Posts Tagged ‘Tucker days. Tucker days remembered’


Growing up in Tucker Georgia is where I learned to socialize and compromise. And take the consequences for my actions – realized at the tender age of 6.

“I’m wearing that skirt today!”

“Oh no you’re not! Mary Ann is,” said my older sister, Patricia.

“You and Mary Ann always wear it,” I argued.

“Diane is right, Pat,” argued Becky Leake in my defense.

And that’s the way it was in our playhouse behind Tom Story’s workshop. The playhouse walls were made of thick rows of pine-straw fetched from the Tucker Woods just a few feet away. Furniture consisted of bricks and boards discarded from the workshop. It was fun to play dress up and “manage” our own home, but more fun to wear the long skirt which designated “Mother.” Becky and I were always on the losing end. We were the “guests,” and no vintage clothes for visitors. One day, Becky had enough. She crossed Morgan Road in a huff, but returned moments later all smiles. She was carrying a mink coat.

“You’d better put that back, Rebecca!” Mary Ann Leake advised.

“Nannie won’t care. She won’t need it until Christmas. We can play with it today.”

With reluctance, Mary Ann conceded to her (slightly) older sister. All four of us were intrigued by the beauty of such a jacket. After we all tried on the mink coat, Pat and Mary Ann decided to continue wearing the brown and white checked long skirt. Wanted no part of the mink. We had no problem with that, since Becky and I had a turn at trying on the long skirt. It was a tad too small for Becky and too big for me. Becky had no problem wearing the gorgeous coat. She pretended to be an “important guest” from New York City. As she stood there in her mink coat, she described the Statue of Liberty, Radio City Music Hall and Broadway.

Then it was my turn. The jacket length coat was to my ankles. Even with open toed sandals and shorts – it was too hot to wear the mink for long. Georgia summers too hot and humid for such attire. Soon after my grand entrance, the mink coat was hung on a pine tree limb which doubled as the “hall-tree.” As I sat there enjoying my invisible cup of tea, I told stories of the North Pole and how I run into Santa. I played a guessing game so that they could guess what awaited them Christmas morning, all the while stroking my mink coat as it dangled from the limb. Mary Ann enjoyed guessing until it came to her turn. She did not want to know what she was getting for Christmas, even a pretend game. But summertime was more than playing house. Warm days gave way to soft ball games, swimming, and rainy day games of Parcheesi and Clue. Then came the fall. Seeing the Leake girls at school and walking to and from was the only time we saw them.

One weekend Becky and Mary Ann joined us playing in the red and gold leaves that covered our woodsy yard. An odd thing happened while playing in the leaves. Patricia’s kitty, Precious, ran wild in circles. It was apparent that something was seriously wrong. Mama called the animal control center. They could not catch Precious. The frightened cat climbed up on top of Daddy’s workshop out of reach. Afraid the cat would disappear into the woods asked for help.

“If anybody can, my daughter can get that cat for you. That cat will do anything for her,” Daddy said as he looked at Patricia.

Patricia hesitated. She did not want to turn her cat over to the animal control. Eight year old Patricia tried to control her sobs as she asked for a baby blanket.

Four year old little sister, Barbara, courageously gave up her long time baby blanket. Pat took the blanket and ascended the ladder while Daddy held it secure. When atop the roof, Patricia flattened the blanket and called out, “Here Precious, here Precious.”

Precious heeded her master. Pat wrapped her Precious then climbed down the ladder where she bravely handed the poor cat over to animal control. They put Precious in a cage. One man said the poor cat had a bad case of the wolf-worm (caused by green flies). As soon as they drove away with Precious, Daddy looked for the “fly infestation” while Mama consoled Patricia. Daddy did not have to look far. Just behind his workshop was Nannie Leake’s forgotten mink coat on the ground infested with flies. The tree limb “hall-tree” broke under the weight of the coat. Apparently the soft furry coat was a napping place for Precious.

The playhouse story came out as all four girls told how the mink coat got behind the workshop. With a long board, Daddy scooped up the coat, placed it on a big pile of red and gold leaves. He drenched the coat in gasoline and threw a lit match on it. With a matter of fact voice, he said, “Diane, go with Becky and Mary Ann and tell Nannie Leake what I just did to her mink coat.”

Whoa! Are you kidding me? Those were my thoughts, though I remained silent with my feet frozen to the ground. I think Daddy must have read my mind.

“Did you wear the coat, Donnie?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Then go with them,” gently urged my father.

As I slowly walked away, Helen Story added,  “Diane, you made your bed, now you must lie in it. Now, get a move on.”

The three of us walked across Morgan Road to the Leake’s house. Becky was distraught. Mary Ann wept. I walked in silence wishing Tom Story believed in corporal punishment. I would gladly take a spanking rather than face Nannie Leake today. When face to face with her grandmother, all Becky could do was blurt out, “Nannie, I am so sorry.” She collapsed to the floor with grief. Mary Ann was the one who did the talking.

I whispered, “I’m sorry Nannie Leake.” My throat tightened making it unable to speak.

Nannie Leake was still and silent, finally she spoke in a strained voice.

“Girls, we will speak of this another day.” It was as though she did not see us as she made way out of the house and into the front yard. There she stopped and watched the dark smoke billowing from behind our house. And though she was distraught, this elderly lady stood there looking grand as though she was a queen watching her castle burn from a far. After all, the mink coat had been a Christmas gift from her late husband. She wore the coat during the Christmas season, whether it was cold in Georgia or not, and now it was gone.

After a while, she spoke urgently, “Mary Ann, go inside and cut a generous piece of your mother’s pineapple cake and wrap it pretty with pink ribbon. You’ll find the ribbon in my top dresser drawer. Bring it to me.”

Mary Ann returned and her grandmother examined the beautifully wrapped plate of cake. She nodded her head in approval and said, “Give it to Diane. Diane, please give this cake to Patricia, with my love.”

“Yes ma’am.”

I took the cake and when I was about to cross Morgan Road, Nannie Leake again called my name, “Diane, please tell Mr. Story, that I send my apologies.”

Nannie Leake was a gracious lady even when the world did not go her way. Often I do not meet the standards demonstrated so eloquently on that day of the mink coat burning. But with each and every failure, my memory bank offers up an image of a mink coat to correct me. These are just a few of the things that I learned while growing up on Morgan Road in Tucker, Georgia.

I took one look at my report card and knew I was in trouble; all A’s and one blank with teacher’s comment: “Diane simply talks too much.” Yes I was in trouble with a blank for conduct. I walked home slowly hoping somehow the blank would change by the time I got home. My mother met me at the front porch, and I handed it over.

“Diane, you didn’t get a grade in conduct? What? Diane simply talks too much?” Mama was not happy.

“I know…”
“This is unacceptable. You know your father is good friends with Ms. Keith.”

Yes, I knew that. Ms. Eula Keith was one of only two people that ever called my father “Tommy.” He thought the world of Ms. Keith and the feeling was mutual. That made it all the worse.

“I can tell you one thing young lady. Next quarter, you had better have a grade. This is your warning; you have one quarter to work on it. I hope I do not have to punish you,” Mama said and she was not fooling around, “but I will if I have too. Severely punish! You should be ashamed of yourself.”

I was ashamed and tried hard to please Ms. Keith.

But Ms. Keith was not hard to please. She was an elderly gentle woman and excellent teacher. I met her on the first day of second grade, in what folks in Tucker called the little white building. It was on Lavista Road next to the old Tucker High School. The little white building took care of the overflow of Tucker Elementary.

Ms. Keith’s sister, Ms. Hattie Pryor, taught a class right next door. Ms. Pryor looked to have been a blonde at one time. She wore her hair in braids that disappeared around her head in the back; she had a stiff smile. Ms. Keith looked to have been a brunette at some time and had a soft smile. They were both short on height.

And that is how Ms. Keith broke her arm; taking a tumble from a chair while reaching high to decorate our second grade classroom. Ms. Pryor made us all promise to knock on her door if Ms. Keith tried climbing up on a chair again. We all loved Ms. Keith and looked after her. We signed her cast and celebrated the removal of the cast with cookies and juice.

Time march on and second quarter came around. The week before the report cards came out I told Ms. Keith that I had to have a grade in conduct. My mother would not accept a blank grade. It had to be a letter grade. “If I get another blank I’ll get punished – severely.”

Ms. Keith looked deep in thought and said, “Very well Diane, if I must.”

I was thrilled thinking that I was much improved. And the big day came.

I scanned my report card quickly; all A’s and one F – F in conduct. I was shocked. I went straight away to Ms. Keith’s desk to talk to her. My heart pounded as I thought about the walk home down Morgan Road to Mama. Ms. Keith was busy with another student and as I stood there waiting my turn, I saw her ink pen. My mind was racing. I was under more pressure than a seven year old should ever be in. I made a snap decision – one that I would regret. I picked up her ink pen and made a straight line – making the F an A.

There. That will make Mama happy. But Helen Story was not happy, not at all. As she studied my report card she questioned me. “Well, I see you made all A’s this time. But, Diane, why did Ms. Keith make all round A’s and one square A?”

“I guess she wanted it to stand out,” I explained, “so you can see I made an A in conduct.”

Stand out, that was for sure. And within two minutes Mama had broken me and I confessed; after much sobbing Mama spoke.

“Diane, this is what is going to happen. Tomorrow morning I will walk to school with you,” explained Mama, all the while, I was thinking that was the last thing I ever wanted to happen. “And you will go to Ms. Keith and tell her what you did. I want you to tell her that you took her pen and changed your grade in conduct. I want you to tell her you did a dishonest thing. And then you will apologize. And when you get back home, I’ll spank you. Tonight I want you to think about what you have done. No TV.”

For real? All that? This was too much for a second grader. I did think about what I did and was truly ashamed and prayed the morning would not come. But it did. And Mama and I walked to the little white building. Mama stopped at the door and remained in the hall. I walked up to Ms. Keith. She gave me a warm smile and a pleasant “good morning.”

I burst into tears and handed my report card to her. I pointed at the Diane made A. All I could get out was, “I’m sorry.”

Ms. Keith looked at the report card and put it away quickly. She hugged me tight until I stopped crying. Noticing Mama at the door, Ms. Keith took me by the hand and we walked to Mama. As Ms. Keith spoke to Mama she made “there there” pats on my head and shoulders.

“Diane has done wrong and has made it right. Honestly needs to be rewarded, even if it comes late. She has whipped herself. Helen, please forgive her.”

Mama and Ms. Keith forgave me that day. I tried to repay them by being as quiet as possible in class.

I was certain that I would make an A in conduct the third quarter, but instead of getting better, I got worse. I could not stop talking. I was failing conduct again. I wondered what in the world would become of me.

And then my eyes started twitching and I cleared my throat in an unusual way.  My head jerked and the jerking descended my body. I dropped things and when I tried to take a step to walk, my legs wanted to run.

I was hospitalized and diagnosed with Sydenham Chorea, a physical symptom of rheumatic fever. I was placed on bed-rest. I finished the second and third grade at home in bed.

The only contact with Ms. Keith and my friends was through cards and letters. Ms. Keith always wrote: “To an A+ young lady.”

And there were many days when I found the confinement unbearable. I cried. Mama held me until I stopped crying, all the while giving me “there there” pats on my head and shoulders.

I thank the good Lord for our teacher, Ms. Keith.

 

 

 

 

All my life I have heard stories of a good and just woman. She was born in Warren County, Georgia in 1825. Yes that was a long time ago, but the mark she made on the Story family is indelible. Her life was an example of self sacrifice and taking the higher road in all that she did. Her reputation survived her earthly years by nearly one hundred and ninety years. She was called, “Aunt Wilanty.”

I learned of Aunt Wilanty as a small child. When breaking a candy bar to share, my father’s voice floated in from the background,“What would Aunt Wilanty do?” Of course, remembering the stories of Aunt Wilanty, I reluctantly offered the larger piece to my sister.  Aunt Wilanty was the yardstick by which our father, Tom Story, measured his daughters’ generosity.

Here is what I know about this woman who was the sister of my great-great grandfather, Henry Allen “Buck” Story.

April 2, 1854, this was the day Wilanty Story dreamed of. She sat proudly in her carriage as the driver trotted on to the James Montgomery estate in Warren County, Georgia. Every hair on her head was in place and she looked as “fine” as any bride on this important day, the wedding day. Not her wedding day, but her baby brother, Henry Allen’s.

