their lips touch in tender affection. Then Mother would giggle, pretend to protest, and remind him she had to finish cooking dinner. Before they pulled away, they would each hug me tight to confirm I was a part of their love for each other.
Even though I never met them, I cradled a fondness for the Guineamen.
Colonial Williamsburg in the fifties was a perfect place to grow up. President Eisenhower liked to play golf there, so I saw him several times. One time school was dismissed so that we could line the streets and watch him ride through town in an 18th century horse-drawn carriage with the young Queen Elizabeth II of England.
It was a busy tourist town, but a small community. Everybody knew everybody, and you couldn’t get by with anything. We attended the annual lighting of the Christmas tree — an outdoor event for the whole town. William & Mary College held a homecoming parade each year. My friend Anne and I would scramble for the candy they threw from the green and yellow floats.
There were competing drug stores, The College Pharmacy and the Rexall. There was an indoor theatre downtown, and a drive-in movie called the Stockade. It was built like a fort with restrooms located in the lookout towers. Kids were allowed to sit on the benches down in front by the big screen to be entertained by a banjo player until sunset when the show began.
In the summertime I could ride my bike from one end of town to the other, dodging tourists, horse poop, and the Fife & Drum Corps. When I was on foot, I could always catch a big, gray CW bus and ride as long as I wanted to around the restored area. The buses were free and ran on schedule every eight minutes.
Boys in tricorn hats and knee breeches ran down Duke of Gloucester Street providing a bit of atmosphere. As did the ladies in powdered wigs and silk dresses with panniers (side hoops) jutting out from either flank. The shelf-like protrusions looked extremely awkward, but appeared to be able to support a three-course meal — serving dishes and all.
A brick wall separated my school from the grounds of the Governor’s Palace. It was great fun to climb over the wall and spend a summer’s morning darting through the maze in the palace gardens. Then a quick trip over dirt paths to see the horses and watch the blacksmiths forge horseshoes. It was always so hot in there. Sunday afternoons found our group of friends playing football on the Palace Green.
The Perzekows owned The Food Center, a grocery across and down the street from my house. Their daughter Ethel was about my age. Anne and I liked to play with her. They lived in an air conditioned apartment above the store. They had carpeting, heavy drapes and a striped couch. It was very luxurious and very cool.
The Hitchens’ lived next door to me. Our houses were separated by a big field. Mr. Hitchens had a rotating lawn sprinkler and would invite us kids to come over and run through it when he turned it on. Mrs. Hitchens offered her lovely home for my sister Judy’s wedding reception. People were neighborly.
And then there was the Baganakis family. They lived in a simple block house between Anne’s house and mine, set back quite a distance from the road. They were always very nice, but we didn’t realize how nice until they built a doughnut shop on the front part of their property! Yummy neighbors!
As time passed, Anne’s house became a service station; the Hitchens’ place is now a motel; my house survived as an antique shop.
There was a little rise in our front yard overlooking the road. I loved to sit there in the afternoons when people were coming home from work. I would sing, write songs in my head (I guess that’s why I ended up moving to Nashville), and listen to the sound of gears changing. I still feel a thrill when I hear an engine going through the stages of build, climb, settle in and go! (Fill in your own sound effects here.)
Roy Rogers and Dale Evans were my favorite singers then. “How Do I Know? The Bible Tells Me So!”
Have faith, hope and charity, That’s the way to live successfully.
How do I know? The Bible tells me so.
Do good to your enemies, And the Blessed Lord you’ll surely please.
How do I know? The Bible tells me so.
Don’t worry ’bout tomorrow, Just be real good today.
The Lord is right beside you, He’ll guide you all the way.
Have faith, hope and charity, That’s the way to live successfully.
How do I know? The Bible tells me so!
They had a television program that was “must see.” Roy and Dale starred, of course, with horses Trigger and Buttermilk, Pat Brady with his Jeep Nellybelle, and Bullet the dog. One episode that really stands out in my mind told the story of a prospector who bragged about the treasure he had found. The bad guys killed him, but never could find the treasure. Roy found it, though, hidden in a strongbox under a floorboard in the old man’s cabin. It was his Bible.
My family attended the Baptist church; Anne’s, the Methodist. I went to Vacation Bible School at both, though. We made decorative paperweights out of the glass insulators from telephone poles. I guess that made the gift more dear for my mother, who was a telephone operator.
This was back in the day when our number was 395-J, and we were on a party line. My mother had a headset, a special metal pencil with a magic round dialer on the end, and a switchboard with lots of wires and plugs and levers. “Number, please!” she would say, greeting the caller.
I can remember picking up the phone and hearing her familiar voice, “Number, please!”
