“Welcome Home” Chapter One- Leesburg

27 Apr

When I was eight years old I had a childhood memories journal, a simple questionnaire that was designed to help you remember your childhood in later years. When I was asked what my home was like, I answered, “Peridice [paradise]. It is a brick house, with four gardens, green shudders [shutters], and a rock driveway.” Home meant the world to me. In later years, though, I have come to find out that it was not just the geographical location that mattered so much. I lived in Leesburg from the time I was born until shortly after my twelfth birthday. During that time, most of the world was sheltered from me, especially since I lived in a small town environment. Buried deep in childhood fantasies and humid cotton fields, what could I see of the world? Back then, sin was calling someone “stupid” or telling a lie. I knew nothing about the complexity of our fallen world. My days were spent being homeschooled by my loving mother until about lunchtime, and then I usually either played with my dolls or ran outside. We lived on two acres that consisted of fresh green grass, pretty flowerbeds filled with zinnias, an inflatable swimming pool that stayed up from May to September, and a wooden playhouse my daddy built my brother and I that we called a “fort.” Our driveway was sandy, with plenty of tiny rocks strewn along. To the right of the house, there was a concrete pad for the cars and for walking. That patch was frequently a chalkboard “city,” with streets for the bikes Lane and I rode. That was one of our favorite things to play outside, next to swinging and singing, at the same time. There was something comforting about home and about being so young; something that I never will find again now that those years have passed.
Our house was not my only tie to Leesburg, however. The Beatles’ song “Penny Lane” accurately describes small towns and all of its interesting inhabitants. The closeness and consistency of a southern rural town is incomparable. I can still hear Mrs. Carol answering the phone at Lee County Library, my favorite place to be on a rainy day. I remember my dog’s vet clearly and I am sure Biscuit does as well, though not in a good way. At the old Post Office we could count on Mr. John’s assistance. And, goodness, if we ever wanted a good laugh, we could just go to Walmart, a few miles down the road in Albany, and visit the automotive department. The lady that worked there was always so friendly. I have once heard that everyone dies famous in a small town. That is the truth.
My maternal grandparents lived on the outskirts of Leesburg and we usually saw them about twice a week. I was very close to them, especially Gran, who taught me how to sew, how to garden, and how to live. We still get along very well and think similarly on many things. I know my fellow teenagers who are reading this are probably laughing, but I am telling the truth. When I go to Gran and Granddaddy’s house, I feel like I am going to visit my best friend. They are not two old, crotchety grumps. They try to get to know me and they keep the whole family involved in their lives. But anyway, that is for a different chapter.
My paternal grandparents lived about twenty minutes away from Leesburg in a small town named Warwick. We did not see them very often, but it was a comfort to think that we were close in the event of an accident. Also, my Uncle Jason lived in Leesburg over toward the Redbone community.
In addition to family, we also had many close friends. I took piano with a kind, southern lady named Mrs. Tharp. Those lessons lasted for four years and over that time she became like a third grandmother to me. Piano was every Wednesday at 2:00 p.m. and before we began that day’s lessons, she would ask me what was going on in my life. She knew many of my secrets, hopes, dreams, and fears before anyone else even guessed them.
Since I was homeschooled, I did not have a ton of friends my age. I did meet my closest friend in Leesburg. Her name was Sarah. We have known each other since we were two. Our mothers formed an informal, four-family homeschool group that met every Tuesday for about three years. Those were some of the best childhood memories I have at that age. That was also where I met a friend that I will call Jonathon [for the sake of privacy and any of you stalkers out there], who I will mention again in later chapters.
A good friend I had later on was Kristian. She was about two and a half years older than me and lived next door to Gran and Granddaddy’s. Over the summer/fall of 2009, we became good friends, talking about our liking for teenage pop singer Selena Gomez and life in general. When I would sometimes go over to Gran’s house in the afternoons, I would stand between our yards and wait for Kristian to get off the bus. She was rarely too busy to talk, even if it was just for a second, and was always in her characteristic, cheerful mood.
One other friend I had was Caroline. Though we only saw each other about twice a year since we met at the age of six, I considered her one of my best friends. Caroline was a little ray of sunshine, filled with an optimism that never left her, even when she moved into her teenage years.
Considering the above descriptions of my house, the town of Leesburg, my family, and my friends, you might question why anyone would ever want to move away. The truth is, I did not want to leave. However, the paradise that existed in Leesburg generally did not spread into Albany, its bigger neighbor. The crime rate was extensive, especially in the East side. I think I have only been over there once. Seriously. It was terrifying. I remember one day I was sitting in the car while Mama was getting gas and seeing a man wearing a t-shirt that bore the words, “murder king of coma house.” I do not think he was citing a rock band. I really would not be surprised if there is some gang with that name running around down in Albany.
In addition to the high crime rate, the weather in this area was absurd. Now, my fellow Georgians know that weather in our state can be a bit unpredictable and oftentimes extreme, but the weather in Albany was almost always the same. It was extremely sticky, humid, and plain out hot from March to October. The short winters we had were considerably cold, but they did not last long. There was no such thing as spring and hardly an autumn; it went from blazing hot to freezing cold. Thunderstorms did not surprise you like they do in North Georgia. Since Albany is almost completely flat, you can spot a storm coming from miles away. This was both a blessing and warning to us while we lived in Leesburg. It was nice that you could forecast most storms, but that means that you must get inside. Immediately. Woe to the man, woman, or child that thinks they can simply stand outside or “wait out” a South Georgia storm! Those storms often have ground-shaking thunder, brilliant lightning, and violent winds at the very least. Tornado watches and warnings were fairly common place if it was storming. That area was like a pit; the elevations were higher at all sides of us, leaving Albany in a sort of valley. This made ideal conditions for a “perfect” tornado. The humid, stifling heat was once described online as “the devil’s armpit.” I am sure that these situations were a storm’s best friend.
The third reason that we moved was because of a lifelong plague of gnats. I’m serious. From April to October, they clung to us like a wet rag. They especially loved people’s noses, ears, and eyes. Their little buzzing noises could drive you crazy if you let them. For some odd reason, the gnat population continued to climb throughout the years until it was a considerable, annoying problem.
These were the reasons my parents decided to move. However, through all of these things, there was a fostered love in my young heart for that town that I could not relinquish, no matter how many bugs a summer might have or how many thunderstorms woke us up in the middle of the night. I could not let go of Leesburg.

*If you liked this post, please consider giving to the Jackson family at the following link: http://www.cue52.com/CUE52/Donations_for_the_Jackson_Family.html

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3 Responses to ““Welcome Home” Chapter One- Leesburg”

  1. Sarah Spradlin April 27, 2014 at 3:36 PM #

    Love it 🙂 Keep writing, Brooke!

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