Henry Allen, was a tall good looking young man who was about to marry his childhood sweetheart, Rachel Ann Montgomery. Their engagement was announced in the Christian Index a year ago, and since then, every care had been made for the young couple to have their perfect day when Georgia was new with bloom.

“It’s always someone else’s day,” Wilanty must have thought so many times. But after today, it would be her time. As she rode past the peach trees and forsythia in bloom, she recalled the day her father spoke to her about staying the course, and most of all, make it to the finish line. Wilanty smiled as she spoke the words of her father aloud, “A fin (aw fin), Papa, a fin!”

“A fin,” Wilanty’s father, Samuel Gaines Story, a man born in 1776, spoke these words often. He was a hardworking Georgia planter who had little time for small talk. He took a short cut when possible with these two words, “A fin.”

With those two words spoken, his children got a move on and worked a little harder and faster. They finished whatever was expected of them.

When Wilanty was a small child, she questioned her father, “A fin? What does it mean? Why do you say that, Papa?”

“A fin means ‘To the end!’ It’s the motto of ye family crest – back in Scotland. We Storys are a sept of the Oglivy Clan ye know. There on our Coat of Arms stands a lass with light hair with her hands on her hips – looking accomplished and strong,” he smiled at his youngest daughter. “She stands on the words ‘A FIN.’ And that is what she stands for – she stays her course To the End.”

Samuel Story sat back in his chair and was quiet for a moment as he recalled his grandfather’s stories of Scotland. “Very few Scots, have a fair lass on their crest. Maybe we’re the only ones in all of Scotland. She was a good and just lassie, who had the courage to do battle for Robert the Bruce and Joan of Arc. And my little Wilanty, the good and just lass on the crest wears a blue dress, blue as the sky over Scotland. Might’en be the same blue as the color of ye eyes.”

Yes Wilanty Story learned her father’s lesson well. She had stayed the course; as of this April day in 1854, she finished the course. After today, she would be free to live her own life.

Just a few years after the talk with her father about Scotland and the family crest, Samuel Story died leaving a family of nineteen children and a baby on the way.

Wilanty, the youngest girl, stepped forward and made the commitment to care for her mother, Stacey, through the pregnancy. At age fourteen, Wilanty, was all grown up. She also helped her mother by caring for her seven year old little brother, Sanders Walker Story, and her newborn baby brother, Henry Allen Story. Wilanty took every step Henry Allen took and kept a watchful eye on him.

“A fin,” became her motto as she taught her baby brother the important things of life, like Scotland; the things Papa would have taught his young son had he had the chance.

And today, her job was finished. Henry Allen Story would take a wife and his new life would begin as her new independent life would also begin. She smoothed out her blue dress as she smiled thinking to herself, “Yes Papa, my dress is as blue as the sky over Scotland.”

A new sense of joy filled her soul as the carriage approached the Montgomery home. All the while thinking of the day she would take a husband, one day she would own her own home, care for her own gardens and have her own babies. And it all started after today.

As the carriage stopped in front of the Montgomery home, out stepped the groom, her brother, Henry Allen. He stood tall and straight to greet Wilanty. How proud she was of her baby brother, but she saw a look on his face that worried her, “What is it? Is everything okay?”

“Wilanty, could you do me a favor?”

“Of course, what in the world, Henry?”

“Rachel is missing her mother,” explained Henry Allen, “she even thinks the death of Mary could be a bad omen.”

“Oh of course she is missing her mother. And truly, there is no such thing as a bad omen. But how dreadful to lose your mother just a month before your wedding day. Tell me what can I do?”

“Just go upstairs to her room and knock on the door. Ask her if you can help her dress or fix her hair. Her sisters are there but, I think she would be comforted if someone like her mother was with her,” Henry Allen explained.

“Mother should go…”

“Mother shouldn’t try to make it up the stairs. Iot’s you Wilanty that will take Rachel’s grief away. It was just this morning that they took down the black mourning drape and replaced it with white flowers.”

“Oh how dreadful,” said Wilanty, as she turned to admire the fresh baby’s breath on the front door, “And what a shame for Mary (Swint-Montgomery) to pass on at a time such as this. This is the day every mother waits for. I’ll go.”

Wilanty made her way up the stairs and down the hall to Rachel’s room. There she softly knocked on the door and opened it a bit. “Rachel, may I come in and see how pretty you look?”

And that is how Wilanty joined the new Henry Allen Story family.

After Rachel and Henry Allen married, they moved from Warrenton to the Thomson area in McDuffie County, to a farm called Moon’s Town. At first, Wilanty would stay to help the young couple set up housekeeping, and then came the first baby, and of course she would stay a while longer to help Rachel with the baby. Then the second baby came, the third baby came, the fourth baby came, the fifth baby came. Then the War Between the States came and Henry Allen left the Moon’s Town farm while Sanders Walker Story left his mercantile store in Warrenton. The brothers went off to war. Henry Allen left Wilanty to “take care of my family.” Now was not the time to leave and she could hear her father’s words, “A fin.”

“But if I don’t leave now, it will be too late! I wish I never heard those words!” She must have had this conversation many times, especially when she saw that one special person give up on her and marry another.

Wilanty stayed at Moon’s Town. She cared for Rachel and the five little boys: Sam, James, Rad, Henry and Benjamin.

The years past and the war began to wind down. The South was losing the war and Wilanty lost her little brother, Sanders. He was wounded at the Battle of Murpheesboro and died shortly thereafter. Wilanty cried herself to sleep many nights talking to her deceased father, “Papa I tried. I tried so hard to care for Sanders. I begged him not to go! This is Mr. Lincoln’s war not yours Sanders! Stay at your merchantile! That’s what I told him, but he would not listen to me!  Papa please forgive me.”

Wilanty prayed by night and by day she carried a clothes basket with her everywhere she went. There amidst the clothes, she kept a loaded pistol. She kept it handy in case a war tattered straggler happened onto Moon’s Town and wanted more that a meal.

And Wilanty prayed for Henry Allen in the still of the night when Rachel and the boys were asleep. “Dear Father in Heaven, Please send an angel to care for Henry Allen; send him home to his wife and little boys. Let Mr. Lincoln have his war and let it be over.”

One prayer night Wilanty realized she was not alone when she heard Rachel’s voice from the hallway, “Amen.”

Wilanty and Rachel’s prayers were answered on a cold winter day when Henry Allen walked through the front door. Thank God at least one brother made it home safe and sound.

The war was officially over in the spring of 1865 when Lee surrendered at Appomattox.

Henry Allen worked on his farms from sun up to sun down. He burned the midnight oil toiling over deeds, ledgers, plats and maps. He had to find a way to make his farms viable, and tenant farming seemed to be the way.

If Wilanty had wanted to start her own life, she would have to wait. With the loss of the war, Henry Allen had lost his wealth, his brother and his horse. And now he was working every waking hour trying to salvage his farms. This was not the time to leave her brother.

And when September rolled around, Rachel had her sixth son, Columbus Marion Story. This time Rachel did not do well. In fact as each day passed, Rachel became weaker. Rachel called for Wilanty often to take the baby. She asked Wilanty to care for the boys and raise the baby as her own. Of course, Wilanty assured Rachel that she would get stronger tomorrow and everything would be alright. On October 10, just seventeen days after baby “Lum” was born, Rachel died. She was twenty-eight years old.

Wilanty kept her promise to Rachel and stayed with the six boys. And now Henry Allen had to deal with the biggest loss of all, his dear Rachel.

About four years after Rachel’s death, Henry Allen married a school teacher from Virginia. Susan Winston McDaniel was the little sister of Sally McDaniel-Ramsey. Sally was the wife of a local Democratic politician and farmer, Caleb “Tip” Ramsey, a friend of Henry Allen.

Here was the opportunity for a new beginning for Wilanty Story. She busied herself to get the house ready for the new bride, Susan. She excited her six nephews about getting a new mother. How wonderful it was going to be.

On the day Susan arrived at Moon’s Town, Wilanty had each boy dress in his Sunday clothes, each boy wearing a clean pressed white shirt, black tie, dark trousers and a black jacket. As the hour approached, Wilanty had them line up in birth order: Samuel Walker Story, James Montgomery Story, Radford Gunn Story, Benjamin Franklin Story, Henry David Story and Columbus Marion Story.  There they all stood joyful and proud.

As soon as Susan settled in and the boys got acquainted with their new mother, Wilanty would take her leave.

Not long after the union, other children were born and Susan had her hands full looking after her own. Susan preferred to have her children eat first, and then the older boys were allowed to come in from the barn and eat last. The six boys being older had chores to do. But when Susan’s suppertime seemed to drag out a little too long, Wilanty filled her pockets with biscuits and made a quick trip to the barn. Susan made cookies for her children, while Wilanty made cookies for Rachel’s boys.

Wilanty would never leave those first six boys. Her heart and soul belonged to them.

Wilanty Story never married, never owned her own home.

Her baby brother, Henry Allen, prospered and by the end of his life in 1913, owned ten thousand acres which were all working farms.

Henry Allen Story and his second wife, Susan had eleven children; seven boys and four girls. The six sons of Henry Allen and Rachel Montgomery–Story all lived to adulthood, married and had families of their own.

The third son of Henry Allen and Rachel was Radford Gunn Story. In 1904 Rad was killed in an altercation near one of the Story farms. The death of Rad devastated the Story family, especially his five brothers. After the death of Rad, some of his brothers left their lifelong homes in the Thomson area. They seemed to have disappeared. And that too is where the story of Wilanty ends. Nothing else is known of her.

One hundred years later, my sister, Patricia Story-Logan, moved to a little horse farm near Tampa, Florida. Whereever Pat is, she is looking for Storys. Pat found evidence that Henry Allen and Rachel‘s baby son, “Lum” Story moved to Tampa. There so many years ago, Lum became a deputy sheriff and preached the Gospel in Tampa.

Soon thereafter, Pat found a pioneer graveyard in Tampa. She found the disintegrating grave of Columbus Marion Story. And next to his grave site was a crumbling grave stone, the letters barely legible: WILANTY STORY.

Aunt Wilanty was a good and just woman who kept her promise To the End. And I have to believe that she is wearing a blue dress; blue as the sky over Scotland.

A FIN!

Author’s Notes:

Radford Gunn Story had a son, Horace “Lawton” Story, who had a son, Thomas Jonathan Story. Thomas Story was my father.

Samuel Gaines Story’s second wife was Stacey Duckworth-Story. Stacey Duckworth was born in 1794. Stacey and Samuel married on March 21, 1812 in Warrenton, Georgia.

Horace “Lawton” Story, a tall man of six feet and five inches, worked tirelessly to rid his inherited Lincolnton farm of rocks; a never ending battle every farmer faced on Clarke’s Hill. And while at that home, “Nancy” Elizabeth Bentley-Story, gave birth to eight children. They had nine, but their fourth son, Robert, was not born in the Lincolnton farmhouse built by Lawton’s father, Radford Gunn Story. He was born in Uncle Ed Gunby’s general store.

Lawton said many times that he knew Nancy Bentley was the girl for him even as a young boy at school. He knew it for a fact, when Nancy “whopped” him on the head with her lunch pail for teasing her little brother, Caleb.

“Pick on some one your own side Lawton Story!” she yelled back at Lawton as she walked ahead with her protective hand on little Caleb’s shoulder. Lawton loved highly spirited people and he was impressed. He soon learned to befriend little Caleb Bentley was to befriend his sister, Nancy. Nancy and Lawton became best friends. And on a pretty September day in 1906, Lawton and Nancy married in a horse drawn carriage.

Lawton and Nancy’s first born was a daughter – much to their delight! The baby girl’s name was decided on many generations before she was born. Nancy’s mother was Grace Amelia Ramsey, her mother was Grace Caroline Hardin, and her mother was Grace Reid (born 1791). It was said that Grace Reid and her brother rode to Georgia on horseback all the way from Virginia. The song “Amazing Grace” was taken as the family song and served as a guide to live and die by. It was the fate of the Graces and all who touched their lives.

The Bentley family tradition honored the Grace of God by naming the first born daughter, Grace. Nancy’s family honored each child with a special name, captivating family history within the name.

And so it was, Lawton and Nancy were honored to name their firstborn child, Grace Truman Story. Grace for the Grace of God, and Truman for Dr. Truman Briscoe, one of Lawton’s great-grandfathers, who was a medical doctor, born in 1747.

