As the road twisted and turned while rising up through the elevation of the tree-smothered mountain, I slowed the car and looked at the place so dear to my family.
It is a place where faith and calloused hands fought poverty, and poverty gave birth to dreams and eventual escape. My ancestors sowed there, so we could reap abundantly elsewhere.
It is a simple two-lane back road that joins today’s world to one I knew in yester years. It is the one place in my history I sometimes wish I could crawl back into and savor the gentleness and the time when everyone I loved was still alive. I was too young to realize life could be cruel and lessons could be hard learned.
Not much has changed. Of that I am glad.
The road is still patched with ribbons of tar poured into cracks, reminding me how it would melt in the hot July sun until it was soft and spongy. As my cousins and I walked barefoot toward the country store, I sometimes stopped and stuck a toe into its softness and watched the indention it made.
Those were the times when kids still pondered on the life around them and found adventure in mud pies and played pretend and dress up.
The trees are bigger but still full and leafy. The water hole where we laughed and splashed remains untouched. So I slowed the car to think of the 6-foot-tall drain pipe that runs underneath the road where we plopped down in our inner tubes on one end and rode the shallow, streaming water over the ridged surface, then shot out the other side into the deeper end of the water.
No developments and no subdivisions are in this place called Nimblewill, where families own farms and land stays mostly in the families from one generation to the next.
The war ended in Europe in 1945 and was soon to end in the Pacific before Amicalola EMC got power lines into the community and the tiny, tin-roofed house of my grandparents. I am still amazed America had been fighting a world war with two enemies in two regions of the world, yet still many people were without access to electricity. Once it arrived to my kinfolk in the mountains, it mostly was a naked light bulb hanging down from the center of the room. And it was turned on and off by jerking a string.
The little four-room humble abode of my grandparents — the one with a front porch that seemed to sigh with despair — was torn down long ago and replaced with a house trailer.
Gone, too, is the barn and the snowball plant that sprouted up majestically every spring in the dirt front yard that was swept not mowed. It was just far enough away from the tall, sturdy pine trees to absorb sun and make my grandmother very proud. She had few things of real beauty, so she always beamed with joy over the huge blossoms and offered a cutting to anyone who stopped to admire it.
Across the road lived Miz Mincey, the woman my mama once said was the kindest woman she ever met. Her house is still there and I can clearly recall how she rumbled through the darkened rooms with heavy, lumbering steps.
Daddy used that road to teach me to drive when I was 12. Throughout my teenage years, I saw my cousins and childhood friends baptized in the river nearby. Then somewhere in those years, the parade of funeral processions began and the innocence of my youth turned to experience and dusty memories.
Only two or three houses have sprung up on that road in the past three decades, making it easy to look around and remember when.
So easy and yet so hard.
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 www.gainesvilletimes.com.