I felt ready. I had faced down this foe many a time but continued to falter. In Columbus, Georgia, the two brick-red pillars in front of the house at 1553 15th Ave. were something I determined to conquer. I do not remember when I finally landed that leap, but I know after many failed attempts, I was able to jump from one pillar to the next. I was on my way to much grander adventures.
We spent many a Sunday after church in this home. My great-grandfather, William Dolphus Hamilton, had built this house on a dirt road in the city of my birth. It was a gift to his new bride, Annie May Kidd Hamilton, the daughter of a widowed, fiery preacher (and proficient moonshiner,) Jefferson Davis Kidd.
The couple occupied the house after their nuptials, May 3, 1914, and lived there until Papa Bill’s (my great-grandfather) demise, February 14, 1978. Annie would stay there alone for the next seven years. She passed away August 3, 1985. She is buried next to her husband in Riverdale cemetery, not far from the slow moving Chattahoochee River, where she had lived all her life.
As you walked up those stairs you entered a traditional Southern patio complete with rocking chairs and gold spittoon for the two of them. I remember snapping snap peas from a bushel while the grown-ups shared some boring conversation as they rocked in their chairs and snapped peas themselves.
When you walked into that house, the first thing you noticed and the only furniture in the hallway, was a small table with the White Pages phone book and the most massive phone I have ever seen or felt. It was a black, rotary dialed monstrosity that could have easily been used as a weapon. The first door on the left led into what seemed to be an expansive living room that was far grander in my mind than it really was. Everything seemed so much bigger as a child.
Sunday dinners were always a treat in that house. The smell of poundcake and fried chicken permeated the small house almost every Sunday. My great-grandmother jarred apples that were candied by Red Hots and were a glorious shade of red.
The kids, who were numerous, were always relegated to card tables somewhere else in the room. The gathering was a conglomeration of cousins, aunts, uncles, and of course, our family of six, of which I was the eldest. When someone new was brought into the fold, the regulars knew to pass the food from both directions to that person at the same time, of course that led to much laughter from all of those in attendance.
Once the children had said, “thank you very much, I enjoyed that. May I be excused now?” we set out on the day’s adventures.
My great-grandmother liked to hide marbles in the darkest place of the house. The best way to describe it was a hub that led to the bathroom, dining room, spare bedroom, and the hall. The floor in that space was warped and creaky. Our treasures were found in small knickknacks, behind books, and old copies of True Detective magazines.
After completing our exhaustive search, we would often head out to the backyard. There was a garden for tomatoes and peppers, and then there was a freestanding metal garage. It was a foreboding place that I do not recall if a car was ever parked there. Inside there were rusty tools and old light fixtures all covered in cobwebs. I distinctly remember seeing a large wicker flower stand like the kind used for funerals. We were quite sure vampires lived in that garage.
We moved away from our hometown when I was 14. When I returned years later I found that house dilapidated and vacant. As I peered into those windows, I was so surprised to see how much smaller it was than what I remembered. Time marches on, but memories are sweet. I can almost smell the poundcake.