The following writings are from the “Spirit of Imagination” magazine, which is a compilation of Whitesburg High School student writing. This is a new literary magazine created with the beginning writers in mind and was published during the 1989-90 school year.
“ The Smell of Smoke From a Trash Dump,” by Wade Yonts. When I think of the smell of smoke from a trash dump, I envision myself standing atop a grass-covered hill looking downward onto a smokefilled village cluttered with poverty-stricken huts of clay and tin.
I walk slowly through the waist high grass that still clings to its early morning drink, toward the first and smallest hut. As I near the hut, I can smell the smoke from the chimney and the soft aroma of mush as it cooks from inside the hut.
I hear the faint voice of a mother waking her children to their only meal of the day, less than a plate of nourishment. I stop my approach at the corner of the hut, where I now watch them through a rusted hole in the tin wall.
The children are sitting on the dirt floor near the open fire with their faces covered with black smudges and clothing of shreds, if as much. The mother serves their breakfast on dishes made of wood with no fork or spoon to aid their eating. Using their fingers like utensils, they carefully scoop the mush into their mouths.
After the children have finished, they kiss their mother goodbye and run down the dirt road on their way to work at a nearby farm. When the mother no longer can see the children, she goes to the corner where she sleeps and uncovers a small wooden box from beneath her straw bed. With tears in her eyes, she opens the box and draws from it a small, black bound Bible, worn from use. She holds the Bible in her hand and lowers her head to pray, asking God to grant her children a better life than the one they have how. She stays on her knees with her head held low for nearly an hour, just repeating that one wish. After she is finished, she lies down, holding her Bible with a tear in her eye.
“Some Lessons Cannot Be Forgotten,” by Michele Back. My mother is standing by the door, watching for my grandmother to walk to our house through the cold snow to spend the night. Last October she had a stroke and she hasn’t been completely herself since. She has been staying with us every night for the past year. Although the love she has for her family remains the same, some of her spirit has disappeared, and she no longer can remember the things that used to be so important to her. However, while I was growing up, things were quite different. I will never forget the way my grandmother was then.
I was nine years old when my parents divorced. Some of the security in my life disappeared when my father left the house. I had two wonderful, loving parents, although they just couldn’t get along, yet I still preferred Granny with her sweet smile and funny way of talking. She cooked me odd, old-fashioned meals, told me stories, sang me songs, and chased away all my fears. I spent every night in her big old house with its creaky floors and coal furnace. Every winter she bundled up in a robe and boots and trudged in the snow to the basement. She rekindled the fire so that the heat would seep through the vents and warm the house. Even if there had been no heat, Granny’s house would still have been the warmest place of all.
Every Sunday and Thursday night, Granny and I went to the Cram Creek Free Pentecostal Church prayer meeting. She was one of the founding members, and she never missed. I was too young to be scared by the preaching, so I sat beside her on an uncomfortable front-row wooden bench. Sometimes as few as twenty members attended, and on those nights I got up on the stage, microphonein hand, and sang. The members always clapped politely when I was finished, although I was far from being in tune. After my song, I took my seat again and listened to the other singing. I enjoyed listening to the church “choir” — a group made up of elderly women who sang very slowly and without music.
After the singers walked off the stage, the old, redfaced preacher took his place behind the pulpit. I didn’t care too much for the screaming, and most of the time I stretched out on the hard bench and laid my head in Granny’s lap. She covered me with her soft, blue overcoat and patted my head until I fell asleep. After church was over, we walked home in the dark while she told me that every meeting was “the best ever”. After going to the back door, we let ourselves in to the dark house, ate, and got ready for bed.
After we said our prayers, I fell asleep wrapped in the warmth of an electric blanket and Granny’s love. In the morning, I woke to the sounds of cars traveling the winding country road and the neighbor’s rooster singing his morning song. Granny was always at the stove preparing breakfast (usually bacon and biscuits made from scratch); and she set the table as soon as I set one lazy foot onto the cold kitchen floor. After we ate, I bundled up and went next door to my house to get ready for school.
Many things have changed since those days. Granny’s house has changed from green-and-white to gray-and –white. Some furniture has been added to the rooms already filled with antiques and keepsakes, and the old coal furnace has been replaced by modern electric heat. Now, the little church is prospering with over one hundred members, a new preacher, and a kitchen attached to the church house. Even the hard, wooden benches are now padded with soft rose cushions.
Not only have these things changed, but I also have. I am now seventeen years old, and I very rarely attend any church. The shy, awkward girl is gone, replaced by a confused teenager trying to find herself. I still love my grandmother very much, and although we are not quite as close as we used to be, inside I will always be “Granny’s little girl”.
However, of all the changes, Granny has changed the most. She recovered physically from the stroke, but her memory is slowly slipping away, although some days are better than others, my grandmother will never be the way she used to be. The doctors say her memory could eventually get worse, but unfortunately, it will never improve.
My grandmother is the person I admire most in the world. She gives her love and compassion to anyone who needs it, never asking for anything in return. She sacrifices her needs to make sure that her family is happy; consequently, her happiness comes from giving to others.
Granny still attends church if she feels up to it, although she now goes alone. After church, she comes home to our house and goes to sleep in my bed after she has told us about the church meeting. She wakes early and has coffee with my mother before going home.
On quiet evenings at my house, I can still hear the singers down the road at Granny’s church. Although the songs are now accompanied by the piano, the words and tunes are exactly the same. My grandmother has every song written in a faded, blue notebook, and on many occasions she has sung those songs to me.
When I grow up and have grandchildren, I plan to carry on the old stories and songs because my grandmother can’t remember them anymore. It’s sad that just because she is aging, her memory and some of her dignity must be damaged. Although she is different now, her sweet smile and love will never change. Love is a lesson Granny could never forget — a lesson she has passed on to her entire family.