Saturday, December 11, 2010

The Road Home

If you take I-35 South out of Norman, you will soon come across Exit 104, Goldsby/Washington.  Take that exit and keep going south on Highway 24. 
You will drive about seven miles before coming to this sign.  As you approach the town, there is a three-way stop.  Turn right.  Welcome to Washington, Oklahoma, in McClain County.  The town was named after George Washington, an Indian Chief, who once lived in the area.  (I have forgotten the name of his tribe.)

Washington is a small town - just a dot on the map.  When I was a Senior in high school, way back in 1979, we only had 151 students from Kindergarten through 12th Grade.  (I know this because I was editor of the Yearbook and had to count those photos more than once.)  The town is a little bigger now.  I think there are a few hundred in school and there is a four-way stop at the intersection of Main Street and Highway 24.  There is even a set of apartments.  There are four churches, a Senior Citizens' Center, one convenience store, a medical supply store, and a bakery/cafe, but not much else.  There used to be a bank and a movie theater way back in the 1920s, but those burned down and were never rebuilt.  More recently, there was a cotton gin, Maynard's Drug, Haxel's Hardware, Burns' Mill, Clyde's Barber Shop, Keith's Grocery, a domino hall, and a laundromat.  Retirement, illness, death, and the economy took care of those, however.  They are now and forever only in the town's collective memory. 

My grandparents owned the drug store.  (See my previous post from October 1st about that, if you are interested.)  They lived southwest of town in this house.  They built the house in the 1950s.

Grandchildren and Great-Grandchildren loved to come visit.  There was a ping-pong table in the basement, a trap door with a secret entrance (which was really a laundry chute, but no child would ever want to believe that!), fields to run in and play softball, a barn to explore, two ponds for swimming and fishing, a huge front porch with a swing, and countless cows, chickens, dogs, and cats.  When the cousins were at Grandmother's house, everyone wanted to be there, too.  Dominoes, Rook (with special Maynard Family rules), and teasing the children were standard game play for the adults.

Granddaddy passed away in 1987.  Grandmother lived alone for several years before her health forced my mother to move in with her around 2002, in order to help care for her.  My mom was the oldest of the six children and the only one of to be widowed, so it worked out well.

Grandmother lived a good and full life, surrounded by her family and friends.  She passed away on September 26, 2010, five days before her 101st birthday.  My mother currently stays at the house part-time, but is preparing to move back to her own home.  My mother and aunts and uncles have not yet decided what to do with the house and land.

My mother is 81 now and I haven't lived in the Washington area for over twenty-two years.  But this is the place I was raised and it is a big part of who I am.  There is a peaceful feeling that descends over me when I recognize the red dirt in the landscape and I know that I am truly home.

But I am struck by the question of how much longer will I be traveling this road to home?  ...and it makes me a little bit sad.


Shelley Parker Chandler said...

Just a note - The bell hung in Ladd School, a 2-room school located on Ladd Road to the northeast of Washington. My parents purchased the school in 1959 and remodeled it. It was their home for over 30 years. My granddaddy loaned them the money to buy the school, so they gave him the bell as a gift. The bell tower became our playhouse in the back yard. The bell has been in my grandparents' front yard all this time. My sisters and I had hoped that the bell would come back to our section of the family after our grandmother passed away. Sadly, that won't be happening.

Lynette said...

I am sorry to hear your grandmother has passed. But thrilled to hear the history. Too bad this house can not be saved as a family home. It is perfect for homecomings, reunions, safe house (there are time families need a safe place to be), or first home for new parts of the family. Washington should have a low tax base. Reunions there with white elephant auctions as part of it would help pay those taxes. 4th of July, Memorial day, Easter...all the holidays, it could be a place to go. Utilities can be put on vacation when not in use. If a family donates $100 a year (that is less then $10 a month) then it can be put in a utility fund for those times. 25 family members doing just that is $2500 for that purpose. See if others have this same feeling and if y'all can save your traditions and heritage.

Shelley Parker Chandler said...

Thanks, Lynette. Grandmother's children haven't ruled out allowing one of the grandchildren or great-grandchildren to live in the house. They have even talked about putting cattle on the land (160 acres or so). Currently, the land is rented to another cattle rancher, who has a small herd there. That land is worth a fortune, and Grandmother had quite a bit of money, so they could leave it as you suggest. There are also several family members in the area who could check on it regularly. I can't see them leaving it empty, though. Thanks for the suggestion. :)

Terri said...

What a lovely post! Wish I had written it. You pegged my feelings exactly

I think they should close up the stairway to the basement with a sturdy, locking door, and Mom should live there. It's much more accessible for her arthritis needs that her old home, and her house is going to have to be completely replumbed, recarpeted, etc. if she goes back there. Plus at Grandmother's she has Ken and Peggy on either side. In town she's got no one!

Shelley Parker Chandler said...

Thank you, Big Sister! I agree with Mom continuing to live there, but I think they would also need to change the lock on the front door (or add a deadbolt) and put some window locks on it. Rick & Ronnie said they would remodel, if she wants to stay there.