The Lily Dale Fireplace


I was reminded today of a particular visit we made around five years ago one fall to see our son, his wife, and their children who live in Texas. Every visit we have with them is always special, and results in some wonderful memories, but the reason this visit stands out in my mind is that I got to spend what I consider some quality time with my granddaughters whose ages at that time ranged from four to twelve years old. Part of that time consisted of a game we played while driving to New Mexico one day to do some sight seeing. Since we couldnít all fit into one vehicle, I drove one car and took all our granddaughters with me, while the rest of the family went in another car. One thing all four of our granddaughters have in common is that they each possess a very vivid imagination, and that day, those imaginations were moved up to the front burner. The game we played began by making up a character whose life story we told as we rode along. Each one took a turn telling about our made up character and the kinds of things there were happening each day in that personís life. The thing that made the game really interesting was that each person would stop, sometimes right in the middle of a sentence, and the next person had to pick up the story and go on with it from there. I have wished many times that I had a tape recording of that game. It would be priceless to me today.

All the fun we had playing that game came back to me today as my husband and I walked around the banks of the lake at Lily Dale. The water level of the lake is lower this fall than it has been in a number of years. According to information Darren Shell shared with me, even the foundation of the Lily Dale post office is out of water for the first time in many years. We were not able to see the remains of the post office from the banks at the Lily Dale campground, but one thing we did stumble upon not too far from the shoreline was what appeared to be the remains of an old brick fireplace. Thatís what made me think of our granddaughters and our trip to New Mexico. If only three of them werenít so far away, (our youngest granddaughter lives in Cookeville), and could have been along on this trip to Lily Dale, we would have sat down right there and made up a story about the family who lived in the house where this fireplace was used, not only for warmth in the winter, but for cooking purposes as well.

As my husband and I continued our walk, I began to imagine the lady who might have lived in the house. After a few minutes, I was completely caught up in what a visit with her might be like. I could see myself as I walked upon the porch to knock on the door. Inside, the lady was standing by the fireplace stirring beans in a big black kettle that hung over the fire. As she turned around from the fireplace and came to answer my knock on her door, a look of complete surprise, almost to the point of fear, would be quite obvious on her face. She is about 30 years old, quite thin and tall. Her brunette hair glistens in the sunlight. Several small children stand behind her and peek around her dress tail as she opens the door. Can you imagine what she would think when the woman at her door had hair cut shorter than most men in those days, and was dressed in a sweat shirt and sweat pants? And what kind of shoes are called walking shoes? When she asked what I want, how could I possibly explain that Iím from a world she knows nothing about.

This is where my granddaughtersí imagination would take over. What fun it would be to hear what each of them would contribute to the story. Thereís just no telling how it would turn out. For my part of the story, I would tell how I was invited in to see her home, something I would thoroughly enjoy. The white weather board house has a big front porch that extends around on each side of the house. As soon as you step inside the very sparsely furnished home, itís quite obvious the lady is an immaculate housekeeper. A handmade rocking chair sits by the fireplace, and is used each night to get the youngest child to sleep. A couple of straight back chairs and a small table with a kerosene lamp sit near a window. A bed is also in this room. A ladder goes up to a sleeping loft where the children all share a straw mattress. A large hand-hewed walnut table with six chairs is in the kitchen. Something is cooking on top of the wood stove. A cabinet that holds staple items such as flour, meal, and sugar stands against one wall. The back door of the kitchen stands open, and chickens can be seen out in the back yard.

If such a visit were possible, what kind of questions would I be asked about the world I live in, and how would I ever answer them? Because of what I studied, things Iíve read and been taught, I know a little something about her life, even though I have never personally experienced living as she has. But not in her wildest dreams could she begin to understand how things have changed. Where would you start to tell someone about our world today? What would be the first thing you would share about your everyday life that this lady could relate to?

That would be another part of the story my granddaughters could take care of. Maybe after they read this chapter of my journal, they could put something together for me, and if they do, Iíll pass it on. I can promise you one thing, their part of the story will be filled with all kinds of interesting details, the likes of which will certainly keep you completely entertained!