A companion piece to “Growing up a Hayes….”
So I grew up a Toccoa Hayes. I have a story about what that entailed. Barefoot, fun loving, big family and lake living were the main themes. Today, I realized I am a grown up Hayes. Sitting on the same front porch I’ve sat on my entire life and hearing the same teasing I’ve heard my whole life made me I realize that you never really quit being a Hayes. I do not say the word weird as WEWRD but my older cousins for 30+ years have told me that I do. Today was no different–the second I stepped outside onto the stone steps that asked if I felt WEWRD. I had the same response I had then….”shut up”. It’s as mature an answer today as it was then. As I said it I looked down to check my feet. You see, I still don’t wear sandals to Nanny’s a lot because these same cousins told me that my feet looked like I had been running too hard and hit a brick wall. That kind of thing stays with you.
Today my son and daughter were tussling around in the yard and my cousin said something about me being a mama….then he stopped himself and said, “…that just ain’t right. You shouldn’t be a mama. We are all just kids!” And it feels that way. I am 42 years old and still being teased for mis-pronouncing a word that I DON’T SAY WRONG. I still get kidded for not putting polk beans or pull beans on my plate. We are all momma’s and daddies now but there, sitting on that stone front porch at Nanny’s makes you feel about 14. The screen door still SWMACKS when it slams or it did until Jeff broke it–just like when we were kids. Debbie still is at the sink doing dishes–the same place she was when I was little. The thump-thump-thump you hear as children run through the house are now our kids running…not us. As a child comes tearing out of the house and makes toward the stairs it’s us yelling, ‘careful on the steps’ which are just large slabs of granite and are horribly treacherous. The young kids ignore us just like we ignored the adults yelling it to us all those years ago.
In the yard, Stephen’s holding his toddling son with his daughter curled around his leg while his itty-bitty baby sleeps inside. Stephen. Daddy. It’s surreal to look at him and still see him folding his 6’3″+ self into his VW bug and taking me with him ‘cruising’ after SCHS Friday night football games. Now he’s a Daddy of 3 with a farm and a animals living right across from nanny. I still giggle a bit thinking of this Stephen versus the one that was my best friend. His shy daughter and my shy daughter played together for about 5 minutes this visit. I wonder if they will someday look forward to seeing one another they way I used to look forward to seeing my Toccoa cousins. I look at Stephen and think of my Uncle Gene, his daddy. I don’t know if he knows how much of his Daddy I see when I look at him like this.
Jeff is there–breaking stuff and blaming it on the little kids. Incorrectly teasing me about my words. Making fun of me and laughing as I got frustrated. Sitting on the front porch today we had the same conversation we had 20 years ago and I had to exact same reaction now as I did then. It’s both frustrating and comforting. This is what it means to come HOME, to be part of a family…this same old, same old, same old that always reminds you of who you are no matter what you’ve become.
David had his son with him this Easter. I had to introduce myself to him since I haven’t seen him since he was about 5. Cool, aloof David has a grown son now. Wow. David was the the one we didn’t see a lot since he hailed from Idaho. During his visits everyone clamored for his attention. Then we was then the quiet one that I always wanted to impress. Don’t think I ever did but I also don’t think that I am done trying.
Sandi was missing today. Sandi who got to wear make-up and watch rated R movies before I did. I always thought she was so cool. She was sick today but had she been there she would have been telling us about getting ready to help her daughter get married. Married. Or tell us about her son in the ARMY. Her babies are grown and I still think of her as 17 strutting around cool and confident with her dimpled smile and awesome hair. Now she, like the rest of us, probably has gray in that hair.
Quintina who Sandi and I used to ‘help’ babysit is gorgeous and Tamara has her own daughter running around looking for Easter eggs. When did they quit hunting the eggs I want to ask.
My little ones rush over to ask if they can go upstairs. A few minutes later my son chickens out. He’s not the first to be afraid of the 2nd floor. As kids we were all terrified of Uncle George, the ghost of family past, that was rumored to inhabit the upstairs. We’ve all been spooked once or twice. It’s funny to see another generation scared. A certain cousin-a grown HAYES-still won’t spend the night. The only thing different is that they haven’t all been together enough to dare one another to slide down the bannister. Oh that day is coming. Soon.
Meanwhile, on the back porch, Melissa is crocheting a baby blanket for her brother’s second child while calling calmly to her 2 children not to run in the house. They didn’t listen just like we didn’t listen. She’s calm and brave and strong and is almost finished with her chemo. Chemo. In my mind she should still be sitting on the back porch asking for bed supper and now she’s the mature, calm voice of reason. Her sweet husband is like one of the cousins. You forget you haven’t know Jason your whole life.
TWACK-the screen door slams and feet bang along the wooden floor. Before the sound is drowned out I hear my dad calling to my kids who are still in the front yard. My daughter is continuing to fight the fight and is tussling in the yard wrestling with her brother. She looks exactly like a Hayes with her big brown puppy dog eyes and that stubborn glint in her eye. She’s sassing and wrestling and fighting for all she’s worth. It’s like watching a high-def home movie of me many, many years ago. She’s rough and determined to have everyone think she’s tough…the same thing I wanted 30 years ago. It’s bizarre to say the least. Sometimes I feel like I am still fighting so that these people think I am tough.
Lea is there with the cutest baby on the face of the planet talking about her impressive and important nursing career. It’s funny to think that she spends her days saving lives, changing lives and raising this precious baby. Sitting on Nanny’s porch all pretty and poised and impressive is so different then the days when she would run outside with the younger set of cousins asking what we, the older, group were doing. Her husband banters back and forth with the cousins fitting right in. Family is family whether you are born into it or marry into it–when it’s right.
I made everyone sit on the front porch today for a picture. They moaned and groaned and made a fuss but I think it’s important. I was 15 the last time we took a family picture. Not everyone from that picture was with us today. We are missing a lot of folks-some just for the day and some that we will miss forever. I wanted to capture time before we missed anyone else. Posing, I don’t know that we felt much different today then we did on picture day all those years ago, and years from now when we pose for the same photo, I still don’t think we’ll feel much different, either.