The Old House

Autumn, Part 4: The Old House


Somewhere in rural South Carolina there is a house nestled on the side of a hill surrounded by trees, with an old barn still standing, and where blue jays flit in the trees and deer walk unafraid in its shadows. A house my great-great-grandfather built, where my great-grandparents had a farm, where my grandmother lived, and where I used to go in summer. It’s my mom’s house now and my parents are planting fruit trees and grape vines. I’ve told them to add rose bushes.

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I don’t really know how old the house is. We have family stories on this side of the family stretching back to the Civil War. According to genealogical records, an ancestor of mine who fought in the Revolutionary War lies buried in a nearby churchyard. My family emigrated to South Carolina in the eighteenth century and didn’t really leave until the twentieth with WWII. But our roots are here, the Old House is here, and it draws us back. I can travel the world, live in distant countries and walk on distant shores, but still one of my most favourite places on this earth is that front porch, looking out at the trees. I may never have lived in the Old House, but seeped into the bones of that old house are the memories of my family for generations. Just as I can stand in an ancient, crumbling castle on the other side of the sea and feel the history of that place, so too do I feel the history of the Old House — simpler, less grand, but mine. The Old House is home in a way few other places can be.


What did you say?

Spending the last week and a half with my mom has made my Southern/Texan accent come out. I even have to repeat myself sometimes so F. can understand me. My mom has trouble with his accent sometimes, and he has trouble with hers, but I can understand them both. Accents are funny things.

Ros needs to visit again so I can speak RP again.

Whirlwind holiday

My holiday in the U.S. was a month long, but spent in four states. Below are a few highlights from my whirlwind holiday:

San Antonio, TX
Sunny and warm (20s C/80s F) and Christmas with my parents. I got to see old friends from my home church, high school, and the Fun Day Group.


Charleston, SC
A cross-country drive took us to spend second Christmas with my brother and his family and I met my youngest niece and nephew.


Prosperity, SC
Then my parents and I spent a couple of days in the serenity of the Old House.


McKinney, TX
Another cross-country drive took me back to Texas, where I watched lots of Star Trek and lost three games of Scrabble to Kelly.


Ft Worth, TX
Then a couple of days spent with Megan, where her young neighbours had fun playing with my hair.


Oklahoma City, OK
I took the train north to Oklahoma, where I hung out with Felicity and Thomas, and Felicity sewed a lining onto the hat I crocheted at Kelly’s.


Los Angeles, CA
A jet plane took me to California, where I spent my last few days in the States with Sarah and David and my buddy little Isaac.



As you can see, it was busy but very fun trip. I stocked up on lots of sunlight, Mexican food, and root beer, and had a very good time catching up with friends and family.


The Thesis Gods can be rather vengeful. I took a break this afternoon to watch a beautiful, lingering sunset (because the sun sets at 4pm these days). A rainbow glowed over the sea. The clouds shone gold and peach and pink against the brilliant sky. The sea, illuminated, reflected the sky in the still rock pools and crashed against the rocks, the foam catching the sun. But the Thesis Gods did not approve: I slipped and fell on the rocks myself. My reward for experiencing this beauty is to have a few bruises, muddy knees, and a sore pride. But the chapter is being written. My last, final, chapter of my thesis is due in December and It. Will. Be. Done. Even if I take a break to watch the sea and the sky that seemed to come out of a dream.

I just read Anne Lammott’s essay ‘The Prayer of an Unconventional Family’ on the New York Times. Such a literary upbringing and family sounds wonderful; how much more so if the family is also Christian. The best of both scenarios…

Is it only Tuesday? I’ve been forgetting which day of the week it is all week. I really want to have and evening in, to knit and read my book, but won’t have one until Saturday. It’s that time of year.

Isle of Skye

For our family holiday, my parents and I went to the Isle of Skye. (I’m late posting this. I know.) We took the bus to Dundee, another bus to Perth, the train to Inverness, and a bus to Portree, on Skye. The Highlands were all green and covered with heather, wreathed with cloud and bathed in sunlight. It was raining as we arrived on Skye, and the water rushed down the hillsides, cascading waterfalls everywhere you could see. My first impression of Skye was that it is a land abundant with water.

The next day we took a short boat trip from Portree to go wildlife spotting. We saw a sea eagle and some porpoises, as well as some wonderful views.

We went for a walk after lunch. First we found a hidden waterfall, up which I clambered and found a swing…


And then we eventually made it to the Scorrybreac circuit, which may or may not have included climbing up a very steep hill. (And involved more clambering out to the Black Rock, a tidal island.)


For our second day, we went to Dunvegan Castle, home of the Chief of Clan McLeod. We spent much of the day exploring the extensive gardens around the castle, as well as the castle itself. Most of the plants in the gardens were labeled. I think our favourite tree was the Monkey Puzzle Tree, or ‘the swingy ouchy tree’, because the branches were spiky and fun to swing. (I probably wasn’t supposed to tug on the branches. But it was fun.)


