FROM MY FRONT PORCH
Sam Houston is the publisher of the Hood County News. He is also an actor, author, playwright, performer and entertainment producer/promoter.
In some of my past columns I have mentioned by friend Miss Jayne. She is 90 years old and is my dear friend and substitute Mother now that mine has passed.
She was born and grew up in Durant, Oklahoma where she attended grade school, high school and college. Miss Jayne’s Dad was a telegrapher with the railroad in Durant but was a smart and industrious man and realized way back in the 1940s that there were no dormitories at the growing Southeast Oklahoma State University and very few apartments in Durant.
He purchased a city lot that had a house already built upon it, located just two blocks from the college. He then proceeded to take the roof off the house and built a series of boarding rooms in the newly created second and third floors.
Miss Jayne’s family lived on the first floor, and the second and third floors were rented to female college students. Many of the renters made the house their home for their entire four-year collegiate career.
Because of age and failing health Miss Jayne had not been back to Durant for quite a few years. When over the holidays we got to talking about her family, I decided when the weather turned warm, I would drive her to Durant and let her see the “old home place” one more time. We set this past Saturday as the time to fulfill our plans.
I could tell upon my arrival that Miss Jayne was excited to make the trip. She could not recall exactly the last time she had been to see the place where she grew up, but the thought of seeing her childhood home and reliving her family memories was nearly more than she could bear.
As we drove the 90 minutes we talked about her folks, her brother, and the times they shared. We visited about her deceased husband Marcus and how she had met him at Durant when she was in college. Clearly it was important to her to share with me, her close friend, those intimate memories, and the reality that she was the only one left after all these years, to tell the stories.
When we got to Durant, we drove to her childhood address and was surprised that while the old house was abandoned, it was still standing and in good shape. The yard was mowed and obviously cared for.
Miss Jayne began describing how as many as 16 girls had lived upstairs of her family home and detailing the adventures that occurred. She smiled, and giggled, and she regaled me in tales.
She told me of the time as small children she and her brother were playing with their pony and it fell into a ditch that had been dug by the city to install a new water line. The pony had landed upside down in the trench and could not get itself out and Miss Jayne was sure it was going to die until some college students got shovels and managed to free the animal.
She showed me the street corner where her three childhood friends would join her to walk up the hill to grade school. The same girls would meet and walk up the hill to high school, and then to college. “I don’t know how many steps I took over the years but everything I ever learned in school was on that hill, and I had to take that sidewalk to get there, from kindergarten through a master’s degree,” Jayne told me, “and I even met my husband and fell in love up on that hill.”
We drove around Durant and Miss Jayne remarked at the changes and told stories about old stores and locations as she marveled at all the changes to the college campus. She even pointed out to me the music hall, which was the one place she and Marcus could go and “make out” when they were dating so many years ago.
As we drove back home, we talked about life and those things that were important to value. She told me that at her age, memories were all she had left, and she was so pleased she got to go and see one more time, the place that held so many memories to her.
She also let me know how important it was to her she shared those stories with me, so I better understood exactly who and what she was and where she had come from.
As I drove back to Granbury, I thought about the hill Miss Jayne climbed when she started school. I tried to picture my 90-year-old friend as a 5-year-old going to kindergarten with her three childhood friends … giggling as they walked, carefree and unaware of what travails life had in store for them in the years ahead. Little did she know where the sidewalk would lead her or what her life would become. She had no idea we would become friends so many years later.
We all have climbed our “hills” and one day will look back and recollect and smile at the past. My hope is when you do, you have someone close to share those memories with. They will enjoy hearing your memories as much as you will enjoy reliving them.
Thought for the day: Old memories are like coffee with cream and sugar: when stirred both can become mellow and sweet!
Until next time!