And it would seem that Lawton and Nancy were plenty busy naming children, but the couple did not name their children at all. Nancy’s sister, Dieudonnee “Donn” Bentley, actually named all nine of them.

Donn was born in 1881 making her the fourth child of the eight children of Dennis and Grace Ramsey-Bentley. Donn was a school teacher and devoted her life to her students and the children of her little sister, Nancy Elizabeth Bentley-Story. Donn’s life was filled with jobs teaching, overseeing land and timber, and making sure her little sister’s children had proper names. And she had an end all Southern accent!

Donn had Grace named, it was time for another. This went on about every two years. The second child was a boy, Horace “Beau” Lawton Story, Jr.

“Now little Lawton my deah, I named you in honoh of yoah fathah, and Horace Lawton is a very fine name. Horace is a name straight out of the classics, the Roman classics. But for some reason, yoah fathah insist on calling you Beau. I suppose ‘Beau’ is a good name, not one that I would have chosen. But, aftah all he is yoah fatha and I shall abide by his wishes.” Donn would shake her head in disapproval, “Sistah knows I do not approve of nicknames.”

Donn named the third child, Sarah Elizabeth Story.

“I named you Sarah, because the name Sarah means a highly ranked woman; a princess mind you. She had great beauty, innah and outah beauty. She became the wife of Abraham. The Old Testament calls her Motha of Nations. And let’s not forget how impo’tant the name Elizabeth is; it means consecrated by the Lawd. As you may well recall, my fathah’s mothah’s middle name was Elizabeth – Nancy Elizabeth Paschal. And most impo’tant, yoah own motha’s middle name is Elizabeth. And let’s let’s not fo’get that tall beauty of a woman with head full of golden hair, yoah fathah’s mothah, Sallie Elizabeth Gunby-Story,” Donn would shake her head in disbelief. “Did you know that Sallie Story was six feet tall? My deah, Sarah Elizabeth, much is expected of a woman who carries such a powahfull name.”

Donn, farming and raising a family kept Lawton and Nancy busy during the first years of marriage. In fact, farming was starting to look dismal to the young Story couple. An offer for Lawton to help Uncle Edwin Gunby run his general store was accepted. They moved out of the Radford Gunn Story home with three little ones. The fourth child was born while away, a son, Robert Randolph Story.

“Just because sistah moved away when you were bawn did not stop me. I named you aftah the Robert Randolph Ramsey family of Roanoke Island, Virginia. My mothah, Grace Amelia Ramsey‘s fathah, was “Tip” Ramsey, whose fathah was Robert Randolph Ramsey. Now take heed, the Ramsey family of Roanoke Island was related to Thomas Jefferson, writah of the Decla’ation of Independence. I too was given the middle name Randolph, and I’m proud to give you my middle name; a prominent name indeed. My deah Robert, no doubt you will be a leadah in yoah community with a name such as this!”

Donn wrote daily to Nancy, “Sistah, I’ll be so happy when you and Lawton return to your true home. I’m lonesome for you and the children. I must tend to their education.”

Luckily for Donn, running a general store did not satisfy Lawton Story. The couple returned to the Rad Story home to try farming again. Now there were four children and the fifth on the way.

Donn named the fifth child, Miriam Dieudonnee Story.

“I named you Miriam, for Miriam was an impo’tant person in the Old Testament; she was Moses’ sistah,” Donn explained. “In a desperate attempt to save Moses’ life, Miriam placed her baby brothah in an ark and floated him down rivah to be rescued by the pha’oh’s sista.  Now mind you my little Miriam to look after yoah brothas.”

This responsibility little Miriam took seriously. And Donn would try to explain Miriam’s middle name to her. “I know you call me ‘Aunt Donn,’ but my real name is Dieudonnee. It is French which means – given by the Lawd.” Donn tried repeatedly to teach little Miriam how to pronounce her French name properly. “And my deah, Miriam Dieudonnee, you are given by the Lawd, and don’t you eveh fo’get it. Even though you cannot pronounce it, I am proud to share my name with you.”

Miriam soon have three little brothers to look after. And she took that responsibility seriously, after all her name was Miriam. Yes, three more sons were born unto Lawton and Nancy Bentley-Story.

Donn named the sixth child, Caleb Edward Story.

“I chose to name you Caleb, because Caleb was a warriah who assisted Joshua in the Old Testament when Moses could go no furthah into the Promise Land. Caleb was my baby brothah’s name. Caleb was also yoah great-grandfathah, Caleb “Tip” Ramsey, who was a well thought of politician. Ead is a fine Old English word for Edward, which simply means, happy. I saw yoah little face just moments aftah you came into this wauld, and I could not help but smile. My deah, you make us all so very happy!”

Donn named the seventh child, Eugene Radford Story.

“Gene, every time yoah fathah reminisces  his youth, he speaks joyfully of his cousin, Judge Eugene Gunby. And I could not forsake the Gunby-Story families by using all Bentley names. It was time to honoh the honohable judge and yoah grandfathah, Radford Gunn Story. I knew Radford must be a pawt of yoah name the moment I saw yoah strong chin on yoah handsome face peeping at me through that blue blanket. Radford Story was the man who built the home you were bawn in. He was a tall handsome fawmer who was hawd wawking, and traveled all oveh the countryside riding a magnificent white stallion. My deah Gene, I strongly suspect you will do well, or die trying.”

Donn named the eighth child, Thomas Jonathan Story.

“I chose to name you Thomas, because Thomas was the Apostle of Christ who was not afred to question the status quo. And my deah, I named you Jonathan, because Jonathan was a devoted friend of King David in the Old Testament; the same loyalty I suspect that I saw in yoah blue eyes the furst time I looked upon yoah little face.” Donn smiled as she recalled her American history, “You know Gene’al Stonewall Jackson’s name was Thomas Jonathan. That name has a nice musical ring to it.”

Donn named the ninth child, Nancy Bentley Story, though she was always known as “the baby.”

“Now, Nancy, I want you to know that you have a very special name. I named you in honoh of yoah mothah. Yoah mothah was named in honoh of Nancy Elizabeth Pascal. Oh Fathah would be so proud to know he has a beautiful granddaughtah like you named after his mothah. And I named you Bentley to remembah who yoah mothah came from. Yes, I want you and yoah brothahs and sistahs to remembah yoah mothah’s people. Oh yes, and let’s not forget, Nancy is Hebrew fo’ Grace.”

Frequently Donn dramatically recalled the process she used in choosing the names of her nieces and nephews. She was a grand teacher and held a captive audience whenever she spoke.

And though all the “chil’ren” were “deah” to her, Donn held a special place in her heart for the one she had the most history with, Grace. Before Grace was born, Donn and her brother-in-law Lawton, went round and round on the first born’s name. Lawton Story’s life was filled with stories of Dr. Truman Briscoe and come hell or high waters, his first born, be it a girl or boy, was to be named Truman. Donn was just as determined to name her Grace, upholding the tradition of naming the first daughter, Grace, thus Grace Truman Story.

With tear filled eyes, she would say, “Now my deah Grace Truman, my ‘amazing Grace, oh how sweet’!” And Donn would finish with, “Baby Nancy was the final diamond placed in the crown of the Lawton and Nancy Bentley-Story family. May the Lawd continue to bless all of you, my little deahs!”

Nancy and Lawton had their family. And this determined father of nine children worked endlessly to raise a family as a farmer. Lawton’s mother, Sallie Gunby-Story, wrote often to encourage her son to come to the Atlanta area where she lived with Uncle Charlie. Sallie Story would write, “Son – if you want the best education for your children – you’ll come to Atlanta. There is opportunity here. Uncle Charlie says you can run his farm in Tucker. Oh for goodness sakes! Bring Donn with you!”

Leaving Lincolnton for the Atlanta area was a hard decision, because it meant that his Nancy would leave her beloved sister, Dieudonnee, in Lincolnton. And what would the children do without their “Aunt Donn?”

But the day came when Lawton moved his family from Lincolnton to Atlanta. The State of Georgia made that decision for him when they deemed the Rad Story farm a part of a new lake that would flood Elijah Clarke’s Hill, Clarke’s Hill Lake.

The first half of the Story children was about grown, while the smaller ones were age eleven to three.

So this was the plan. Lawton would go to the Tucker farm with the older boys, while the older girls would stay behind with their mother to help with the smaller children. Lawton, Beau and Robert went to Uncle Charlie’s farm on a buckboard drawn by a team of horses carrying supplies and timber.

Lawton and his two sons worked to add two bedrooms and a fireplace to the existing house on Uncle Charlie’s farm. When complete, Lawton would send for the rest of the family.

Aunt Donn was left behind in Lincolnton, because she could not bear to leave her familiar surroundings. As the Bentley matriarch, she still had timber and land to consider. And anyway, this was the Story family, not the Bentleys. The Bentley’s belonged to Lincolnton. It was a place Donn called home which was steeped in rich Georgia history. Her nieces and nephews would visit Aunt Donn often. If Robert ever went missing, Lawton and Nancy Story would look at each other and say, “He’s at Donn’s.”

And then Donn did the unthinkable. She took a husband, “Walta.” Her life would always be Lincolnton.

While in Tucker, the Story family enjoyed good times and bad times. Even during the Depression, the Story’s made time for fellowship with Gwinnett and Dekalb County families with dinners on the ground. In spite of the hard times, they set the table with a tablecloth and gave thanks to the Lord for all their many blessings.

In a photograph made of one such dinner, members of the McGee family are mainly to the left and the Storys are mainly to the right. The tallest man is the Story patriarch, Horace “Lawton” Story, Sr. Extreme right to left: Lester Graves, Grace Story-Graves, Robert Randolph Story, unknown man possibly Harvie Singleton, Dorsey “Doc” Graves, Bonnie Cofer-Story, Lawton “Beau” Story, Jr., Sarah Story-Graves, Miriam Story, McGee woman, Nancy Elizabeth Bentley-Story, Horace “Lawton” Story, Sr., McGee woman and three McGee men. Front row of children from left to right: Eugene “Gene” Radford Story, McGee, McGee, Baby Nancy Bentley Story, McGee, Thomas Jonathan Story, “Junior” Graves, Caleb Edward Story.

And all the children of Lawton and Nancy Bentley-Story met that special person, and the Story family flourished, having twenty-six children. That is all but Caleb Edward Story. When Caleb was sixteen years old, he suffered a head injury while playing football at school and developed spinal meningitis; slowly but surely his spine bent backwards. His brothers and sisters all rallied around Caleb refusing to believe Caleb could be taken away from them. They supported him in every way and urged him to never give up. He died at the age of thirty-five, and was the first of the Story children to join “Mother” in Heaven.

When Nancy Elizabeth Bentley-Story passed away from heart failure in 1938, her husband, Lawton, laid her to rest at Pleasant Hill Baptist.  Though she never told him, he knew it was what she wanted. Lawton remained Methodist, but relaxed his Methodist will so that he could one day rest beside his beloved lifelong sweetheart and wife – in a Baptist cemetery.

Nancy died about a year after learning that her son, Caleb, was diagnosed with spinal meningitis. Her heart could not bear it.

But before any spokes of the Story family wheel was broken, a photograph was made of them. Bottom first row left to right: Thomas Jonathan Story, Horace “Lawton” Story, Sr., first grandchild, John Lester Graves, “Junior” (son of Lester and Grace Story-Graves), Nancy Elizabeth Bentley-Story and Baby Nancy Bentley Story. Second row left to right: Eugene “Gene” Radford Story, Caleb Edward Story and Grace Truman Story-Graves. Third row left to right: Miriam Dieudonnee Story, Sarah Elizabeth Story-Graves and Bonnie Cofer-Story (Beau Story’s wife). Fourth row left to right: Robert Randolph Story, Dorsey “Doc” Graves (Sarah’s husband), Horace Lawton “Beau” Story, Jr. and Lester Graves (Grace’s husband).

In the Story family photograph, Sarah and Caleb are standing center surrounded in solidarity by their family. Sarah has her hand on the shoulder of her little brother, Caleb. Each and every one of the Storys in this photograph has followed their brother, Caleb, into Heaven. He led them to the Promise Land just as the Old Testament Caleb helped Joshua lead the Israelites into the Promise Land.

