The things that really matter never change

  • Thursday, June 13, 2013

I’ve been away from home for so long that I actually needed a map to get back home. Who am I kidding? Y’all know I need a map to get anywhere I’m going — and by map, I mean a GPS with an actual voice who speaks very slowly.

After a weekend in North Carolina and two weeks in Alabama, I had a chance to spend a lot of time with my brothers, sister and all of our kids. I pushed my nephew, Bo, on a Big Wheel down the grassy hill behind the house where my mother grew up. I remember doing the same thing with my grandfather 30 years ago. Only then I was riding a wooden, wheeled giraffe and that hill was more like a mountain. I remember the “whoosh” of my stomach dropping as I slid down the incline with my hair flapping around my face.

Back then there was a huge oak tree right in the middle of the yard. My Grandaddy tied ropes way up high in that tree and fixed a wooden plank swing from the ends of it. Me and my sister took turns in the swing. The ropes were so long we soared over his head. He’d push us until we were breathless then we had to, “Let the cat die.” I’m not sure where he got the expression but that meant you got one last push then as soon as the swing stopped moving your turn was over.

Thirty years ago, the yard at the house was so shaded you couldn’t see the neighbors house behind you. The tornadoes of 2011 changed that, and now you can see clear across Cahaba Heights to Red Mountain. The landscape has changed. The tree along with the swing is gone, but some things remain the same.

The stairs still squeak when you walk up from the basement, a treasure trove of junk, spare hammers and a mini-trampoline that will comfortably seat four of my nieces and nephews at a time. The house still smells like my grandparents even though they have been gone for years. The laundry shoot from the bathroom closet to the basement is still a main attraction for children under 8-years-old, mainly boys. The grass is still as thick and plush as a brand new carpet, cushioning bare little feet as they chase each other squealing through the yard.

And the things that really matter? The whoosh of a tiny tummy as it’s owner squeals down the not-quite-as-steep-as-I-remembered grassy knoll. The thrill of a water gun fight with cousins who will let you squirt them directly in the face. The satisfaction of scarfing down a meal after spending all day in the sun, followed by strawberry shortcake and a squirt of whipped cream directly into each child’s mouth.

Passing out on a palette of quilts surrounded their cousins, well, those are memories that my kids, my nieces and my nephews will hold tight to for the rest of their lives. And those are the things that will never change.


Robin O’Bryant is an author, humorist and speaker. Her latest book is “Ketchup is a Vegetable and Other Lies Moms Tell Themselves.” Connect with her on Facebook and Twitter and visit her blog at www.robinschicks.com

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