|Ella Dee, Ralph, Mama, Tommy and June|
Much more than for my children and grandchildren, mine was a generation that grew up surrounded by our past. There was no real need to have a celebration, a reunion or even a bulletin board of pictures and charts. We were surrounded by it and by them, our common past and heritage, everywhere and all the time. It stared us in our faces and we could not ignore it, even if we had wanted to. The only way to "get away from it" was to "run away from it" and very few of us wanted to do either.
It was somewhat like the old baseball games for which the results never were reported or recorded - there was no need to because everybody had been at the game when it was played.
Every day we were confronted with expressions like:
Take this to Ole' Pa's house, find him on Aunt Gracie’s porch, or go play games in “Rennie’s field.”
Somebody is broke down there at the end of “Ferry Dock Road.”
He rode his bike all the way to “Shell Point.”
We were swimming on and off of “Danky’s dock,” and played baseball on “Johnson’s cow pasture.”
We walked and played games on the “Old Road” and pulled tin cans in the middle of the “New Road.”
Every time we went to the Landing we looked across to Bell’s Island, Whale Creek Bay, Wades Shore, Sam Windsors Lump, the Horse Pen, or Whitehurst’s Island. Every time we crossed the bridge we noticed the lump of cedar trees on the very edge of what we called Brown’s Island, or stared in the other direction at the vines of Harkers Point.
But it wasn’t just places or things that had names with a story.
Freezing cold weather was "as cold as when the Chrissie Wright came ashore."
A tall man was “longer than Lonzo Lewis.”
A heavy man was “bigger than Bull Hunter.”
Someone else might be smarter than Charlie Nelson, or could oar faster than Luther Willis, or told more lies than “Lying Willie,” or throw a baseball harder than Moe Willis, or play and sing like the Rose crowd, or loved loon more than Loch, or could run faster than Billie Hancock.
And the ultimate question I was asked when it appeared that I was succumbing to the peer pressure that was just as much an issue then as it is now, was this - “If Jonathan [my nephew but was five years older and my most often role model] jumped off the Lighthouse, would that mean you had to jump off the lighthouse?”
Many, if not most of us were called by two names because everyone was named after someone else. You couldn’t just say that something happened or belonged to Mary. You had to be more specific.
Was it Mary Ann, Mary Francis, Mary Catherine, or even Norman’s Mary, Weldon's Mary, Tommy Lewis's Mary, or Iddy's Mary. There was also Luther's Mary, who when she was married became William's Mary, and who had a son called Mary's Michael. He lived almost next door to Elsie Mae's Johnny William, who was not be confused with Johnny Lane, Johnny Wayne, Johnny Michael, Johnny Manley ' the son of Johnny Boo, or Johnny Vann - the son of Alena's Johnny.
If mama sent me to get something from Ollie, she had to be more specific - was it Big Ollie or Little Ollie?
Everybody and Everything was a part of something else – something bigger than themselves. It was our "past." And to quote William Faulkner, "The past is not dead; it isn't even past."