It was Sarah who was the last to go. Even though she was the third child, she remained here on God’s green earth until all her brothers and sisters had crossed over. Perhaps she stayed behind to offer a supportive hand to all of her brothers and sisters. Or perhaps she stayed because Aunt Donn had impressed upon her soul that her name was “Sarah Elizabeth, and with such a powahful name, much is expected, my deah.”  And when the old days were talked about, it was my Aunt Sarah who frequently said and sang, “It’ll Be a Glad Reunion Day.” Sarah passed away three days shy of her ninety-eighth birthday.

Yes, they have all left this world and are reunited up there in Heaven.

As the eighteenth grandchild of Lawton and Nancy Bentley-Story, I remember and love the ones I was privileged to know. I also know and love the ones of past generations that I did not meet, because of the stories passed down about them. I feel a strong connection to them all, especially when I hear the song, “Amazing Grace,” the Story family’s favorite song, a tradition passed down by the Bentley family.

And I know without a doubt they all love and support each other in spirit, as they did while on earth. That love and support so beautifully illustrated by my grandmother’s defensive hand on her little brother Caleb’s shoulder, when a “school boy” teased him. I saw it again in the Story family photograph with my Aunt Sarah’s hand on the shoulder of her little brother, Caleb. Just as I know they love and support me and my family today. I know that to be true, because that is who we are, the Storys.

 

Children and Grandchildren of:

 Horace Lawton Story, Sr. (born July 3, 1886 died February 15, 1963) and

Nancy Elizabeth Bentley-Story (born April 22, 1886 died April 12, 1938):

Grace Truman Story-Graves (married John Lester Graves)

Junior, Ann and Ted

Horace Lawton “Beau” Story, Jr. (married Bonnie Cofer)

Horace

Sarah Elizabeth Story-Graves (married Dorsey “Doc”Graves)

Elizabeth , Gene and Roy

Robert Randolph Story, Sr. (married Marie Burruss)

Wayne, Charles, Robert and Clyde

Miriam Dieudonne Story-Sexton (married Chester “Check” Sexton)

Frances, Rachel, Curtis and David

Caleb Edward Story

Eugene “Gene” Radford Story (married Mary Bramblett)

Carol and Richard

Thomas Jonathan Story, Sr. (married Helen Voyles)

Patricia, Diane, Barbara and Tommy

Nancy Bentley Story-Goss (married Carl Goss)

Linda, Steve, Earl, Eileen and Chris

 

Nancy Elizabeth Bentley-Story’s Family

 Dennis Brantley Bentley (born September 2, 1844 died September 29, 1912) and

Grace Amelia Ramsey-Bentley (born 1852 died 1905):

Effie Lou, Charles Ramsey, Dieudonnee “Don” Randolph, Caroline “Carrie” Grace Eugenia, Nancy Elizabeth, Caleb Hardin, Desaussiue “Dessie” Ford and Casey Lowe Bentley

 

Horace Lawton Story, Sr.’s Family

 Radford Gunn Story (born October 1858 although tombstone states born 1869 died December 1, 1904) and

 Sallie Elizabeth Gunby-Story (born June 13, 1863 died February 29, 1932):

Horace Lawton, Annie “Maude,” Theodosia “Theo,” Eddy Gaines, Marion Pierce “Reesie”, Salena, and Ruth Radford Story

Author’s Notes:

*There is a question about Carrie Bentley’s name. The internet says her name is Caroline Grace Bentley. Though in Aunt Don’s own handwriting, she states her sister is Caroline Eugenia Bentley. Perhaps her name was Caroline Grace Eugenia Bentley.

*Click on pictures to enlarge.

Nancy Story-Goss, Aunt Donn, Sarah Story-Graves

“Tom, what do you think about these pajamas?”

“I don’t sleep in pajamas, Helen,” answered Tom, “you know that.”

“Well Tom Story you will sleep in pajamas while we are at ya Aunt Donn’s house. You know how proper she is. This is the first time I’ve ever been invited to her house. I wouldn’t think about going down there under-dressed. Here, look at this. Do you like this housecoat?”

Yes, Aunt Donn was a proper woman. She was my father’s aunt; his mother’s sister. I never knew my father’s mother; she died of heart failure when Daddy was about fourteen years old. He seldom spoke of her, but I know that Daddy adored his mother. And when his eyes set on Aunt Donn, it was a special moment indeed.

The few times I met Aunt Donn was here in Tucker on Morgan Road – at my Aunt Sarah’s house, or on Henderson Road at my Aunt Nancy’s house. When the letter arrived announcing her visit, the Story family prepared for Aunt Donn for days in advance. When she finally walked through the door, you could hear a pin drop. The Story “children” all anticipated Aunt Donn with a warm heart.

And at last Aunt Donn would make her entrance; and always so well dressed. She wore a suit – wool and dark. Her legs covered to the ankles by a skirt with dark hose and black laced up high heeled shoes. Every hair in place topped off with a hat with feathers and sometimes a veil. Aunt Donn carried herself as any regal queen with her chin slightly elevated. She had an odd purplish spot on her lip which made her look all the more sophisticated.

And though all the Storys are Southern born and raised; none spoke quite the Southern that Aunt Donn spoke. Daddy and his family hit their “r” softly, but Aunt Donn’s second “r” in a word was sometimes ignored all together. I heard it was a South Carolinian influence carried over the border to Lincolnton, though it sounded somewhat British.

And now, we were invited to visit Donn Bentley-Steed at her home in Lincolnton Georgia, the place of my father’s birth, the home of his father and mother; a lot of old Southern history down in Lincolnton. And now I would get to see for myself – Aunt Donn and Uncle Walter’s home. It must be a fine place. I know it’s in the country not too far from Augusta. I know that Aunt Donn considered herself one of the first women graduates of the University of Georgia, and that at one time or another she ran a post office, taught school, and ran a hotel in Lincolnton.

“Oh for the love of Pete!” she would say, “It took the Univursity of Geo’gia over a hundred yeahs to allow a woman to be educated there. Yes, finally in 1932 the Univursity took in Geo’gia State No’mal as pawt of the Univursity.  State No’mal was, you know, where they sent girls to become teachers. Little by little the wauld is wising up!”

This matriarch had long since retired, but still known as a “do it all kind of person.” She was proud of the fact that she never wasted a moment of good natural sunlight being an avid reader.

“Too many books in the world, and just not enough time,” Aunt Donn would say as she searched for a window with sunlight streaming through. Though she never owned a television and thought them to be vile time wasters, a few years down the road, Aunt Donn became an advocate and supporter of a new kind of television programming, GPB – Georgia Public Broadcasting.

And each and every time we departed from Aunt Donn, she had us hold hands and form a circle. No matter how big or small the circle, she recited her most favorite words in the whole world, Numbers 6:24-26. “May the Lawd bless thee, and keep thee. May the Lawd make his face shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee. May the Lawd lift up his countenance upon thee, and give thee peace.”

Aunt Donn never had children, but claimed her students, nieces and nephews as her own. In fact she named all nine children of her sister, Nancy Elizabeth Bentley-Story, which included my father, Tom Story. Each name had a special place in Donn’s heart and the history books. It was always a history lesson in her presence, and now my family was on the way to her house. I could hardly wait! Our best clothes packed along with new pajamas. Mama even got a new perm. Aunt Donn – here we come!

We left Atlanta and headed east – for the country. A few hours later, when Daddy announced, “We are almost there,” we had long left the country and were in the wilderness. Then he brought the car to a stop. It was hard to believe it when we saw it – Aunt Donn and Uncle Walter’s country home.

It was an unpainted wooden clapboard type home balanced up on stacks of rocks. The house could be seen underneath – that’s where the chickens lived. Two out-houses graced the backyard; girls had a cut out moon on the door while the boys had a cut out star. They could be found on the other side of the Cana Lily garden – the flowers all dried up now due to the harsh cold winter.

I don’t know what I expected, but this was not it. My parents gathered us together as we approached the front porch; Mama a little anxious while Daddy looked straight ahead with a big smile on his face. Out came Aunt Donn. She did not have on her woolen suit, but rather an ankle length navy blue dress with hose and her laced up high heeled shoes, topped off with her “shawt fur” about her shoulders. She was so glad to see us! She was genteel and gracious.

“Come in Tom and Helen! So good to see you! And look at these gulls – three of them now! Each one just beautiful! Come in – oh – please come in. Tom, where’re Sarah and Nancy?”

“Oh, there’re right behind us. They should be along soon,” Daddy and Mama explained.

“Are their husbands coming too, Tom?”

“Yes, they’re all coming, Doc (Dorsey) and Carl and all the kids too! Hope we won’t be too much…”

“Oh, Tom, I knew I could count on you! Thank you, thank you! I hated to write to you like that, but I really need some help.Walta, has the rheumatism so bad in his leg, well, he can hawdly get about! Let alone chop fie-wood.”

Daddy hugged Aunt Donn for a long time and said, “Don’t worry; we’ll take care of everything. You have lots of good help now.”

“Well, come in! Please, Helen, come in. Gulls, come on into Aunt Donn’s house!”

It was a very cold winter day and we did not tarry. My two sisters and I grabbed our dolls and teddy bears as we made our way into the house. Inside the house was a short stairway to the right that led up to a locked door, a room there I suppose. I don’t know, because no one was allowed to go up there. My sister, Patricia, and our cousins used to dream up all kinds of ideas about that locked door.

Roy told a story about gold from the Confederate treasure that was lost as the floor of a railroad car collapsed dropping solid gold coins all over Lincolnton. He was sure some of that treasure was up in that room. Linda thought perhaps a lost family piano was there. And Steve thought Uncle Walter must have another bedroom somewhere in the house. It was hard to believe Uncle Walter slept in an outside room. Patricia wondered if an old trunk was locked away containing birth certificates, wills and diaries. I liked to sit on the steps and admire the wooden star and crescent moon that hung on the wall just before reaching the locked door. The moon had its own staircase with miniature ceramic angels ascending the moon – on the way to Heaven. My father built and gifted the moon and star to his beloved Aunt Donn.

Aunt Donn would proudly boast that her Thomas Jonathan had given her the stars and moon!

The entire house was a curiosity to all of us kids. The high ceiling house was furnished with antiques, and well worn Oriental rugs covered the creaky hardwood floors. The dining room table was always set with fine china down to the finger bowls. The house reminded me of an old English library without the bookcases; hundreds of books stacked all the way to the ceiling. Aunt Donn used a librarian’s step ladder to reach the books high up.

The fireplace was the first thing I noticed as I entered the house. Over the mantle was a large portrait of a beautiful girl with long dark hair; eyes of blue. The girl was dressed in an eighteen hundreds type of white lace dress. The pretty girl seemed to stare at me – no matter where in the room I stood. I felt her presence mysteriously as though she was really there, and wanted to speak to me.

And as warm as the fireplace appeared, it was as cold inside the house as outside.

“As I said, we’re running shawt on fie-wood, Tom. Walta has not been able to chop any wood lately, poooor thing.”

“Oh, that’s no problem, really. Doc, Carl and I will take care of that, just as soon as they get here,” Tom called out as he studied a huge framed Declaration of Independence on the wall in the living-room.

Aunt Donn looked at my father as though she just adored him, “Oh, Tom, I just cannot get over how much you favah Dr. Bentley. You look just like him. One day I’ll give this Declaration of Independence to you. I know you cherish it as did Doctah Bentley. And thank you for coming to my aid. I knew I could count on you my deah-est.” She took my father by the hand and led him to the fireplace. The two of them stood there holding hands, and looking at the pretty girl in the portrait. They put their heads together, and spoke quietly to each other as though they were the only ones in the room.

Dennis Brantley Bentley 1844-1912

I would soon learn that no matter how irritated Aunt Donn became, when she stood before the fireplace and looked at the portrait of the pretty girl, she always melted and smiled in spite of herself. I called it the magic spot.

Aunt Donn’s house was somewhat of a time warp. It was not all that large, but the high ceilings gave the appearance of wide open space. But no getting around it, the house was old and cold; no electricity.

Clarke’s Hill rocks lined the steps leading up to the front porch. I know they were Clarke’s Hill rocks, because Aunt Donn told us so. According to Aunt Donn, Clarke’s Hill was named after a Revolutionary War hero, Elijah Clarke. The Hill was where Elijah Clarke held his troops while making plans to drive out the British occupant troops from the capital of Georgia, Augusta. More than a century later, the Hill was flooded and the lake was created which buried rich Georgia history and my father’s family farm underwater. It seemed that every spot in Aunt Donn’s house held a history lesson.

