summers gone by

Updated: Feb 12

***Written originally in Atlanta and then revised while still living by the marsh, this is about a place near and dear to me, close in mind and heart, but far away from the ravages of a brazen and soulless Thief called Time...


Today began

as any other day, only I found

myself thinking of that time, that place, when

my only cares were when I could play and for

how long. I can see the faces, all so kind and

gentle…a colorful array of wonderful characters

each more interesting than the next.


I can only be

thankful for exposure to such beautiful

people: Granddaddy, Little Mama, Big Mama, Aunt Joyce,

Candace, Mary, Rufus…they were all so wonderful, and I

yearn for those days, I wish to be transported back in time…


I would arise

and go into the kitchen on 210 E. Baldwin Street, to see

sweet Candace, so beautiful, so special, so kind,

so dear to me. She was a very special person who impacted

me and inspired me throughout my life, even to this day.

Her kindness, spirit, guidance, and stern hand when necessary,

molded my mother Joyce, her brother Sonny, and even me of

the next generation during those wonderful summers.


I want to throw

baseball again with Granddaddy in the side yard next to

Miss Annie Clyde’s house. Of course baseball was

his best sport you know, working on the farm they

would play every now and then, and he could hit the

ball a country mile. Scouts even came trying to recruit

him to come play for them, but he would just say his

duty was on the farm and with family. Even so, he

still found time to go to school when he could and even

though his attendance was significantly less than the

average Joe due to working on the farm, his grades

were in the top of the class! As an adult he taught

himself many things, was an avid reader, and wrote

some very wonderful limerick style poetry as well,

some of which Ogden Nash would have been proud of.


He also liked to get a tan,

and we would lay out together an hour a day during the

summer. He used to say that “old men like your Granddaddy

need some color so they don’t look so old”…shoot, I

couldn’t imagine a man 20 years old having the energy he

had at that time, and heck, he was nigh going on 80 years

old. I certainly couldn’t envision him as old, he

was the youngest, most entertaining, funniest, most

“alive” person I had ever known. Then of course while

we were laying there, while my eyes were closed soaking up

the sun, he inevitably, sneakily reached his leg over and used

his big toe and the toe beside it to pinch my leg and say

“alligator coming to getcha”…I treasured those times,

and now, when I am at the neighborhood pool with my

kids, playing with them, and enjoying the sun, I

succumb to my primordial, reptilian nature as well, and

yes, I have to get them like an alligator too.


Granddaddy was self-taught

typically as it went with many folks back then, and his musical ability

was no exception. He could play organ and the piano like a

pro, and could actually play them both at the same time, with

his left hand playing the organ and the right hand playing the

piano. He had his organ and piano set up like an L-shape in

the music room, which had a couch, and I remember many

afternoons and evenings in which he played many a tune, some

quick and lively, others more melancholy…much church music as

well as he played for the Methodist men’s Sunday school class.

I remember lying on the couch, the fan blowing peacefully

in the air of the music room, while Granddaddy played many

a beautiful piece. I can see him now, his arms moving, head

and shoulders swaying as he summoned the sound forth via

the keys. Whatever the song, it was always filled with

emotion and feeling. I drifted somewhere very nice on

those occasions.


Always the picture

of order and organization, Granddaddy was up early and

working before the rest of us. The beds had to be made,

we must get breakfast started, and he did all of

the work most days, inside and out! He had the energy

of a man decades his junior. He loved cartoons, especially

Looney Tunes, and had the best sense of humor. He would

stop long enough on Saturdays to watch a cartoon or two

with me before heading back outside to work in the yard.

He would laugh and laugh at Bugs Bunny or Yosemite

Sam or Wile E. Coyote. I am glad we had those times,

for later years in his life weren’t as accommodating. His

was a sense of humor that stays with me today, reminding me

that nothing is ever as bad as it seems, life is to enjoy,

regardless of the circumstances, for all will be OK in the end.


Also we had a running gag together,

as a South Carolinian (in a sense as I lived there, was born in Savannah though),

every summer he would playfully tell me how he would have to teach me again

“how to speak Georgian.” Somehow I always fell short of mastering that brogue,

that dialect, that beautiful accent I had to hear every summer.


Granddaddy liked cars,

and he had some great ones, a white Pontiac Bonneville

(with red interior), a Corvair (black with red interior), and

an orange Fiat convertible. He always took care of his cars, and

rued the multiple litters of feline furriness that walked all

over them at times. “Those darn varmints!” he would say.

But of course, you know in his heart he wouldn’t hurt them

under any circumstance, and I would venture to say that he

probably petted them once or twice when no one was looking.