“Mama, where’s the peanut butter?” I asked … as if she were in the next room.
But the absolute funniest was my friend Anne. She picked up the phone one day and heard the operator utter a cheery, “Number, please!”
Anne, who always called me “Trusha,” instead of “Tricia,” told her quite matter-of-factly, “I want to talk to Trusha.”
Trying to conceal her laughter, the operator turned to her colleagues and asked sardonically, “Anybody here know Trusha?”
“395-J,” my mother piped up.
Do you know that I was quite old before I realized my name was not, “Judy-Linda-Jimmy-Tricia?” That’s what my mother called me for the longest. My daddy called me Huckabuck … after the little known and little remembered dance craze and song, “Do the Hucklebuck.”
Daddy was at his best, though, when he called us to get up in the morning. He stood at the bottom of the stairs and roared like a Drill Sergeant, “Hubba! Hubba!” We knew not to dawdle. We flew down the stairs at his command like the Von Trapp children when their father, the Captain, blew his whistle.
The family ate breakfast together — all six of us. It was monumental. I remember the sunlight dancing across the table as Mother placed before us fresh-squeezed orange juice, bacon, eggs and toast. Sometimes she made sausage, pancakes, waffles or French toast. Pain perdu, the French call it … lost bread … day-old or hardened. It can be revived and redeemed by dipping it in milk and egg and giving it a quick pan fry.
Mother’s was always dark, dark brown with an almost-black crispy crust. She margarined it liberally, gave it a liberal sprinkle of sugar and sliced it into nine conservative pieces. I saved the centermost piece — where the lion’s share of the drippy oleo and mounded sugar had congregated — for last.
Daddy had a coffee ceremony he observed, don’t know why, but this is how he did it. After mother served him, he poured a goodly amount of the coffee into the saucer to let it cool for a bit. Then he transferred it back into the cup, added cream and enjoyed!
My father had an experience with Jesus when I was young. That’s when he introduced Bible reading at the breakfast table. We took turns reading a scripture before we prayed over the meal. I was just learning to read and loved when it was my turn to read from the big, black book with black and red letters.
He also taught a boys’ Sunday School class. A few years later when I was eight or nine, he helped initiate a Children’s Church — quite an innovation for the day. The kids were set free from the constraints of Big Church: “Sit up straight.” “Shh, be quiet.” “Quit fidgeting.” “Stop kicking the pew.” “No gum.” “When I get you home …”
Now get this: The MEN OF THE CHURCH taught Children’s Church. Yes, in suits and ties. They took turns teaching a lesson, leading us in Sword Drills (a competition to see who could find a certain scripture first) and singing lots of hymns. I was the organist. There was an old pump organ with a tiny keyboard that worked just fine for our purposes.
Lunch on Sundays was the most amazing meal of the whole week at our house. We usually had not one, but two fried chickens, mounds of mashed potatoes with butter and gravy, beans (green, lima or navy), celery sticks and carrot curls, other assorted vegetables (never broccoli, cauliflower or anything else considered exotic, though), and cloverleaf rolls. For dessert Mother baked a cake AND a pie.
On Mondays we had ”sloppy chicken.” That was the leftover fried chicken reheated in the leftover gravy. So good and so sloppy.
Impromptu described my daddy. He loved to “spur-of-the-moment” us into all sorts of adventures. This particular night he invited Anne’s family along. We jammed everyone into two cars and headed for ?????
“You’ll know when we get there,” he assured us.
Anne and I sat in the backseat giggling, not caring where we ended up. Wherever it was, it was certain to be fun! And it was fun! It was Buckroe Beach. We walked around the Pavilion where the voice of Elvis blared from the loudspeaker, “You ain’t nothin’ but a hound dog cryin’ all the time.” Over and over and over. We rode the rides, ate the eats and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. The mothers couldn’t take the round and round of the Merry-Go-Round and Ferris Wheel, so my mom and Anne’s mom cheered us on from their command post on a sturdy, stationary bench.
It was a Norman Rockwell painting — well, almost. Things happen. That’s the way it is in families, but there were so many exceptionally good and precious times.
On a trip to Jamestown Island recently I stopped to look at the statue of Pocahontas. I know she had some family issues, but there must have been exceptionally good and precious times for her, too. The excitement of meeting those fair-skinned people from across the sea, having her village life turned upside down as she learned a new language and new ways, marriage to a successful English tobacco planter, the birth of her son Thomas, her presentation to King James in London. And, of course, the most exciting thing of all — she found Jesus. Girl-who-likes-to-frolic-and-play” met the Savior of the universe. Just like me.
”Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.” — Ephesians 3:20-21 (NIV)