(06/26/2016)
By Debbie Richard

After twenty-five years in South Carolina, I have made my way back to the mountain state where I was born and raised. I returned in late summer to Wirt County where I lived as a child.

I've settled in Elizabeth, the county seat of Wirt County where I remember my Grandma Richard bringing me to visit Uncle Ralph and Aunt Ethel when I was a little girl. How I cherish those times. I remember Grandma and I often walked down the street to Roberts Store on the corner. The store burnt a few years ago, and though the embers have long since died down, the memories are still as warm and cherished as an old friend.

Around town, as I stop in at one of the local grocery stores, the new flower shop, or the post office, folks greet me with a smile and call me by my first name. Elizabeth has a lovely small-town feel still today which reminds me of "Mayberry." As a way of integrating myself into the community, I've become a patron at the local library, accepted an invitation to a Sunday afternoon Tea at the Woman's Club, and attend a local church where I plan to join the Ladies Circle.

I recently took a drive on the Munday Road over to the community where I lived with my family when I was young. We lived beside my grandma with only a few shade trees between property lines. Our house is gone now, but Grandma's is still standing. The footbridge is still there with the iron rails. Years ago, we had a wooden footbridge which made it convenient for my little brother to fish in the creek, his little legs dangling over the side.

Grandma's yard is overgrown with weeds, owned by someone else now. But I see beyond that, back to a time when we played down in the bottom, or sat on Grandma's cool cement steps and smelled the fragrant scent of her lilac bush. I loved to walk by Grandma's garden and see the cornflower blue morning glories blooming.

About a mile further up the road, Bell School has all but fallen in now, but the tall tree in the schoolyard still stands there as bright as the noonday sun, as if shedding its light over the years of memories which so many of us hold dear - games we played in that schoolyard such as Hide and Seek or Red Rover, Red Rover, or Hopscotch on the covered cement porch.

On the drive back to Elizabeth, I pulled over to take a picture of some cows grazing in a field with the tall hills beyond, alive with the colors of early Fall. What a tranquil scene.

My roots are deep in these hills, my lifeblood flows from the veins of those mountain folk who taught us survival skills, whose memories I will forever hold invaluable. I ponder these thoughts and know that I have come home again.

Visit Debbie online at www.debbierichard.com


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