Saturday, July 26, 2008

Narrows Virginia

Narrows, Virginia is where my father's family lived when he was a teenager in the 1940s and where he took me and my sister Jenny to stay with his parents and our aunts and uncles for about 6 weeks each summer. Visiting last weekend for his funeral we got to spend a night in the old family house which remains little changed from my childhood. My Aunt Alice still owns the house as well as hers which is right next door. Aunt Alice also has a mountain house and some acres up in the back country where she prefers to spend her time nearer to nature and her mountain friends. I have fond memories of being there those summers we were left to be spoiled by Grand ma & pa Nunley and  Aunt Beth in Narrows, then also the fun of staying up at Aunt Alice & Uncle Kenny's mountain farm with ponies, turkeys, chickens, phesants and wild life! The diamond back rattle snakes I don't remember so fondly but we did meet with them now and then and I learned to watch my step very carefully. Hoot owls and mountain lions or wild cats cries at night made it kind of scary to get to sleep with all the windows open.  This is coal country in the deep Appalachian mountains but my family didn't work in coal mines, they all worked at a thread spinning factory which is still there today. I recall they were on shifts working day and night so we always had to be careful not to wake the sleepers. 7-11, 11-7 and 7-3 all around the clock. Food was always cooking for one meal or another in grandma's Kitchen. I remember fondly the delicious home made cakes she used to bake for my birthdays which were sometimes celebrated in Narrows. The town Narrows is across the New river which passes by just down the hill from this house. In one picture from Aunt Alice's town house you can see the mountains go up from the narrow pass that gives the town it's name. The Nunley Narrows home had a couple big gardens for food and various flowers grew all around to cheer up the place back when I was a kid. One that I recall being especially nice which has survived to this day is the lovely batch of four o'clocks that grow and reseed along the driveway on the side of the house. Jenny and I collected seeds and brought them home to plant many times. I have a front yard full of them now and Jenny in Texas says she has them year round in her climate but they only bloom part of the year. They open late in the day and stay open all night with a sweet perfume that draws moths who pollenate. This house used to be heated by a large coal burning furnace that was in the basement along with the wash machines and the coal storage bin and a lot of jars of canned foods from the big garden. It was part of the work they did each summer to can the fresh tomatoes and green beans and sometimes there were pickles and always some strawberry jam. We usually missed the fresh strawberries my grandfather grew from the garden but the jam was always there. I was very picky, I hated the seeds in strawberry jam so I used the excellent grape jelly Grandma made mostly for me. I did say I was spoiled, didn't I? She had a neighbor down the road who had some nice concord grapes on a vine that grew along her front porch. I don't know how Grandma managed to get a tub full of those grapes every summer to make grape jelly for me, but I sure am glad she did. I have a lot of fond memories as most of us do of our grand parents and childhood and I miss those days in some ways but I am glad now to be grown up and in control of my own life. I got one thing I wish I hadn't from those mountains a fear of driving on the curvy roads. I would love to go back and stay longer but I honestly get white knuckles when I have tried to drive over the mountains to grandmothers house. 


Anonymous said...

Some of my favorite memories at Grandma & Grandpa's: homemade biscuits w/Grandma's STRAWBERRY preserves, green beans, fresh tomatoes, homemade donuts, picking the sour cherries and green apples from their fruit trees and the creepy hugh black ants that lived in those trees. Also, washing off the porches every morning to get rid of the coal dust and so we wouldn't get black feet and track it inside the house!Then we would sit on the gliders and snap beans or shuck corn from our Grandpa's garden. Grandpa Nunley always sang funny little songs he made up for the kids: "Lucille, stepped on a banana peel...""" remember that one? And at nite, when we were all in bed, windows open to the cool mountain evening, and hear the lone whistle and sound of the trains going down the track. I always wondered where the trains were headed to. Nice way to fall asleep and dream.
Jenny ;)

Frederick said...

Thanks Jenny Leigh for your memories of the glider and the good home grown foods. We were very lucky to have so much to eat and to learn where food actually comes from and how it is made. Grandpa's songs were funny and sweet and I wish we had one or two recorded. We have train whistles here in DC once in a while but mostly just the sound of them rolling down the tracks at night. It isn't quite the same as they sound down there in Narrows.