Many times he would take me for rides

in the convertible Fiat with the top down. Oh so free those

times were. We would ride out to Central State hospital,

and out by Carl Vinson’s house at the top of the hill on the

right past the hospital grounds. We would tool around some

of the country roads in that area and turn around and come

back to the house. I still have not gotten a convertible as

an adult, but those days have made me adopt a distinct

hankerin’ for such a vehicle one day. I can see him now,

wearing one of his trademark hats, a straw hat fedora,

colorful, an orangish/beige.


Little Mama, my Grandmother, read

to me and taught me many things that started my love

affair with reading, and inspired me to be “learned.”

As a retired teacher she always had cool stuff she had

used in her classes that I perused, such as Scholastic

Magazine, which was quite stimulating. I also remember

her sitting in the rocking chair in the den, watching her

soap operas. And at times she could be an insomniac

of sorts, and I would catch her head nodding, late at

night, seated at the kitchen table doing what else, reading…


I remember she had various games as well,

like Hi-Ho Cherry O, LIFE, and others…I always enjoyed

going through those, playing them, even if I was by myself.


We also enjoyed going for picnics,

to roadside spots on our journeys throughout the state. These

were times of soda, sandwiches, and desserts. Then afterwards

Granddaddy would pull out a canister from the glovebox, in

this case of his vintage Pontiac Bonneville, and say:

“Do you want a piece of peppermint stick candy?” Of

course I would take him up on this kind offer every time,

with each piece looking like a thick, miniature barber shop pole,

but only red and white…


Granddaddy and Little Mama

also liked for us to go see her sister, my Great-Aunt Bebe in Macon

while I was visiting. We really enjoyed that as

well, a 45 minute to an hour long ride that was.


Many times we would stop

at Fincher’s drive-in for some barbecue on the way home

from Bebe and Ditty’s. Granddaddy would pull up and the

gentleman would come up to the window of the car, curb

hop style. That was the best barbecue I had ever had, and

STILL to this day it is the best I have ever had. Even as a

youngster I would eat two whole barbecue sandwiches every

time, and that was a lot for a small kid like me. Delicious

it was, and now whenever we go visit Bebe and Ditty I

have to do the same with my family, we stop by and make

sure we get some sandwiches for the road.


Aunt Joyce was a special person, so kind, so patient.

She lived out at Mother-out-at-Papa’s house (my Grandfather’s Stepmother)

and was Grandaddy’s sister. Just like him, she possessed an inherent

goodness that was undeniably apparent. She never got married,

rather she sacrificed to take care of my Great-Grandmother. She had been

a Nurse in the military, rising as high as Major. She had been to Turkey

and several other exotic places, but was as down-to-earth and accommodating

as they come. I remember going out there, going down the long dirt driveway,

they had a handful of acres out of town on the way to Macon, and seeing

rabbits cross in front of us, and ever so rarely, the occasional fox. These creatures

reminded me of the Joel Chandler Harris stories my Grandmother would read to me

and all those animals and their colorful adventures. I remember trying to utilize the old “carrot, stick, and box” trick to try and catch a rabbit as a youngster…it never worked, but it was a lot of fun trying…They had an old barn on the property as well, and I would go in there

periodically and tool around. I was always warned to “watch out for snakes”

in the summer so I always treaded lightly and vigilantly…the air always felt

so clean, so crisp,so unmolested out there. The skies were larger, grander,

and more blue. I was calm, and things moved more slowly. We would

sit out on the front porch and drink a Coke, or sweet tea and just talk.

Now that was very nice. Everything was right with the world at those

times.


I also got into assorted memorabilia

of times gone by at the house, like my Mother’s diaries, or

old pictures. I could just take those things and smell them,

read them, and drink them in sensually, a veritable feast for

the senses. From time-to-time I would look in the closets as

well, and see some of the things my Mother wore when she

was a teenager and in college. At times it was really like

opening a time capsule digging around at the house at 210

East Baldwin Street. The funny thing is, it never got old,

there was always something else one could learn about the

family, the relatives, or life in that place. It seemed those

were better times, simpler…


And now,

in Richmond Hill, Georgia, at the Buttermilk Sound,

By the Belfast River, these summer days in some ways aren’t

as genuine, almost as hot, but not Milledgeville-esque,

and I find myself wanting, searching, but I can’t go

there. At least I can dream, and cascade slowly into

a subtle, but enriching journey, seeing all of my

people, like it was yesterday. I close my eyes, swinging

slowly in the tree swing, under a moss draped oak by the

marsh, a glass of tea in hand, and recapture, if only for a

fleeting moment, the middle Georgia warmth of years

gone by, the same warmth that molded me, and made me

who I am today. I am awakened from my revelry by

the cry of a marsh hen, and I wonder, now without my

most excellent teacher J.C. Godard Sr., will I ever truly be able to

speak proper Georgian?




Steffan Oxenrider

Revised Oct 2021




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