The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

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from the
Heart of the Blue Ridge

Cherished Reflections

By M. Melody Ridgway © 1989

Issue: November, 1989

It had always seemed strange to me when younger, that I hadn't really acquired many if any, of my family's traits.

Of course it wasn't unusual for families to all resemble one another or look as though the entire clan had been pulled through a Xerox machine. However, the opposite is true for families to look as complete strangers, yet live under the same roof. But in the latter of situations, there are usually traits from other personalities, views, common likes and dislikes.

Not to mention the numerous inherited family ties. None of the above mentioned could I find about me with my family life. Not only did I look and feel different, as though I was the "wall flower gal, at the first Spring Fling dance."

Maybe it was being the only child, the only one residing at home with my parents which made me feel so all alone. My brother was eighteen years my senior while my sister was twenty years my senior.

I had nephews from my sister's marriage, some only a few months from my age. This left many controversial conversations for Mother and her many acquaintances. I was the Original late bloomer.

My sister was a dark haired, dark eyed beauty. Here I was this skinny red headed, freckle faced "gooseberry," eyed kid. I was the only red head in our family. My Grandfather had once been but I hadn't known of his misfortune.

The common question repeatedly asked in our home by our numerous guests was, "my goodness Eddie, where did that child get that red hair?" My mother's name was Edith. She would simply smile for her response, and then look at me as if I was the guilty party. So, I began the search to, in fact, find this missing relative in question for this Carrot Top, of mine. Goodness, I felt had nothing to do with my dilemma.

Weeks, then months went by. I felt my search had ended with no prevail. Finally, one afternoon while playing a vigorous game of hide an seek along with about two dozen other neighbor children, the countdown began 5,10,15... Then I felt my fingers clench the sideboards of my grandfather's white washed tool shed. We were all congregated in his back yard. Along came the trash truck for its weekly service. The men at that time who rode the trucks were also called, "honey dipper's;" which had nothing to do with neither bees nor honey! They hauled away garbage and cleaned the out houses.

I feared my face had shown the horror which I'd been thinking; thinking so loudly that surely that old Jake Backmere would hear. Or perhaps he could hear the rapid beats from my throat. Could he see me hiding behind grandpa's shed?

I grabbed the hem of my bleached muslin dress, to make sure there was no sight of me. It wasn't so much the fear of him, as the idea within my childish thoughts. He had a broad back and arms like lead pipes; enormous. The most terrifying thing of all was his full flaming red beard and locks.

With imagination running wild, my thoughts were a whirlwind. Maybe I really belong to old Jake? Could it be he's coming back for me? Oh, what dreadful questions. It would seem I was the only little red headed, freckle faced girl around. How long would I worry and wonder?

Mother received a Western Union telegram. She waited for what I thought had been hours before opening it. I stood anxiously awaiting, beside her flour coated table. She wiped the flour and dough from her hands on her blue and white checked, gingham apron. She read, but never a word out loud. Just the movement of her hazel eyes form side to side. Then in a nonchalant voice said, "Well it seems your cousin Del Mae is coming this summer for a visit. She is your Uncle Ned's baby girl. He has a sheep ranch in Wyoming. She's only a year or so older than you, Margie." My heart was filled with overwhelming joy.

"Come on Margie," Mama said, "We'll be late for Del Mae's train." "Oh, look at your hair. It's just straight as a pin. Let's go." My sister drove us to the train depot. It must have been at least a two hour drive. Mama talked on and on, about as fast as her crochet hook moved. She made several lace doilies by the time we reached our destination.

Del Mae's train was ten minutes delayed. I chewed my fingers as Mama and sister chewed the fat!

The hard iron locomotive finally came to a halt. As the smoke cleared, the conductor sorted the baggage. He picked up one small, well used case as the train doors opened.

My eyes stared at a wonderful red headed, freckle faced, "gooseberry" eyed little girl. She was dressed in a starched flour sack smock.

As soon our smiling eyes met, I knew this was indeed my family. A sense of belonging finally calmed my weary spirit, but most importantly that CHERISHED REFLECTION, of Del Mae's beauty and mine...