Where the Dogwoods Bloom

Blue Ridge Mountains Crossing the Virginia State Line was like stepping into a little corner of Heaven last Thursday!  The anticipation of seeing so many loved ones had me giddy with excitement.  My phone started blowing up with texts and messages…”Where are you?”  “Are you in Virginia?”  “I cannot wait to see you!”

Our first visit was supper with my sister, Rene and her husband George!  We met and time began to stand still and speed up at the same.  Oh, how we laughed…at old things, at new things…George’s expressions and my antics.  We ate until we were fuller than ticks then hugged with the joy of knowing we’d see each other again on Saturday with a promise of longer time together.

Friday morning we hopped into the Jeep and started for Powhatan and Holly Hills Baptist Church.  There waiting were Christie and Carol with baby Lilly, but much to my surprise in came Ms. Ruth and Ms. Maddie and an old youth group friend, Paul.  My heart was overcome with gratefulness and I was full with joy.  We’d all known each other what seemed like a million and one years!  We had laughed together, cried together, sang hymns of praise together and shared a kinship not found often in life.

These three ladies, Christie, Carol, and Ruth where all constant in my teenage years.  I loved them…I admired them…I treasured the influence they all had in my life.  Thank you, Lord, for such godly examples of who I should be.

We then rushed deep into Powhatan to see Curtis and his precious kids — a long visit with them.  They are a picture of perseverance —- through the heartache and loss of dear Katrina — they press on!  As I sat on the couch in their cabin — the summer warmth — and Katrina’s presence ever there — oh how we laughed!  As I gazed into their eyes and tried to freeze a memory, I thought how proud Katrina would be of Brady, Abbey, Ryan, Eric, Jacob, and Aaron.  However, the gaze into Curtis’ eyes was the hardest.  This friend that I went to high school with…trying to carry-on by himself…without the love of his life.  My heart ached — such strength!

We spent a couple of hours then back to Richmond with my Aunt Lorraine with the promise of more on Saturday evening…but more on that in a bit!

Saturday we drove over to Goochland to spend time with my Shook family.  There is where time truly stood still!  Walking into my Mammaw and Pappaw’s home built in the 1800’s.  Those precious grandparents now gone for quite a few years…buried out through the pasture at the old church over looking the home place.  Amidst the laughter — there were echos of years gone by — conversations and laughter and tears that whispered from the decades of living!

“Mammaw….what’s Pappaw’s name?” a little voice asked.  “None of your business…he is Pappaw to you!” she replied to my 10 year old ghost.

I could hear Robin, Angela, and me squealing with delight as Pappaw chewed on our ears while Mammaw pretended to fuss at him!  And, as I gazed out the kitchen window, I saw my 11 year old ghost coming through the field, crickets being disturbed by my little legs going through the tall, un-mown hay, almost as tall as me while carrying my fish I had caught in the pond.  I could almost here Pappaw say, “Well, lookie here!” with a big grin on his face.  In my mind I could almost smell fresh mown hay, mixed with yeast rolls, and the smell of that sweet old house.  The old voices over-shadowed by the new sounds….memories faded but not gone….love still abounded….laughter still present…even though grief lurking in the background because of the absence of Mammaw and Pappaw and Momma and Daddy and cousin, Wade!  Time standing  still…while congealing with the future…life moving on!

Then, as promised, we headed back over to Richmond to visit with Aunt Lorraine — hours and hours looking through old pictures.  Aunti telling me stories of my Grandma and Grandpa Keen…stories never heard before until now.  Laughing at Grandma’s antics when I was a girl — oh how I loved her.  As I soak up the fragrance of Aunti — I am reminded of the strength it took for this family of mine to survive!  Looming over our conversations the whole evening where those coal-filled, sulphur-rich Appalachian Mountains — mountains that had etched out a family — family filled with sorrow and love — babies that never took but a breath buried on the side of a mountain — abject poverty — burned homes — oh, but the love of 7 children who found their way to Richmond with a Mommy they adored and cared for and cherished.  Precious memories and an enduring love from this girl raised by such amazing people!

Sunday a journey to the mountain I love and then back to Richmond to meet with yet another dear friend — a friend that if the truth be known helped me live, along with Christie.  I spent Sunday evening with Dave and Ann Talbott — and settled in comfort on their couch.  We all talked late into the evening about so many things — my husband and Dave mostly.  Ann and I shared some, but mostly I sat and thought how good God is to have filled my life with people who love my soul!

Life mostly is dark — but for a week I got to be around people who invested in my being — who have held my heart and loved my soul!  People who understood a little girl, now woman who is fragile and gave me more…much more than I deserved.

In a land where the Queen Anne’s Lace blankets the fields, the mountains grow with black gold and blue ridges, and the Dogwoods bloom is a place I call home…a place rich in love and family and friends.  Sweet with memories of yester-year where flowers bloom in bouquets of kinship and bright with the birth of new memories named Lilly.  God is good to make me a Virginia Girl and I am grateful…eternally grateful.



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