Uncle Walter’s outside bedroom was a “traveler’s room” off the front porch; a room without an entrance into the house. Once through the front door of the house, a very large Clarke’s Hill rock propped open a bedroom door to the left. Next to the rock was a heavy looking over-sized chest that showcased a big pitcher and bowl. The bowl doubled as a hiding place for Aunt Donn’s lipstick. Every time she heard a knock on the door, she straightened her clothes as she admired herself in the mirror hanging on the wall over the pitcher and bowl, then smeared red lipstick on her lips just before opening the door. I used to wonder who she was dressing up for all way out here, but she did it every time, even when it was just Uncle Walter wanting in the house.

And though we were just a few hours from home, Lincolnton was light years away from Tucker Georgia. What in the world were we to do here?  No television, no radio and no running water? With seven “Story” cousins under the age of nine – plenty!

I soon learned that Aunt Donn was a very serious no nonsense woman who insisted on red lipstick and properness – no matter what the circumstances – she never let her sophisticated guard down. And at times she could be very stern. Aunt Donn had a wooden ruler that she kept handy, and reminded us often of how she maintained order in her classroom back when she taught school.

I was intimidated and kept my distance as much as possible.

Uncle Walter was an odd character. He was quiet, and avoided socializing with the family very much. He sure didn’t chop any firewood with the men. He stayed in the background limping about with his cane. He did watch his big tub of water outside to be sure the kids did not play in his “good rainwater.” My cousins, Roy and Steve, sailed leaves in the tub of water while pretending the leaves were boats. Uncle Walter did not like that. He did not like it when we ran his chickens either – something about “they would never lay again!”

Uncle Walter kept his eyes on the children at all times, and reported any mischief to our parents – which became a full time job. But before the weekend was over, we cured Uncle Walter’s rheumatism. He was actually able to chase us while shaking his cane in the air. Yes, the children cured him.

Aunt Donn mostly ignored her husband and gave him a smile that said, “Chil’ren will be chil’ren.” But on occasion, she took her “rule” out to show us and said, “Chil’ren should be seen and not heard.”

I tried to stay clean and avoid a bath, because there was no real bathroom there. But when Mama found out that I fell into chicken poo, she insisted on a bath. She dragged a metal tub with a high up back from the enclosed back-porch. The porch doubled as a meat locker in winter housing good Lincolnton country ham. Mama carried buckets of Uncle Walter’s rainwater to heat up on the wood burning stove in the kitchen. She was so tired, she handed me a bar of red soap so that I could bathe myself. The soap burned, so I used very little. Mama lathered up my bath-rag and gave me a good once over. I started burning and itching. I was used to Ivory soap at home and not that harsh germ killing soap. My face and body became swollen and as red as the soap.

“No worry, now Helen. Let me take care of that child. All she needs is a little buddah-milk. That’s right. That’s what Doctah Bentley would prescribe.”

Aunt Donn took over and applied buttermilk on me from head to toe, while Mama and her two sisters-in-law decided to make a trip to the general store for some lotion to soothe my rash. The truth be known, Mama was tired of dusting books and batting away cobwebs. I have never seen her work so hard, especially in her church clothes and shoes. Mama pulled the dusting scarf off her new perm and said to my aunts, Sarah and Nancy, “Let’s go. The sooner we get outta here, the sooner —— we’ll have what we need.”

The men stayed busy chopping firewood as the children played outside. That left me alone in the house with Aunt Donn.

She covered the settee with a quilt and sheet, and then motioned for me to sit there. I was timid about walking into that part of the house, since it seemed to be for grown-ups only.

“Sit here Donnie, so I can keep an eye on you. All that running around you’ve been doing, aren’t you the one who just got over Scarlett fevah?”

“Yes ma’am.”

“And outdoors running the chickens? See what happens? The good Lawd knows when you need rest. Yoah body breaks down – one way or the othah – and you have to slow down then. That’s what Doctah Bentley always said, and I see it true every day.”

Every time Aunt Donn saw a crack in my dried buttermilk, she dabbed me again. I sat there cold and shivering in my tee shirt, panties and socks. I winced and she seemed aggravated.

“Now, young lady, you sit still. This does not hurt a bit.”

“It’s cold and it smells funny.”

“You must take yoah medicine…”

“This isn’t medicine, its buttermilk…”

“You don’t need any medicine. This is how country folks live. We make do!”

She looked me over good to be sure she did not miss a spot, and then sat down in her Queen Anne chair near the fire.

“All this jumping into automobiles and running up and down the road. My fatha was a doctah and…”

“The ‘doctah’ who —— cured people with buttermilk?”

“Yes, ma’am he did cure people with buddah-milk! There are certain properties that buddah-milk…” Aunt Donn shook her head about as though she was the most misunderstood person in the world. “Why do I botha? Donnie, why do I botha?”
I shrugged my shoulders, and did not answer her, because I really did not know what she was talking about.

Aunt Donn was appalled, “Young lady! Did you just shrug yoah shouldas at me? Is that how you answer an adult?”

“No ma’am.”

“Well, that’s more like it,” Aunt Donn replied and seemed to settle down a bit. Then she started talking like almost to herself. “They used to all live here you know. Here, in Lincolnton, on beautiful fawm. They called the fawm, Leathasville. Doctah Dennis Brantley Bentley, you know, my fatha, the doctah, and yes, sometimes he did cure with buddah-milk and herbs. We used what we had available. It’s not like living near the big cities. Yes, at one time, we all lived here in Lincolnton in a lovely house. And then they left, all one by one, they went out west, except for me. I chose to stay, because, Lincolnton is my home and it will always be my home.”

“Is Lincolnton named after Abraham Lincoln? Is this where President Lincoln lived?”

“Well, no Donnie,” replied Aunt Donn. I learned fast the best way to get Aunt Donn in a pleasant mood was to simply allow her to flourish in her element; teaching. “Lincolnton Georgia was named for a man from Massachusetts, Benjamin Lincoln; born in 1733. He was a major general in the American Revolutionary War, and was responsible for overseeing the largest surrendah of the war at the Siege of Charleston. He also accepted the British surrendah at Yorktown.” She smiled to herself and went on, “So, I see you have an interest in history just like yoar fatha.”

After a bit of silence, Aunt Donn asked me a question. “What’s on yoah mind? You look like you want to say something.”

“Well, Ma’am, I hate to tell you, but Augusta is not the capital of Georgia.”

“I know that. Now why in the world would you think otha-wise?”
“When you told us about Elijah Clarke, you said Augusta was the capital of Georgia.”

“Yes, I did. Donnie,” She went on, “The state of Geo’gia has had many capitals, the last being Atlanta. The first capital was Savannah, the second Augusta, then for a shawt while, Ebenezer, Milledgeville, and Macon. When Elijah Clarke drove out the British, the capital of Geo’gia was indeed Augusta.”

Aunt Donn paused and stared up at the portrait of the pretty girl.

“She grew up at the Leathasville Fawm in Lincolnton. Lincolnton was her home, then she married her childhood sweethawt, Lawton. They moved into the home Lawton’s fatha, Mr. Radford Gunn Story, built…”

“Story? That’s my last name…”

Aunt Donn held up her hand to stop me, “Of course it is. Now just listen to me for a moment, please.”

“There in that big old house, they started a family, but they fell on hawd times fawming. The truth be known, Lawton was not the fawmah his fatha was. It’s hawd to fawm, especially near Clarke’s Hill; lots of rocks on the Hill. Lawton was beating the rocks, but the boll weevil and asthma proved more challenging. The  fawms up there were flooded by the state, and became a pawt of Clarke’s Hill Lake. They decided to go west like the rest of them, and fawm out there.”

“California?”

“No, Atlanta Geo’gia.”

I forgot myself for a moment and spoke a little too sharply, “That’s not far and it’s not out west!”
“It is far, you little whippah-snappah! It is far when one has no telephone or automobile. It may as well be Califonia!” Aunt Donn regained her composure as she allowed a tiny smile to show on her face, “I commend you on your knowledge of geography. How old are you now, six?”

“Yes ma’am.”

“That’s well indeed! Well, young lady, I see you do listen. You are simply disobedient. How many times has Walta asked you to stop chasing the chickens?”

Before I could get it counted up and give her a correct answer, she asked, “Weren’t you the one who nelly drown at Clarke’s Hill Lake a summa or so ago?”

“Yes, ma’am.”

“Do you see what kind of trouble you can get into when you do not obey adults?”

“Yes, ma’am.”

“And why in the world would one want to leave Lincolnton?” Aunt Donn returned to her story about going out west. “Yes, they all went west. They left the very place the furst settlers of Geo’gia put down roots. We have Athens just a stone throw away; the home of first and largest learning institution in all of Geo’gia. Left it for the railroad; everyone is in such a hurry now a days. Go, go, go!”

“We have airplanes in Atlanta…”

“Yes! Go, go, go. Fasta, fasta and fasta!”

I tried to change the subject.

“My father calls me Donnie, because he wanted a boy when I was born. My real name is Diane…”

“Of course I know yoah real name, Diane. And I have my doubts about that.”

“Doubts about what? Ma’am?”

“That yoah fatha wanted boys. He adores his gulls, as well as Helen and all of his sistas.”

“Well, ma’am, how did you get your name? Donn?”

“Donn is a shawt version of my given name, a long French name. Yoah fatha and his siblings made chopped livvah out of it. So, I asked them to please call me Donn.”

“Wow.”

“Yes, and it’s a very lovely name. It means given by the Lawd.

“Wow.”

“Donnie, it is not proppah to use that word.”

I looked at her in surprise, and did not know exactly which word she was speaking of. She returned my stare.

“That word – ‘wow,’ please do not use it again in my presence!”

“Yes, ma’am,” I continued to hold my stare into her eyes. I did not want to drop my eyes in fear she would discover what happened to her “rule.” This morning, when no one was looking, I slipped her wooden ruler down the side of her Queen Anne chair just under the cushion. That way when she finds it, she will think she lost it there, and no one would have to be punished. My eyes were on Aunt Donn’s eyes and I would not allow my eyes to even blink.

“You are much like her, especially about the eyes, same color of blue.” Aunt Donn seemed to drift in thought, and then came back at me, “Yes, and she was a whippah-snappah much the same as you! And Doctah Bentley had Motha to covah her in butta-milk many times. She had sensitive skin as well.”

Aunt Donn turned away from my eyes and looked toward the burning fire.

“The pretty girl in the portrait?”

“Yes, the pretty girl in the portrait,” answered Aunt Donn. She then stood before the mantle and gazed at the girl. With her right hand, she motioned for me to join her.

Could this be for real? The only people I had seen invited to stand before the fireplace with Aunt Donn were my father and his sisters. Any time I tried to go near the mantle – an adult gently pulled me back. That magic spot seemed to be reserved only for Aunt Donn and her special people.

And now, here today, she motioned for me to join her. I stood up and gingerly took a few steps and stood right next to her; my eyes on Aunt Donn and her eyes on the pretty girl. And I saw it happen; the same as always. Aunt Donn’s stern face melted away, and she became quite gentle while standing in the magic spot.

“Yes, she is a pretty girl; about sixteen when this portrait was painted. She was Doctah Bentley’s favorite you know. And here we stand, Donn and Donnie.” As a tear slid down Aunt Donn’s face, she whispered, “We’re here Sista.”

“She’s your sister?” I whispered to Aunt Donn.

“Yes, my Dear, she is my sista,” and then Aunt Donn gave my hand a gentle squeeze, and said, “and she is yoah grandmotha.”

We made several trips to Lincolnton to visit Aunt Donn and Uncle Walter, but never a visit as special as the day she introduced me to my grandmother, Nancy Elizabeth Bentley (Story). On another trip, she gifted my father, Tom Story, the framed Declaration of Independence that Daddy and his grandfather, Dr. Bentley, so dearly loved.

On our way home from our first visit to Aunt Donn’s home, Daddy insisted on stopping by the general store for Coca Cola. Mama really wanted to hurry home back to Tucker, but Daddy said the “gulls” needed a souvenir to remember Lincolnton. Daddy found a ceramic wishing well and bought it.

“Helen, every time I look at this wishing well, I’ll be thankful we didn’t lose a young ‘un in Aunt Donn’s well.”

Mama rolled her eyes.

“And look here, Helen, finger bowls. I know you want these.”

“Tom Story don’t you even think about it.”

“What do you think gulls? Finger bowls? That way you can dip your fingers in the water and keep ‘em clean while you’re eating.” Daddy threw his head back and laughed. Of course, we knew not to answer.

