February 08, 2017The snow-capped patio table in our backyard glittered, the green vase atop shone like a beacon of light. Sunrise upon fresh snow at last!
In the sloping garden below, the handle to Poppy Roy's push mower leaned to the east from winter's wind. Although the wood connected to the iron rotted long ago, I can't part with my broken garden ornament.
More than a decade ago my sister Patty spied the antique while we rummaged through Granny's basement. Poppy Roy, our step-grandfather, had departed before Granny, so his lawnmower was a long-forgotten exile.
Their house, once joyful with Granny's piano and gospel songs, waited vacant and forlorn for its next resident. Patty and I hoped the people would take good care of the place filled with our beloved memories.
Two years after Grandpa Floyd passed, Granny married Poppy Roy and built the house in Phelps, an Appalachian hamlet not ten minutes from the McCoy Bottom where my grandparents raised their brood. During summer vacations, my sisters and I played in Phelps' alleys with neighbor kids as Dill did with Scout and Jem in Maycomb, Alabama.
I cannot imagine a more enchanted youth.
How strange, then, to be adults all of a sudden and open the coal bin door without Granny's permission-more so to take her belongings. I felt like a thief, that same sense of impropriety when my sisters and I emptied Dad's home of his earthly possessions.
Then our mother's.
Finally, my in-law's home.
Patty and I lifted the lawnmower off a heap of coal and from the dark hole.
"I don't remember Roy mowing the lawn," I said. "The house has only two tiny patches at the front."
"Look! Here's Roy's coal bucket," Patty said.
The pail called my name.
"It will make a perfect flower pot for my front porch."
I pulled out a ladder back chair from the pit. "I remember this green chair. Was it Mom or Granny who said Grandpa Hunt caned the seat?"
Patty didn't know. A younger sister, she never heard much about Grandpa Hunt.
Granny's father, a tall man with large hairy ears, was a German woodcrafter. I remember him in his casket in Granny's living room. That was in the 50s before a mortician opened a funeral home in Phelps.
After a brief discussion with my conscience and Patty, I decided to rescue the push mower, coal bucket, and chair.
Someday, I'll find a woodworker to estimate the cost to repair the chair and cane the seat. Meanwhile, it waits in storage with other odds and ends for service.
The bottom of Poppy's coal bucket is rusted out and makes a mess on the front porch, so I'll move it to a garden come spring.
His push mower, dear Reader, remains on the slope, facing south. There it corrodes as the cycle of seasons pass from snowfall to rainfall to leaf fall.
The green vase, another castaway, sits atop the table, a beacon of light when the sun shines.
Email Iris at firstname.lastname@example.org.