Saturday, September 29, 2007

Going Down the Grade Making 90 Miles an Hour

I've been given all sorts of advice concerning my stress and anxiety and my difficulty sleeping. Folks have offered their advice on relaxation techniques, meditation, breathing exercises, etc. The one thing that helps me to relax is to clear my mind by concentrating on a relaxing, comforting place. For me, this place is my grandparents' house in Danville, VA.

When I was growing up, one of my favorite things in the world was to go visit my grandparents. I was able to visit for a week or more alone without my brothers or my parents. My grandmother and I would kill beetles and water the roses in her huge rose garden. I'd spend time climbing one of the two excellent climbing trees in her yard. We'd make lemon squares in her kitchen in the afternoons. After supper, my grandparents and I would walk around the block, sometimes down Mount Vernon Avenue where I could climb on the "cannon." I will always cherish the time that I spent with my grandparents at their house. It was truly special.

So, now, when I am feeling stressed or restless, I can close my eyes, take a deep breath and start remembering my grandparents' house. In my head, I can walk through each room... the living room, the den, the upstairs bedrooms, the basement, the kitchen. I know what's in every room down to the texture of the dining room wallpaper to the rug in the back upstairs bedroom. When I visit their house in my head, I can even remember items in drawers and closets like the wall-mounted ice crusher in the back porch closet or my grandmother's facial powder in her dressing table drawer. Lately, the memories of the items in the drawers have been fading, but I can remember most of what was in all the closets.

My grandmother died about nine years ago, at which time we emptied their house and sold it. I haven't physically stepped foot in Danville since. But last Saturday, I decided to return.

The Danville Science Center was having Train Days celebrating the 104th anniversary of the train wreck of the old 97 which happened September 27th, 1903 in Danville for which a song was written. I think that the song is more famous than the actual wreck. This song has always been special since it was one that my dad sang to me when I was little. My dad took pride in his non-traditional bedtime songs. So, I decided to make the trek to Danville to participate in the Train Days festivities and to wander around Danville.

First, I went to Main Street to check out the architecture and the Grove Street Cemetary behind Midtown Market. I could try to write about how jaw-droppingly beautiful the architecture was, but it's best to just look at the pictures. Afterwards, I went to Midtown Market and packed my cooler with oatmeal cookies (two dense cookies with frosting between... like a real Little Debbie, but only better), pimento cheese, and chicken salad.

Then, on friends' suggestions, I went to Short Sugar's Barbecue across town for lunch. It was disappointing. I ordered a chopped barbecue plate with hush puppies, slaw and fries. The fries were tasteless... obviously frozen. The barbecue was terrible. It tasted old. It was chewy, fatty and had no flavor whatsoever. I tried to flavor it with what I thought was barbecue sauce, but I think it was just an unmarked bottle of steak sauce. After I watched my waitress behind the counter scream at the other workers while flossing every tooth in her face, I left.

I toured the Science Center whhich is actually the Danville Train Station which has the most eerie collection of mounted animals and birds. It really creeped me out. After watching an old-time band and a couple of old guys clog, I boarded a shuttle to take a group down to the famed train site. But it was gated off! The owner of the land was doing some demolition work and had the entire area locked up. I was slightly disappointed, but not terribly so since I was now thinking about driving past my grandparents' house and I felt a little scared. I didn't know what kind of emotions it might stir up.

To my surprise, when I arrived at their house, I saw that the new owner (she bought the house in the spring) was doing some gardening in the front yard. She was really nice and told me that her neighbors are always telling her stories about my grandparents and what wonderful people they were. She invited me walk around the house and take pictures. Many of the trees had been cut down including my two favorite climbing trees. She told me that the previous owners really let the yard go and she was trying hard to get the yard back to its full glory. As I walked around to the back of the garage, I saw the remnants of my grandmother's rose garden and I burst into tears. About half of the roses were gone, but some were left and the sweet aroma of her roses was intense. It was such a joyous site. I felt like a little girl all over again and I even found myself looking for a beetles like I used to do.

I left Danville and headed to Glencoe for a picnic and wading in the Haw River. We ended up playing "The Wreck of the Old 97" on ukulele which was the perfect way to end my Danville day. That song has great ukulelability to it and it is perfect to sing loudly and off-key. You can listen to Jenks Carmen's version here.


Anonymous said...

what a wonderful tribute to your grandparents. They would be so touche dif they were still alive. I love your blog today. Love, Mom

Charlotte said...

Aww. Thanks Mom!!!