Back on the road, we headed home following the signs: Atlanta – WEST.

During our ride home, Daddy asked, “Gulls, did you have a good time?” We were slow to answer, all being a little tired. “What did you learn? Being around Aunt Donn, I know you learned something.”

My eight year old sister, Patricia, answered first, “Aunt Donn collects rocks. Each rock has a special meaning, and some of the rocks have been owned by the Bentley family all the way back to the seventeen hundreds. And if I practice drawing circles, it will strengthen the muscles in my hand and I will have better penmanship.”

My younger sister, Barbara, spoke next, “There are two dark spots on America.”

“Dark spots? What’s that all about Bobtail?” asked Daddy.

“Dark spots are shame. Aunt Donn says that slavery and the Trail of Tears are dark spots.”

“Is that really something a four year old needs to hear?” whispered Mama to Daddy.

“Never too young to learn that, Helen.”

“Well, Tom Story, I can tell you what I learned at Aunt Donn’s!” laughed Mama.

“What? Tell me. Now listen up gulls.”

“I learned that one must never ever cut the butter with anything but the ‘buddah’ knife!”

We all laughed, especially Daddy.

“Well, what about you Donnie? I bet you learned to like buttermilk,” said Daddy.

“Not really.” My rash had gotten the better of me and I did not feel like talking; my lips were still burning. And yes, the Coke did help some, but I was still nauseous from the smell of buttermilk.

“Well, you can’t be with Aunt Donn for three days and learn nothing,” said Daddy. “After we moved to Tucker, one of my brothers or sisters would go back to Lincolnton and stay with Aunt Donn for the summer. That fall, when we went back to school, that person skipped a grade. I know you learned at least one thing. What was it?”

“I met my grandmother. Her name is Nancy Elizabeth and she was a very pretty girl.”

Yes, I met my grandmother for the first time. And I will never forget the day I stood in the magic spot with my great-aunt, Dieudonnee, a woman truly given by God.

Author’s Note:

*In 1988 the South Carolina legislature voted to rename Clarke’s Hill Lake for the esteemed Senator Strom Thurmond. Since that day, the South has taken note of this issue. So far it has been resolved in this way. South Carolina maps name the lake, Strom Thurmond Dam and Lake. Georgia maps name the lake, Clarke’s Hill Lake.

*Leathersville can be found in the southern part of Lincolnton.

Engagement photo of Tom Story and Helen Voyles at the Henderson Mill

In 1946 I was made by the hands of Mr. Woodall. I was not the only one. Mr. Woodall built several of us on Morgan Road in Tucker Georgia. I liked Mr. Woodall, although I really never bonded with him. I knew our relationship was a temporary one. And all the while we were together, it was because he was busy making me complete. No, I was not the only one, but I was the last one on Morgan Road.

Mr. Woodall lived within my walls until October 1948. I remember that day clearly, because the leaves were unusually beautiful in their glow of red and gold. The trees were really showing off that year; I felt in my heart that something special was about to happen to me, and I was right.

Mr. Woodall packed and left me alone and empty. But I was alone just for a day or so. One morning, a nice young couple pulled up and parked their car in my horseshoe shaped driveway. The man and woman along with a pretty little girl, got out of the car and stood there looking at me as though I was the most beautiful thing they had ever laid eyes on. They slowly made their way toward my front porch. Suddenly the man stopped and looked back at the road.

“Now which house on Morgan did your mother’s mother live in?”
“You have to go to the dead end down there, and turn right. In 1884 my Grandma, Cora Maddox, was born in a log house back up in those woods,” the lady replied.

“Maddox? I thought her name’s Jenkins.”

“She’s a Jenkins because she married Grandpa – William Darling Jenkins.”

“And here we are – after nearly sixty-five years – back in her neck of the woods,” he smiled and was truly amazed. He wrapped his arm around the lady and continued their approach to my front porch.

Then the man stopped again and seemed star struck as he looked up at my gallery of painted leaves. The young lady walked on holding the hand of their fifteen month old daughter. The man was frozen in awe.

“Wow – Helen – look at these trees,” said the tall handsome dark haired man, “The leaves are beautiful. Looks like gold and rubies.” He smiled with a faraway look, “I’m a rich man.”

“It is beautiful, Tom,” laughed the pretty blonde lady, “and right over there is a perfect place for a daffodil bed near that tree. Come on, let’s go into the house. I’ve only seen it once.”

“Seen it once?” Yes, I remember them now. They’re the couple who rented from the Johnson’s on LaVista – directly behind me. When the little girl was a tiny baby, they walked from the Johnson house through the cow pasture and through the woods to visit Mr. Woodall. They were quite excited when they arrived. Oh not because of me, but because the young man had walked up on a calf in the near dark, and it reared up and took him and the baby girl for a ride. Luckily, they were not hurt, but rattled just the same.

They talked to Mr. Woodall about purchasing me. Since they did not return, I thought they had chosen another. But no, here they are today about a year later and looks like they are moving in. I ease dropped on the couple and heard them discussing their need for a new home. They wanted me now, because another baby was on the way, due in April. Now that was something for me to look forward to: a toddler, a baby and a daffodil bed in the springtime.

Display cabinets for Cofer Bros. made by Tom Story

My new owners were the Storys: Tom, Helen and Patricia Anne. I soon realized that Mr. Story was a family man. He built a workshop out back to build cabinets and take on carpenter jobs. He liked being home near his family.

Truly, Mr. Story was in love with my trees; he called me “the little house in the woods.”  Mrs. Story loved my screened in front porch, although my porch was not yet screened when the Story’s moved in that day. But it was the first thing that Mr. Story did to me. Mr. Story took a lot of time and pain to make diamonds on the open wainscoted portion of my porch; then he tacked up the screen.

When Mrs. Story brought him a cup of coffee, she laughed, “Tom Story, you are making diamonds around our porch.”

“What else but diamonds? We have the gold and rubies in the yard; may as well have diamonds in the house. Helen, I tell ya, we live in a treasure chest.”

“A treasure chest?” laughed Mrs. Story, “Tom, this is good enough for us, but I don’t know about it being a treasure chest.”

Mr. Story took a moment to look about at the grandeur of my leaves as he had done so many times, and said, “Gold, rubies and diamonds; I’m a rich man.” He sipped his hot coffee as Mrs. Story rubbed his head, “It’s a treasure chest to me, Helen.  I have a lot of projects around here to get to. And I’d better get busy before that new baby gets here, and I won’t have time to do another darned thing!”

But before that baby came, we had Thanksgiving. Mr. and Mrs. Story roasted a large turkey with a pan of cornbread dressing with gravy. Mr. Story liked everything his wife cooked, and was very pleased about the Thanksgiving leftovers.

And then Christmas came. Mr. and Mr. Story cut a live Christmas tree on Mae Moon’s farm near the Tucker – Stone Mountain area. Cutting a tree at Aunt Mae’s was a Jenkins-Voyles family tradition. It wasn’t Christmas until Mrs. Story visited with her Aunt Mae Moon; a trip she made in a horse pulled wagon every Christmas Advent as a child.

But it was Mr. Story who made sure their tree was decorated to perfection. And if a tree’s limbs were not balanced just right, he’d cut off a limb and nail it to the part of the tree that was lacking. He loved Christmas lights and strung the bright lights all about my roof line and gables. It made me feel special – and beautiful. He made the air within my walls smell festive with boxes of oranges, apples, peppermint, chocolate and lemon drops. Mr. Story hammered a big fat nail into a hairy coconut and drained the milk into a glass. Mrs. Story took the coconut and milk and made a Japanese fruit cake. The Story Christmas traditions were formed in the very first Christmas while living on Morgan Road.

I became close to this little family. Mr. Story was ever so soft spoken; a man of very few words. He looked upon his family as pure gold. I especially loved being with Mr. Story in the evening hours when he picked up his Gibson guitar, and played music. He played bluegrass and sometimes hymns from an old Baptist Church Hymnal. It was quiet time and all seemed well with the world. I loved my new family and they loved me. I especially loved it when they called me “Home.”

And that was the beginning of a long relationship with the Story family. The baby came April 3, 1949 – another little girl – Helen Diane.

Mr. Story teased Mrs. Story, “Now Helen, you know I want a son,” he grinned and winked at her, “On second thought, I have two boys right here; I’ll call ‘em Pat and Donnie.”

“Tom Story you’ll do no such thing, it’s Patricia and Diane.”

They were still having that conversation when two years rolled around and another April baby was born – another girl – Barbara Gail. Mr. Story called her “Bob” and sometimes “Bobtail.”

Mrs. Story bought dolls and tea sets for the girls, while Mr. Story bought cowboy outfits, cap guns and farm sets. Mr. Story built his three little girls a sand box to play in – right out my back door.

Patricia, Barbara and Diane Story

On a cold snowy winter day in 1961, Mr. and Mrs. Story brought home another baby; this time in a blue blanket – a son – Tommy. And Mr. Story never let up with his dry sense of humor, “Now, I have four boys,” he laughed.

And his girls, now fourteen, twelve and ten still played the game, “Daddy, we’re not boys! We’re girls!”

Mr. Story laughed with his girls as though it was the first time he’d ever heard that story. He so loved to tease his girls.

Little Tommy loved kicking footballs around and spent hours playing with cars and a fast racetrack. Mr. Story got busy flooring in part of my attic, so Tommy could have a good place for his racetrack town. Mr. Story found ways to use every inch of my space. Even before the little boy came, Mr. Story found all kind of ways to change me.

Mr. Story eventually enclosed my open back-porch and made it a laundry-room, then added a little porch to the new laundry-room. He also built another screened back-porch off the middle bedroom. The knotted pine kitchen cabinets Mr. Story built have survived to this day.

Lots of changes! And not just within my walls. Eventually the Johnson home on LaVista was torn down. The pasture between me and the Johnson’s was done away with, and they built St. Andrews Presbyterian Church on that piece of property. The swamp land next to the Johnson home was filled in and Tucker Elementary was built there.

Mrs. Story was happy about the new school so close by, but Mr. Story was not happy about the new road that came with it. The old wooded logging trail next to my property line was made into a “highway” as Mr. Story put it. He often said, “Helen, we may as well be living down on Peachtree Street in Atlanta.”

Mrs. Story went to the woods with a bucket and shovel. She came back with pieces of privet hedge. She worked hard for days planting them along-side the property line between me and the new school house road, to keep the cars out of sight and hold down the sound. Mr. and Mrs. Story loved the peacefulness of the quiet sleepy little neighborhood of Morgan Road and worked tirelessly to maintain it.

Mr. Story loved living far away from the city lights. He loved the rural nature of Tucker Georgia. On a clear night, he could be found sitting outside studying the stars. Sometimes the three little girls joined him. They too were mesmerized by the black blanket of a sky with tiny sparkling lights. They were delighted to be able to find the Big Dipper and the Little Dipper. Then the questions came.

“Daddy, how did God get to be God?”

“Daddy, who made God?”

“Just how big is God, Daddy?”

Mr. Story was not quick to answer his daughters, but took a good long while and did not allow those questions to interrupt his concentrated study of the sky. Then, finally he spoke, “Well girls, I can’t tell you how God was made. And I can’t tell you who made God. I can tell you how big He is.”

“How big Daddy? How big?”

Mr. Story smiled as his eyes continued to search the sky. “Well, God is big enough to hang the moon and stars in the sky.”

“Wow, Daddy! God is big!”

And as much as Mr. Story would like for his home to remain in the country without the glare of city lights, Tucker grew. New homes, churches, stores, schools, parks were built, and the street lights came. Many years later Tucker Elementary was changed to Tucker Recreation Center. And the Browning District Courthouse was moved to the front lawn of the Tucker Recreation Center.  And Aunt Mae Moon’s acreage with the Christmas trees became part of a development called Smoke Rise.

The roads around Tucker became busy paved lanes. Chamblee Tucker connected to LaVista, LaVista  connected to the little school house road, and the little school house road connected to Morgan Road, and Morgan Road connected back to  Chamblee Tucker where Tucker High School is –  forming a school time traffic loop. I still recall Morgan Road when it was just a little dirt road cut through the woods that by passed the old logging trail. The homes on Morgan Road were not separated by curbs or pavement; they were essentially little houses in the woods.

