There was a momentous occasion in my family last week – one that just seemed to make the world wobble and the ground seem squishy under my feet.
The sturdy solid table in the center of the dining room and the tall black safe standing sentinel in the corner of my Grandma’s old farm house in Brantley County were moved. They are not where they have always been any more.
I shouldn’t be sad, but I am. They are not lost. They were not destroyed, after all. They were just merely moved. It’s no one’s fault — just the passing of time and the passing of people causes it to be so.
My mama’s oldest sister, Louise, was the matriarch of the family and she lived at the home place until her death on the last day of October last year.
The table and the safe had been in their respective places since my grandparents, E.B. and Georgia Jones, placed them there in late 1950 or early 1951.
We knew this day was coming. My cousins, David and Pam, have inherited the house and rightfully so. It is theirs now. It’s still there and I can still visit, but it is just different.
All of my life, it was a part of me. Not the frame and the walls and the roof. And not just the table and the safe.
No, it is the soul and the spirit and the love and the security of it.
I know the only thing constant in this old world is that everything changes, but I don’t have to like it. Let’s just say I’m allergic to change.
The table was hand built by my great-great-grandfather James Griffin Jr. It for his daughter, Nancy Griffin Lee, the eighth of his 11 children. Grandma Nancy was a nurse and she and my great-grandfather, James Frier “Jim” Lee, lived in a farm house on the south end of the of High Bluff Cemetery. I am not sure just when Grandpa Griffin built it, but since he died in 1906, we know it is at least 115 years old. And, as those who moved it last week can attest, he built it to last. It was at home at Grandma Lee’s house until her death in 1950. My Grandma, Georgia Lee Jones, brought it to her house, a keepsake and heirloom of her Grandpa Griffin and her sweet mama. My Grandpa, E.B., added a piece of plywood and a formica covering to it to smooth out the rough hewn edges and from that day until last week — some 70 years — it has been where it always was. I know less about the origins of the safe — or the “safet” as my Grandma always called it. It, too, was Grandma Lee’s and came to my grandparents’ house after Grandma Lee’s passing.
For all of my memory, both pieces of furniture have been right there in that farm house.
Many of the faces that once sat around the table are gone now, preserved only in my memory and in pictures – and in my heart.
But, oh, what memories they are.
A bazillion pieces of fried chicken have graced that table along with countless biscuits and fresh vegetables and desserts. And, what wasn’t eaten, went into the safe, for safe keeping until the next meal.
The safe was also the place that held cookies and cakes and pies for Sunday afternoons after kickball, baseball, freeze tag and play time with all my cousins.
Over the table, stories and news of family, tall tales and gales of laughter and yes, tears have been shed.
Through the years, in times of crisis and sadness and hurt, my Grandma and Grandpa’s descendants would gather there around that table.
For old times sake, we did that just a few weeks ago, before the table and the safe were moved.
We told family stories and shared memories and laughed, all the while, knowing this day was coming.
The moving day was put off a few times, but finally arrived.
My Mama’s baby sister, Margaret, inherited it and moved it to her house, which as my Grandma would say, is “cross the fishpond” from the home place. It looks right at home in its new location. It’s still intact. It’s waiting for more loved ones to gather around it or to look inside it for goodies.
I know we can’t stop time. I know we can’t bring back what’s passed away.
I can still hear my Grandma saying of such passages and changes, “Son, that’s all in life.”
Maybe, just maybe, nothing has really moved.
The table and the safe are right where they have always been, anchored in memory and fixed in my soul.
• Jason Deal is a staff writer for The Blackshear Times. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.