She was always there every summer. The brick house in a small Carolina town on Chestnut Street was a solid landmark, a greeting location for the McIver family.
My family would travel all day down a two lane road crossing state lines to unpack our belongings for a week of awkward family relations.
My grandmother, always smiling and greeting, would cook and entertain the weary travels with laughter and good cheer. She ran the house like a well oil operation, but raising so many children probably gave her the experience of a 4-star general.
The white side porch swing was the male refuse as the women gathered in the kitchen. The living room with its plastic covered furniture was never used. The only sound from that room was the spinning brass clock chime. My uncle’s photo was in that room draped with his medal, but was never discussed.
I learned to play piano from the upright off the kitchen where the women would gather to sing in harmony.
The back yard was full of roses and the carport smelled of oil. The neighbors had chickens and dogs.
Upstairs were empty bedrooms, awaiting children who never came back home. Soft beds with no circulation that didn’t cool the summer’s beach sunburn were the retreat after a day at the beach.
Across the street was a stepsister to my mother, who seemed uncomfortable with our invasion of the small sleepy town.
It seemed every time our family came to town, others would come out of the woodwork. Flora, Peggy, Mac, Randy, Lamar…. the list goes on and on, and then there were the families with grandchildren all running amok.
The beach was a refuge from the crowded house, but every summer presented rain and visible stress from the elders.
Later in life, I was just dumped on the beach and made my way for weeks of exploration, temptation, and examination. All these were great life changing learning experiences.
The little brick house is still in the little sleepy town, but the McIver family will not return there.
It will always be Mamma’s house.