Every now and then my mind returns me to a place I loved going as a child, back to the old family farm just off of the Blue Ridge Parkway near Galax, Virginia.
My family’s long journey from Dallas to Galax left plenty of time to ask, “Are we there yet?” And just when it seemed as if the answer would always be a resounding, “No,” the right mile post would appear, and we would turn down the gravel path to the farm with much rejoicing.
Upon our arrival, my brother and sister and I would scramble out of the back seat of the station wagon. We would take a few seconds to greet our relatives who would gather to meet us.
We would then kneel down to pet the dog that once was accidentally closed into a storage shed, where it stayed for a couple of days, and another time was mistakenly shot by a neighbor. Surprisingly, he still answered to his name. Lucky.
And then, finally, we would go through the fence gate up the hill to the spring house. We would open the door, and the most amazing breeze from the chill air inside would wash over you.
We would walk past the place near the front door where the waters had been channeled into a stone trough, where you would almost always find one or two watermelons buried in those cool waters, just waiting to be devoured later in the day.
And then we’d open the next small door and walk into a room that was even cooler than the one before, and darker. In that room, hanging on the far wall, was an old metal dipper with a long handle worn smooth from years of use.
One of us would have the honor of taking that dipper from its place, and we would take turns plunging it into the waters and lifting it to our lips. And we would drink so deeply, always surprised by how cold the water felt on our tongues.
Then, as if reciting a line from some family script, one of us would say what we always said, “I would give anything to bottle this water and take it back to Dallas with us.”
From the springhouse we would make our way back down the path to the main house, where I would sit beside my Great Aunt Leone as she worked to breathe life into the old pump organ. And she always remembered the song I wanted her to play first. She would flip through the old hand-written songbook until she found my favorite, “The Burglar Bold.” Her whole body swayed as her feet moved the pedals on that organ, and she would turn to look at me when she got to the final surprising line, just to see me laugh, “I said, ‘For the Lord’s sake, shoot.‘”
And then Aunt Leone’s brother, my Great Uncle Roscoe, would pick up his banjo and sing, “Oh, when I was single, oh then. Oh, when I was single, oh then. Oh, when I was single, my pockets would jingle. I wish I was single again.” And we would all laugh with him as he threw his head back, so amused by the words he was singing.
The farm no longer belongs to our family. But the joy that was born there remains.
Though I will never again taste the waters from that spring, or feel the breeze that rushed out through that springhouse door, thinking of them now somehow refreshes my spirit as surely as they did then.
And the music…it remains.
In the right moments, I can still hear the music that held us then marking its steady rhythm now along the hidden passageways of my heart. And it invites me to a deeper awareness of how grace is able to carry gifts from the past into the present, where we can open them anew, and rejoice.