By Stephen Harris
September 30, 2013
The Better Half woke up under the weather on a Sunday morning a couple of months ago, so it was all up to me as to whether my grandson, who was up here in the hometown visiting for the weekend, would go to church.
Divide and conquer is the best strategy, I’ve learned, when dealing with the rowdy grandchildren. We had only the one grandson with us on this weekend. The others were back at home down in the city. They behave better when Half and I outnumber them.
The 8-year-old had asked to come up, and Half cannot say no.
So as he slept on the living-room sofa’s fold-out bed I formulated on the spot a fine strategy for getting a sleepy kid up on a Sunday morning. “Get up and get dressed,” I grumbled, loudly.
I’m not well practiced at that kind of thing.
To my surprise he got up and got dressed.
He’s actually a stepgrandchild, as I never had children. Nor did I raise any of my stepchildren, as they were grown by the time I arrived on the future Half’s doorstep and would not leave.
On my grandson’s and my walk up the road to Sunday school I recalled a report from years before about his older brother when bubba was about this one’s age.
Back then, older brother was so excited to go to church with me, I heard after the fact from a little bird that he spent part of the Sunday school class standing in his chair and then jumping up and down on the table.
So I go into coaching mode with this one.
“Are you going behave in Sunday school?” I asked grandson. Yes, he said.
“Are you going to do what the teacher says?” Yes.
“Are you going to stand up in your chair in Sunday school?” No.
“Are you going to stand on the table in Sunday school?” No.
“Are you going to hit the boys in Sunday school?” No. I’ve heard he’s gotten awfully good at hitting his big brother.
“Are you going to kiss the girls in Sunday school?” “Noooo!” he yelled and grinned, minus one front tooth. I’ll have to ask him that one again in eight years.
The Sunday school room looked intact when I stopped by to pick him up afterward. They canceled children’s church at the last minute, so the little guy had to sit with me through the entire worship service. To my surprise he did behave.
So as we started back home the church cemetery caught his notice. “Is your family buried there?” he asked. Now that was a grown-up question I did not expect.
Yes, I said, so I took him across the road and showed him the tombstones: great-grandfather’s, grandfather’s, great-aunt’s, uncle’s - he was in the Navy, so he had a bronze footstone, too. I showed him the stone for the infant, my aunt, who died at age 1 from whooping cough.
Grandson studied the “Harris” carved on the stones. They were not his kin but he wanted to know, nonetheless.
Next came the afternoon, and what to do with an 8-year-old when his grandmother/caretaker is in bed and I’m flying solo.
“Want to go to the creek?” I asked.
This sophisticated youngster from the city has been in plenty of swimming pools and even is on some kind of swim team down there that competes with other clubs.
But he’d never been down to the creek.
Around here that means going to Big Elkin Creek. It has a nice little swimming hole at the foot of Carter Falls, site of Elkin’s first public electricity plant, long ago torn down.
Once there I told him about the old power plant and dam. I showed him where the flume ran.
I told him that my family long ago owned this land. I told about the generations of boys who came here to play. I pointed out the flat rock that Dad and his childhood buddies would wet down and use to slide down into the water.
We crossed the pool where one of my Dalmatians, whom grandson remembers, suddenly decided one time about midway that he could not swim. As the dog splashed about in the water and I tried to grab him, the dog ripped up my good, mesh Carolina blue shirt.
I told grandson that I was wearing that shirt in the dog’s memory. I wear it each time I go to the creek.
The two of us climbed the rocks, sometimes on all fours, discovered the moss that gives such good traction in the rapids and swam in the deep pool.
On the way back in the summer afternoon heat I said I was thirsty and was going to stop at the very next house and demand a glass of water from whoever opens the door.
He seemed impressed until once inside I introduced him to my favorite aunt. I needed to pick up something from her. Grandson promptly told my aunt he didn’t want water, he wanted a Coke. I hung my head. He got his Coke.
I knew we were back in the city when, that night, we had to stop for nearly an hour in Charlotte area interstate traffic because of a wreck. Grandson slept through it all in back.
However, I felt energized, despite the stopped traffic. Suddenly faced with entertaining an 8-year-old for the day, what did I do? I gave him a taste of the hometown.
I think he liked it.
Stephen Harris returned home to live in State Road.