Mr. and Mrs. Story enjoyed taking the girls to Grant’s Park and the Fairgrounds. And most every summer, they packed up the car and headed for the Great Smoky Mountains. There they listened to good blue grass music at the Grand Ole Opry. Mr. Story would come home and practice new songs on his Gibson after each trip to the Opry. Just such a vacation ended as they returned during the wee hours of the morning.

To their surprise, Morgan Road had been paved. They walked up and down Morgan Road by moonlight, laughing all the way. I heard the two older girls ask for roller skates. The next thing I knew, Mr. Story had torn up Mrs. Story’s butterfly garden in the front side yard.

I spent many days watching little Patricia chase butterflies, and I was a little sad to see that garden go. I wondered what Mr. Story was doing as he outlined a long space with boards and then filled it in with concrete. When he finished, he called his girls, “Pat, Donnie, Bobtail! Your mother has something for you.”

Mrs. Story brought out boxes of roller skates, and laced her daughters’ feet up. “I don’t want you girls skating on the road. I want you to skate here on our new driveway,” explained Mrs. Story.

“Listen to your mother girls and stay out of the road,” added Mr. Story.

When the girls were not skating, Mr. Story parked his car on the driveway and did away with the horseshoe drive. I was so proud! I was the first on Morgan Road to have a “paved” driveway, and with the paved roads on two sides of me, I had a well turned out look. Morgan Road went from a wood-land to a suburb seemingly overnight.

There were many more changes on the way. I learned to trust Mr. Story and know that whenever he got his tools out, it was for the best. He took a sledgehammer to me once.

Patricia and Diane had a “little kitchen” in the closet that opened up to their mother’s kitchen. They had their own miniature stove, sink and refrigerator as well as a double stacked doll’s bed. They cooked what Mrs. Story cooked; they held a baby as Mrs. Story held a baby. The pantry ceiling had an open place where things could be stored away in my attic. Little Diane took issue with that pantry.

One day Mrs. Story found her second daughter standing frozen in the pantry. “Diane, are you alright? What’s wrong? Tom! Come here! Something’s wrong with Diane. Diane, speak to me,” shouted Mrs. Story as she held on to baby Barbara.

Mr. Story rushed into the kitchen and grabbed Diane up in his arms, “Donnie, what’s wrong?”

“Oh, she’s okay,” explained Patricia, “she’s just scared. She thinks the boogey man lives up in the attic and he’ll get her when no one is looking.”

Mr. Story went straight away to his carpenter workshop out back. He returned with a sledgehammer and took that pantry down along with the whole wall. Mr. Story explained to Mrs. Story that he had been thinking about opening that wall up anyway. He liked the idea of the kitchen and the family room being open; that way no one was ever alone in the kitchen. He replaced the wall with a planter; a planter with round bars that connected the ceiling to a waist high narrow cabinet with holes in it for flower boxes.

Funny thing, he never got around to putting the flower boxes in the holes. It became a place for the little girls to hide their unwanted food. The girls were not big eaters, and Mrs. Story insisted they clean their plate before leaving the table. Those little girls were quick to stash away their unwanted dinner into the planter holes.

Whitie, their over-sized Tom-cat would jump on the screened back-door and cry out. He clung there with his claws until he got the chance to get inside that kitchen. Whitie ran through the kitchen knocking whoever was in his way down as he made a mad dash for the planter opening.

“That’s the craziest cat I’ve ever seen in my life!” Mrs. Story could not bond with that crazy cat. As soon as Whitie finished with the clean up, he was just as wild about going back outside and jumped on the screen holding tight with his claws, crying out.

“Will someone let that crazy cat out?” Mrs. Story called out; she kept her distance from Whitie. It makes me chuckle to think about it. I don’t believe Mrs. Story ever knew that the planter was Whitie’s main feeding ground.

But the planter was not a permanent fixture. In many years to come, the Story family would grow with in-laws and grandchildren. The sledgehammer was put to me again, and a long and wide bar replaced the planters.

Goodbye Whitie!

Mr. Story also moved the kitchen wall back to make the back bedroom a small room giving the kitchen space for a larger table. Mr. Story wanted each person in his family to have a place to sit for a meal together.

But I am getting ahead of myself; first things first. The large back bedroom was used for Diane to recover from Scarlett fever and rheumatic fever when Diane was only seven years old. That was a sad time for me, I so wanted the Storys to be happy. It broke my heart to see them down. I remember one conversation that I wished I had not been privy to.

“Patricia, you will go to G.A.s tonight. I insist,” said Mrs. Story.

“But I don’t want to leave Diane.”

I’ll take care of Diane. I have not once left this house since she’s been ill. Now, no more arguing from you; you need to get out and do things with your friends.”

“I’ll go next year, if Diane is not sick again…”

“No, you’ll go this year,” Mrs. Story was firm as she looked Patricia in the eyes. “There is something I have to tell you. You know, your sister may ——- pass away. You have to know that. You must get on with your own life —- outside the walls of this house. You will go and participate in G.A.s – I insist.”

Diane recovered after three episodes of rheumatic fever spanning over a period of five years. It was Mrs. Story who figured out why she was relapsing. Mrs. Story made a temperature chart on a clipboard. She took Diane’s temperature three times a day for a period of five years. Mrs. Story noticed that Diane’s normal body temperature was 97.1. When Diane had what seemed to be a normal body temperature of 98.6 or so, she was running a low grade fever. She needed a doctor then, not later. When the doctors realized that, Diane was treated within the proper time-frame. And at age twelve, Diane became well, and the sick-room went back to being a regular bedroom.

The doctors from Emory and Grady thought highly of Mrs. Story’s methodical, practical approach to healing. They said, “Mrs. Story wrote the book on excellent home-care.”

A few years before Diane became ill, Mrs. Story’s paternal grandmother, Emma Voyles, lived in the front bedroom adjacent to the living-room.“Granny” loved making quilts. For weeks she cut colorful cotton squares and triangles. She sewed the colorful pieces together on an old treadle sewing machine. When finished, she had one big square; the “top.” Granny lined a huge metal square frame with a “bottom” piece of material – her favorite color was navy. She placed white cotton stuffing on the bottom; then Granny topped it off with the colorful top piece.

That’s when Mr. Story screwed in four hooks to the front bedroom ceiling, and hoisted Granny’s quilt square up in the air. Granny then sat comfortably and hand quilted her masterpiece.  It was a joy to watch the perseverance of such an elderly woman. I heard she was born in 1869 – in April.

It was a sad day for the Story’s when Granny passed away in her sleep that night in 1957. The whole family was together – that is all but the little boy. Tommy had not come here yet. It was a celebration of sorts, Valentine’s Day. The family enjoyed red heart boxes of candy, and the girls showed off their highly decorated cigar boxes full of valentines from friends. Many stopped by to give Granny flowers, cards, and her favorite, red Jello.

Granny retired as usual, but her breathing changed during the night. Of course, I stayed up with her – just the two of us. I was with her when the angel came, and asked Granny if she was ready for the journey to Heaven. Granny being a pioneer sort, of course, said, “Yes.” Mrs. Story found her grandmother the next morning. Granny had a smile on her face. Mrs. Story spoke often of that smile for years to come.

I miss Granny. I also miss Mr. Story. One October day, Mr. Story left for a contract job, and never returned. I know it was a fall day, because he stopped and admired the beauty of my trees. He never took my colorful gold and ruby leaves for granted. No matter how much of a hurry he got in, he took time to admire them. That very morning, I heard him mumble to himself, “I’m a rich man.” My gold and red leaves have come and gone thirty-eight times since I last saw Mr. Story that morning. I heard he fell off Avondale Elementary while fixing the roof.

And I miss Mrs. Story perhaps most of all, maybe because we were together – alone – for so many years. She had breathing problems and all sorts of ailments. But the last few weeks that we were together, she became very sick. She poured over her Dick Frymire book reading home remedies. She read up on diabetes in her medical book; the book was still open to that page when the “children” came home a few weeks later.

I’ll never forget that early Monday morning when Mrs. Story drove herself to the doctor in downtown Tucker. I’ve not seen her since.

I remember the day Mrs. Story moved in and was in a hurry to get inside to see me.  But before entering my front door, she planned her daffodil bed. She was very young, still in her teens. I can see her now walking up my front steps holding little Patricia’s hand. Over the years I have watched Mrs. Story go from five-four to just five feet tall. I heard her tell someone she was shrinking because of deteriorating arthritis. I saw her beautiful blonde hair turn dark and then to solid white. And though she sometimes got lonesome, she always had me. I comforted her with my roof and walls as much as possible; I kept her safe and warm. I have seen Mrs. Story’s daffodils come up through the ground three times since I saw her last. Yes, I miss Mrs. Story.

I miss the girls and the little boy too. One by one, they grew into fine adults. And one by one they moved away and started their own family. Each of Mr. and Mrs. Story’s children had two each. Those were fun days when they came back to visit. It was little ones all over again: Lowry and Kimberly, James and Jonathan, Brian and Christopher, and Emilee and Katelyn. And to this day, if you look closely, you can find two unfound Easter eggs. I know where they are.

There are no secrets between me and the Storys.

While growing up, most every Sunday, the Story grandchildren made their way up my front porch steps to “Nanny.” Only the first four grandchildren felt the arms of “Grandee.”

The grandchildren entertained themselves playing touch football in my leaves, and games and puzzles on rainy days. The living-room was headquarters for Risk tournaments. They quickly outgrew the Risk game map so the oldest grandchild, Lowry, taped paper together in order to cover the entire open space of the room. Then he drew a map of the world from memory.

Yes, he became a world traveler and went to places like Massachusetts, New York, Canada, Ireland, England, Scotland, France and the Bahamas. He never forgot his “Nanny,” sometimes making phone calls to her at three o’clock in the morning just to say “Hello Nan, are you awake?”

I saw a spark forever extinguished in Mrs. Story’s eyes when her grandson, Lowry, went to Heaven. It was near Christmas time and Mrs. Story could never bear to have another live Christmas tree in her home. She eventually displayed a ceramic Christmas tree on the big eating bar. Not as many lights as I would like to see. But I supported Mrs. Story in her decision, though I do miss being lit up each year.

Long gone are the years when Mr. and Mrs. Story poured over the kitchen table studying their budget; wondering how they would ever pay the eight-hundred-sixty-nine dollar loan they owed for their home. But it always worked out; they managed.

And long gone is the day Mr. Story cussed me. He filled a wheelbarrow full of concrete. He then rolled the wheelbarrow in through the kitchen, family room and then finally to the bathroom. There he used the mixture to stick ceramic tiles to my walls. Mrs. Story told him to stop cussing me, because the neighbors would think he was cussing her. For some reason he told me I was “not doing right.” I was glad when that day was over.

My scariest moment with the Storys came about one o’clock in the morning on a cold winter night. It was near tragedy. Patricia came home in the wee hours from Habersham County where she performed with the Tucker Drill Team at a play-off football game.

That night all was quiet within my walls with soft sleeping sounds, along with the occasional distant lonesome sound of the Tucker train. Patricia quietly closed the front door and left the lights off; she did not want to wake anyone. She began to undress while standing quietly in the family room before the flame to warm. Just as Patricia took off her tasseled boots, a super strong wind blew the front door open – crashing the door against the living-room wall. She screamed and ran to Mr. and Mrs. Story’s bedroom, yelling, “Someone’s in the house!” Startled by the crash and hearing Patricia, Mr. Story grabbed his rifle – his loaded rifle.

At the same moment, Diane woke from a sound sleep to the door crash and Sister screaming. She leapt out of bed, hiked her flannel gown up and ran down the hallway to her parent’s room. Mr. Story took aim in the dark and shot at Diane. He thought Diane was the intruder. Fortunately, the bullet whizzed over her head. I took the bullet in the chimney. That’s okay. I’d take a bullet for any of those Story kids.

So much has happened within and outside my walls. I was a popular place for the neighborhood children to play: roller skating, kick ball and playhouse. Mrs. Story played outside with her little girls showing them how to build playhouses with pine straw and sticks. She showed them how to furnish their pantry with different types of soil and berries, and how to make sofas and chairs with brick and planks from Mr. Story’s workshop. Mr. Story taught the girls how to build and paint bird houses. And that Story boy became a phenomenal football kicker. Mr. Story stayed busy taking his son to play ball at Fitzgerald Field. Yes, a lot has happened here, but then came the years when I was all alone.

