Thursday, October 18, 2007

Pick the "Wildwood Flower"

My wife and I just came back from a family reunion at Magnolia Springs. It wasn’t even our family but that of the mommy of our grandson Chance, who is the one who calls me “Paw Paw Bill.” All families are alike in many ways and maybe family reunions too. My wife and I were warmly welcomed and had a great time with multiple generations of mammas and daddies, children, sisters, brothers, aunts, uncles, cousins, girlfriends, boyfriends, in-laws, five dogs, and a pet lizard.

Everyone feasted on home-made vegetable soup, charcoal grilled hot-dogs, truly super-sized hamburgers, chopped barbeque, deviled eggs, baked beans, potato salad, southern slaw, pickles, sliced tomatoes and onions, fresh fruit, and a variety of cookies and cakes, including the one my wife made, sculpted and decorated in the image of Sponge Bob Square Pants for four year old Chance.

Magnolia Springs State Park is located in Millen, Ga., not far from Waynesboro and Augusta. From Atlanta, you might stop on your way at the Laurel and Hardy Museum in Harlem, Ga., where Oliver Hardy was born. The signs at Magnolia Springs State Park inform visitors about the fish, turtles, alligators, and cotton-mouth water moccasins. We saw plenty of all of them except the snakes, but I will take the Georgia Department of Natural Resources’ word for it.

After supper, we sat on the screened front porch of one of the park’s bargain priced but roomy and comfortable cabins till way after dark. Chance’s mommy and her sister and brother sang, while the brother played the guitar. Others joined in the singing, as they recognized songs that they knew the words to. “Amazing Grace.” “How Great Thou Art.” “Sittin’ on the Dock of the Bay.” “Wildwood Flower.” Paw Paw George, who is unable to sit up for long, lay across the porch swing, stretched out on pillows. He sang along often and with delight. When the brother picked the “Wildwood Flower,” my wife was the only one who sang. Paw Paw George said of the Carter Family classic and popular guitar solo, “I didn’t know there were words to that.” He asked her to sing it again. Three times.

I think my wife and I were the only ones there who were not Republicans, just like our own families. Nobody cared. That’s one of the things about families. Another thing about families is who’s there by their conspicuous absence. Naturally, somebody’s died. Maybe somebody else has just fallen off the deep end somewhere.

But the mammas are still looking after the babies. Young men, good men, are helping their aging daddies up and down the stairs and in and out of cars and taking the little boys and girls fishing. And grandmas are fixing special cakes for their sweetie pie peanut boy’s four-year-old birthday.

(Originally posted 9-12-07)

Copyright 2007 by William C. Cotter

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