Our last full day in Skye, we went to the Faerie Glen, but I’ll post about that later…

Travelling light

Packing for a trip usually means just throwing some clothes in a bag and going. I tend to think that I travel light — that is, until it comes to packing books. My parents and I are going on a family holiday to Skye and I already set aside two work books, two fiction books, a non-fiction book, a journal for my novel, my other journal, and my Bible.

Then I remembered that I’m going on a family holiday and although we will have two full days of travel, we’ll only be away five days. I’m not running away to read, I’m going exploring. So I’ve left out one fiction book and one work book (I really don’t want to be reading about Hell while I’m on holiday, though I’ll stick with Purgatory).

Needless to say, I only think I’m travelling light… 😛

Diamond Jubilee

Today is Queen Elizabeth’s Diamond Jubilee. I watched the pageantry and pomp of the royal river parade while working at the museum (muted, of course), and while I watched the flotilla of over a thousand ships sail down the River Thames, I thought of the stories my mother and grandmother told me about when they lived in England sixty years ago. I asked my mom to write down her memory of the Coronation party they had back in 1953, and with her permission I share it with you.

Dad was a captain in the AF and he and Mom went to various functions at the Officers’ Club, other officers’ houses, and in turn entertained at our house. I don’t remember many parties, but back then kids didn’t often participate in adult gatherings.

My memories of the Coronation party are sketchy and definitely from the mind of a 6 year old — a girl who loved fairy tales, pretty dresses, and the formal world of grown-ups.

I was enthralled by the crown, the gown, the uniforms, the setting, and oh my goodness the carriage! Although television had been around more than 10 years it was still limited. We had a small black and white TV with rabbit ears antenna and a round screen. Many people did not have a TV. While in England my mom made friends with several British families. I think some of them were invited as well as some military ones. I don’t remember the adults OR the children!

I wore my best dress, probably my Christmas dress — it was dark velvet on top with short poufy sleeves and a full plaid skirt in red and green and some other colors. I remember going to the buffet table for nibbles of food. And being so excited. The grownups were dressed up, also; cocktail dresses and I think the men were in suits, not uniforms. I think we celebrated with wine when she was crowned.

Oh, the long walk down the aisle, the kneeling for prayer, the clergy in their best attire, Elizabeth, finally sitting on the throne (I think), processing out, the crowds and the cheering.

Besides the TV, other rooms had radios so if you weren’t in with the TV you wouldn’t miss anything. I’m not sure where the TV was located. It was placed up high and vaguely recall that it was on top of the refrigerator, which seems strange. However, the kitchen was probably the warmest room and I think the TV had been put in an odd place to get good reception, a problem when you use rabbit ears!

Sixty years later and here I am, my mother’s daughter in the UK for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, marking the sixty years of her reign. After work I went to a barbeque and we toasted the Queen with champagne. Watching the British royal family is in my family history; I am continuing it: today by watching the Jubilee, last year, by going to a friend’s house and watching the royal wedding of Prince William and Kate. The pageantry and the show of it all is fascinating. I am glad I am here to watch and be a part of it, because, in a way, it allows me to share in the memories of my mom and MeeMee, while making memories of my own.

Holidays, holidays

I’m still here! Tis the holiday season. I’m only dropping in to post a few photos of Christmas and then I’ll be back to curling up in my armchair with a cup of tea and a good book.

My mom and I saw my dad off early this morning. My mom will be staying for another week. Today we’ve been lazing around – no reason to leave the house, no guests coming over, just time to relax. My tea and book beckon…

Favourite things

Today I am mixing Favourite Things Friday with something I am Thankful for: Technology.

When one lives so far away from what was familiar and home, things like e-mail and Skype become invaluable. I skype with two of my best friends weekly, email with others, and this Thanksgiving, Skype let me play show and tell with my youngest niece and watch my family play Monopoly.

And, I don’t have a photo of her doing this, as she is doing it right now, but one of my other Favourite Things is my housemate, Ros. She has been so supportive and helpful during this insane month of NaNoWriMo, and right now she is baking the pie I was going to make so that I can keep writing my novel. Thank you, Ros!

Word count: 40441

In the family

To take a break from writing a conference paper (of which I wrote half of this morning), I decided to scroll through the huge family ancestry chart my brother sent me ages ago. It’s fun to look at all of the names and dates and guessing what was going on in the world when various ancestors lived. I knew we had some American Revolutionaries in our family, but I didn’t know that some ancestors immigrated to the New World as early as the 1630s. We might even have had some relatives at the ‘First Thanksgiving’!

I skipped back to the medieval period and became indignant at the treatment of my somethingth-great-grandmother, Mary Bruce (the English locked her in a cage!). I find my relation to her slightly more believable than our supposed connection with Harold Haldrada (of 1066 fame) or better yet, Priam of Troy (as awesome as that may be). As an Academic of Very Old Things it is my job to be skeptical of information we don’t have any physical documentation of. The farther back in time it goes, the less verifiable it gets. Even so, it is fun to skim through, and this medievalist finds it more than a little entertaining to think that Robert the Bruce was an uncle at some point in the distant past. It’s a pity I can’t claim family relations in order to get a better visa for the UK…

I am back to writing about Thomas of Erceldoune, who is not, alas, in my family history, even if there is archival evidence of his actual existence.

Word count: 12,007