My sister and I grew up running barefoot through 10 acres of dense Florida woods. That 10-acre farm held our home, my grandmother’s home (a house my grandfather built with his own hands), a chicken coup, a fresh vegetable garden, a plethora of climbable trees and hiding spots only we knew about, and a gazillion wild blueberry bushes.
How Country Girls Spend Summer
Our summers were simple. Sometimes, we helped my grandmother collect eggs or pick fresh veggies out of her garden. Lord knows I’ve shelled more than my fair share of peas. If I never have to hull another butter bean, I’ll be happy. During late summer afternoons, we’d play Hide and Seek, coming home when the lightning bugs twinkled like secretive pixies hiding in the darkened woodland scrubs.
My sister and I picked the sweetest wild blueberries. When the dinner bell rang, we came home covered in scratches, mosquito bites, red clay, and blueberry juice. Believe me. That stuff gets everywhere!
Sometimes, we’d take a 5-gallon bucket and fill the buckets with the wild berries. My dad sometimes sold them to his work buddies. Sometimes, we’d give some to my grandmother.
My grandmother frequently canned her garden bounty. I remember a huge barrel full of pickles she used to prop her kitchen door open. She also made the sweetest homemade rum for her rum cakes. It seemed like always cooked.
One of my favorite memories, I was so small that I had to stand on a chair to see over the counter top. I stood on a large swivel chair my grandfather carved from a whiskey barrel. I’d eat her raw biscuit dough faster than she could cut them out.
My Second Home
To me, my grandmother’s house was a second home. I spent so much time there and had such a close relationship with my grandparents that I called their home my playhouse. I remember my grandfather pulling me in my red Radio Flyer wagon down the long, bumpy dirt path separating our patch of woods from theirs. My favorite and earliest memories come from that farm.
My own family moved around a bit. In fact, in my entire life, I’ve never lived in one place for more than five years. However, I’ve lived on that farm several times. When I was born, my mother had a little trailer there. After that, we moved to Grand Bay, a small town in southern Alabama. When I was 10, we moved back to that farm – putting our own trailer right in the same spot my mother lived when I was born. Then, when I was 15, we moved to the other side of town.
When I was an adult, I moved back there again with my own two small children – into that same trailer. Again, we lived there five years, and I moved.
The House That Built Me
Have you heard the song by Miranda Lambert? The House that Built Me? (If not, I linked to it so you can hear it. It’s free with Amazon Prime). In a lot of ways, that patch of woods is the home that built me. Whenever I felt broken, it was where I felt safe. I always knew that place as my home. Don’t get me wrong. I feel like my parent’s house is home, but we didn’t move there till I was 15 – and I moved out three years later. Their house wasn’t the ever-present home from my childhood.
Unfortunately, I said my final goodbyes to the family place a few weeks ago. The neighborhood is changing. It’s no longer a small farming community. Huge, overcrowded covenanted subdivisions and gated communities are springing up overnight and pushing the small, country folks out. My grandmother couldn’t take care of the place anymore. So she sold the land and moved in next to my parents.
We all got together to help her move. It was a family affair. My nephew, niece, husband, parents, grandmother, and great-uncle gathered to help her move into her beautiful new place. It’s a charming modular home that suits her well.
While I am happy for my grandmother and feel it is all for the best, I find myself conflicted. I can never go back to that home. The one place that represented stability is gone. Soon, concrete driveways will replace that dirt path. Houses with yards so close together that a person can spit in their neighbor’s lawn will replace the rambling forest. Street lights will displace the lightning bugs.
I guess that’s the difference for me – Miranda Lambert could go back to her childhood home. I cannot.
Thankfully, when we moved back home to Florida, David and I were blessed enough to find some wooded acreage that reminds me of home. I think it’s a place I’d finally like to live for more than five years.
But like the song – I did take my memories. And I left for the last time.
That place is an essential part of who I am. While I will mourn its loss, I have many memories that I can pass on. I have my photos. I have good times. And I can do things that remind me of home. Like remembering the familiar smells of my grandmother’s southern cooking and her homemade jam.
My mother brought us a ton of blueberries from her bushes, and I was especially missing the old place. Moving was still fresh. I decided to make my own blueberry jam.
Since David is diabetic, I modified it. So, this isn’t exactly like my Grandmother’s blueberry jam. I don’t add any sugar at all. The blueberries are sweet enough, in my opinion. Give it a taste after it’s done cooking. If it needs a little sweetness, stir in a little agave or monk fruit to taste.
I couldn’t resist having a spoon of it with goat cheese and crackers right after I made it. It was delicious! And peaceful -and almost as sweet as the memories it inspired.
We enjoy hosting parties and my husband and I are both avid gamers. You can find me on PS4 as SunshineFlaGirl. We also play tabletop RPGs and eurogames.