It was with remarkable bravery that Daddy plunked down $1,000 of hard earned, long saved money in 1956 to buy a few acres of pasture with a large, tree-shaded creek that twisted through it.
“Always buy land with water on it,” he always said.
And that is what he always did.
In this very rural place — the address for more than 25 years was Rural Route 1 — he built a small, sturdy house. He determined the house would outlive generations. It has a poured foundation, concrete porches, cement block and plaster walls and brick that looks new 50 years later.
This is the house that first loved me. It was there, under the shade of maples, sweet gums and birches, I was raised. I toted books from one room to another, reading at a surprisingly young age. I churned milk by hand until I was 6 when we got an electric churn.
I also watched Mama take the end of a broom to push down the wash repeatedly in a worn-out washer, but we couldn’t afford to replace. In the back yard, she hung the laundry with a precise art starting with the big pieces such as sheets and working down to shirts and slips.
“Now, that’s a pretty wash,” she’d say admiringly when she stepped back and eyed it critically.
When the summer clouds darkened, she exclaimed, “Quick, run out and grab the wash. It’s comin’ up a cloud.”
When Mama died, 10 years after Daddy, I couldn’t bear to see this place of love, faith and family go to another. So, I bought it. I use it primarily as my office and beloved writing spot but, from time to time, we use its comforts to bless temporarily someone in need.
This house that first loved me has loved a couple who was struggling through a difficult period in their marriage, two preachers’ families between houses, a coach’s family in transition from one high school to another and a medical student during a clinical at the local hospital. That sweet house has been loved as much as it has loved.
The “little house” as it is fondly called holds a special place of remembrance for anyone who has ever slept in its enormously comfortable beds.
“We always talk about the ‘little house’ and our happy times there,” the coach’s wife said.
The family of four squeezed into it between the sale and purchase of two large homes.
“We were closer than we’ve ever been,” she said.
Every person who has slept in that house since I bought it in 2008 loves the Lord God with body and soul. Just like Mama and Daddy. They have toted in Bibles and prayed throughout the house. Just like Mama and Daddy. That is why, I believe, that the sweet, welcoming spirit permeates its walls. I still find comfort and peace each time I walk in its doors.
The other day I was plundering through the closets. They are mostly cleaned out, but they still hold remnants of my younger life — a stack of high school yearbooks (well worth the money for the times they recall), another stack containing my album collection of Loretta Lynn, Conway Twitty, Linda Ronstadt and Jerry Reed as well as some of my favorite books. In the hall closet is the used electric typewriter on which I wrote my first sports stories when I worked for a weekly newspaper.
It is easy and hard to write when I’m there. For the most part, I just like to be quiet and think, to reflect on this or that event. On the other hand, creativity will often sweep over me as though Jesus has leaned down and kissed me on the top of the head.
The Lord, as says a little song my family sings on birthdays, has blessed me real good with this little house.
Ronda Rich is the best-selling author of several books, including “What Southern Women Know.” Sign up for her newsletter at www.rondarich.com. Her column appears Tuesdays and on gainesvilletimes.com/ronda.