Alone, I watch for Mrs. Story’s daffodils to pop through, and remember how she planted them when she was a young bride. Through the years I so enjoyed watching her admire her daffodils. It brought her so much pleasure!  As the years passed, Mrs. Story was forced to watch the progression of her flower garden from her chair in the family room, not able to walk about much anymore. I remember how she watched my trees drop their red and gold leaves to the ground each October. I’ve seen the tears stream down her face. Oh, it’s not for the beauty of my leaves, but the beauty of her husband – long gone now.

Yes, for a lot of years, Mrs. Story was alone – but not really – I was with her. I knew she would never leave me – until that day – that March day she left and never returned. As she backed out of the driveway, she stopped and took a moment to enjoy her daffodils that were just peeping through the hard ground. She took one last look at me, smiled, and then allowed her car to roll backwards into Morgan Road.

“Home” 2011 marks the end of 65 years with the Story Family

When Mrs. Story had been away for three weeks, the Story kids came back to me, but only for a short while. It was not like before when we were happy together. They seemed much older and perhaps a little sad or tired. They worked hard to clear out all of the furniture, china, books, everything. I was cleaned up and painted down. And then something happened to me that never happened in all of my existence; Diane put a “FOR SALE” sign in my front yard. What was she thinking? I took a bullet for that kid.

Many people made appointments to see me. Not many really liked me. They made comments to my face.

“Needs a new kitchen.”

“Not enough closet space.”

“Needs new bathroom and new kitchen.”

“Needs work.”

“Wonder how old that roof is?”

“Needs new light fixtures.”

“Porch needs screen.”

“When was this house built? Did you say 1946? Wow, that is old.”

“Pretty  nice, yes, pretty nice.”

What? Yes, he said I’m “pretty nice.” But he left and others came; more negative remarks. I heard one man tell Tommy that he wanted to cut down all my trees. When Tommy asked if the man would like to see inside the house, the man said, “No, I’d tear that down too.”

Tear “that” down too? What is to happen to me? Oh how I missed my Story family. If only Mrs. Story would come home, she’d straighten all this out.

Diane came in one day and walked through each room and told me goodbye. She told me I had served the Story family well, and that they would always remember and cherish me. “Good job,” was the last thing she said to me. She laid an acorn on the window sill in Mrs. Story’s bedroom. It wasn’t just any acorn, but a perfect acorn – one with the cap still nice and secure. Then my electricity and water got turned off.

I guess Mrs. Story is not coming home after all. I sit here on Morgan Road now a tiny house by today’s standards amongst the big trees, and wonder. What will happen to me? I’ve been alone for so long, Mrs. Story’s voice is but a faint memory. I struggle to bring the sound of her voice forward, “Breakfast is ready, hurry up; you’ll be late for school.” It would be such a joy just to see Mrs. Story’s little ceramic Christmas tree lights. I try hard to remember everything, but each day I forget a little bit more.

I am empty and useless, not a heartbeat around except for the squirrels who play on Mrs. Story front porch swing. Occasionally I see them drive by slowly; I’d know those Story kids any day of the week. Yes, I’d know that “Bobtail” anywhere.

One morning I heard a car door open and close. Someone is here. Is it the man with his chainsaw? Is he here to cut down my magnificent trees, and tear me apart – piece by piece? I hear more car doors. He’s not alone.

They slowly approach my front porch. The man says, “Wow, boys look at the red and gold leaves! Aren’t they beautiful?”

“Yes, they are! And lots of them Daddy! Maybe millions!”

“Come on up to the porch boys, you can play in the leaves later,” Daddy said as he waited. “Well here it is boys, I promise, we will not have to move again. No more leaving friends behind; no more starting over. This is home.”

Then I heard something I haven’t heard in a very long time, children running through my rooms, children laughing, children playing. I noticed something familiar about the man; yes he’s the one who said I looked “pretty nice.” As the days pass, I learned that “Daddy” is a soft spoken man of few words. He looks at his children – four boys age five to ten – as though they are pure gold. He has big plans for me, “upgrades.” Not sure what that means, but I will find out.

Hmmm, I wonder how “Daddy” feels about – Christmas lights. I’ll just have to be patient, wait, and see.  I can’t help but smile to see the squirrels on Mrs. Story’s swing blaze a trail back to the woods. Those four little boys are awesome!

Now I remember; my name is “Home,” and I am a treasure chest.

Horace Lawton Story sat on his front porch watching his grandchildren play with a puppy. Though he was a giant of a man, six foot – five inches tall, he had a gentle soul, and always interested in the well being of his grandchildren. He was lovingly known as PaPa Story.

Today, in this story, he had nine grandchildren with seventeen more to come. PaPa had a problem with asthma and had given up farming on Old Norcross and the Britt Road area. He now lived in a smaller home on Adrian Street.

“Frances, come over here for a minute. I want to talk to you,” said PaPa Story. “Here, sit here on my lap,” he said as he picked her up. “You can go back and play with the puppy in just a minute.”

“Okay, PaPa,” answered little Frances Sexton.

“You know, Princess, school is very important. At school you can learn how to read and write, learn arithmetic. And do enjoyable things like reading maps. I can sit right here on my front porch in this rocking chair on Adrian in Tucker Georgia, and study places all over the world – see how to get from here to there. That’s what I can do, because I can read. Look here, see this map? I’ve been studying it all day.”

“Yes, PaPa, I see it.”

“Look there, that’s Great Britain – London. The King and Queen of England live there,” PaPa Story said as he pointed to the map.

Horace Lawton Story’s other grandchildren took note of the conversation. They stopped petting the puppy, and focused on PaPa’s rocking chair. They surrounded him as they jockeyed for a position to eye the map.

“Real kings and queens live there, don’t they PaPa?” asked Ann.

“Yes they do,” answered PaPa Story.

“And real princesses?” asked Elizabeth.

“Yes, real princesses, Pheobe,” said PaPa Story.

“One day I’m gonna fly over there on a plane,” added Wayne.

“How far away is London PaPa?” asked Elizabeth.

“Well let’s see, here with this scale, we can figure it out,” said PaPa, happy to have stirred the intellectual interests of his grandchildren. “Pheobe, if I figured it right, about forty-two hundred miles.”

“Yes, you’d have to go by plane for sure!” added Junior.

“You could go by boat,” suggested Ted as he pointed to the Atlantic Ocean.

“But it’d take a long time!” said Gene, “Forty two hundred miles!”

“Yeah, that’d be a lonnng boatride!” said Ted.

“I’d go by plane,” said Junior, “even then, it would take a long time to get there.”

“A plane is the only good way to go – now a days,” said Wayne.

“You’re exactly right, boys,” laughed Papa, “that’s a long way from Tucker Georgia!”

Wayne, Gene, Horace, Junior, “Uncle Tom” Story, Rachel, Ann, Frances, Elizabeth and Ted

“And see there,” PaPa pointed north of England, “there’s Scotland. That’s where the Story’s are from. If you’re a Story – you’re Scottish!”

“But my last name is Graves,” said Junior.

“Mine too,” said Ted.

“And my last name is Sexton,” added Frances.

“No matter, your mothers are Storys – that make you Scottish! Any grandchild of mine is Scottish! Don’t ever forget that. Know who you are. The Storys are from Umberland, Scotland. Your grandmother’s family was from Bentleyville, England.”

“Did you meet her there?” asked little Rachel.

“No, Rachel, I met your grandmother while we were in school in Lincolnton Georgia. Nancy Elizabeth Bentley and I were childhood sweethearts. Our families had long left Scotland and England when we met. Your grandmother was a blue blood…”

Nancy Elizabeth Bentley 1886 – 1938

“Is that why you call us your blue bird specials?” asked Ann.

PaPa laughed and said, “Something like that, Blondie.”

“Frances, do you see how important it is to go to school? You can learn about other countries and figure out how many miles away they are. You may want to travel one day…”

“I can read, but I don’t know how to read maps yet,” answered Frances.

“Well, a good education is important.”
“I know PaPa…”

PaPa Story looked about at his other grandchildren and said, “Why don’t you all go play with that puppy. He’s lonesome.” As they scattered about, he focused on Frances.

“Well, what’s this I hear about you crying every morning when you go to school?”

I can’t help it PaPa…”

“Are you afraid of someone at school?”

“No sir, I’m not afraid.”

“Is your teacher too hard on you?”

“No PaPa.”

“Is your school work too hard?”

“No PaPa.”

Horace Lawton Story 1886 – 1963

“Well, Princess, you need to get up every morning, and be happy to go to school.”

“I know PaPa, but I can’t help it…”

Horace left the puppy with the other children and walked back over to Frances and PaPa Story. PaPa acknowledged his grandson.

“Horace, what’s this I hear about Frances crying all the way to school? I understand you walk with her to her classroom.”

“Yes sir, PaPa, I don’t mind. I just hate to leave her crying.”

“Horace Story, you’re a good man!” Papa Story encouraged his grandchildren to look out for each other, and was proud of Horace. Then PaPa focused on his little princess again, “Frances, you must tell me why you cry every day. Is it because y’ Uncle Tom gives you  notes to give to Helen Voyles? And maybe you don’t want to do that?”

“No sir, PaPa, I like to take notes to Helen from Uncle Tom. Helen is very nice and I like her. I look forward to seeing her. She’s very pretty and she always gives me a hug. Her friends are nice to me too.”

“Well, Frances, do some of the older kids tease you? Tucker School can be a big place for such a little girl.”

My parents courting days, Tom Story and Helen Voyles

“No, PaPa. I like all the people at school.”

“What do the notes say? You know, the notes y’ Uncle Tom sends to Helen…”

“I don’t know, PaPa. The notes are addressed to Helen and not me. I would never read someone else’s mail.”

“I see. You have integrity. That’s honorable.” PaPa thought hard for a moment, “Well, do you do your homework?”

“Yes, PaPa, I do all of my homework. I’m a good student. I make good grades.”

“Well, my goodness! Why in the world do you cry every morning? From what I understand, you cry from your house to the bus stop, you cry all the way to school on the bus, and you cry all the way from the bus to your classroom. Princess, tell PaPa why you cry.”

“I can’t help it PaPa,” said Frances, “I don’t want to cry…”

Tears ran down Frances’ cheeks just thinking about it.

“It’s okay Frances,” said Horace as he quickly jumped to his cousin’s rescue, “Please don’t cry, Frances. I’ll walk you to your class every day. It’ll be okay, PaPa, I don’t mind. I can take care of Frances.”

PaPa hugged Frances and said, “I don’t want Frances to cry either. But for the life of me, Princess, I cannot figure out why you cry going to school every day…”

“B-Because,” snubbed little Frances, “I – I – I don’t want to leave —– Rachel. I don’t want my sister to be left alone.”

“She’s not alone. Miriam — your mother — is with her. Princess, is that why you cry every day? You don’t want to leave your little sister?”

“Yes, Papa, it breaks my heart to leave Rachel. She has no one to play with…”

PaPa hugged Frances and gave her a kiss on the head, “Frances, you just may very well be – a real princess!”

 

Surname STORY Notes:

The surname STORY is an Old Norse “Stori” word which means “big” or “strong,” and “water.” The earliest known Norse settlement in which the first Storys can be found, took place in the 9th Century north of Carlisle near the Solway Firth in Scotland.

Later the Storys can be traced to Northern England, particularly Yorkshire.  The Storys were a sect of the Scottish Clan Ogilvy. The Storys own coat of arms was given to them by Richard II of England.

A bloody feud in the 16th Century, forced the Storys to migrate from Carlisle to Northumberland, “Umberland,” as Papa Story always stated. That region is in north west England on the Scottish border and is now known as the Lake District.

Well known “Peter Rabbit” author, Helen Beatrix Potter, purchased the Lake District little by little, with the sale of her books. Christmas day 1943, Beatrix Potter’s husband, Willie Heelis handed a container filled with his wife’s ashes to her lead shepherd, Tom Story. Tom Story later spoke of that day. “I’d promise her I’d scatter them. Nobody else knows of the place, not even her husband. We’d discussed it several times. I spoke to her the night before she died. So I got up from my dinner and went off to scatter them in a place she’d chosen.”

 

The Clan

The Storys were a sept of the Ogilvy Clan. The Ogilvy motto is “A Fin” which means “To the End.”

Early 15th Century, Sir Patrick Ogilvy commanded a Scottish regiment fighting with Joan of Arc.

Lord Ogilvy joined the 1715 Jacobite Uprising and raised a regiment in support of Bonnie Prince Charlie (Charles Edward Stuart) in 1745.

Clementine Ogilvy Hozier, wife of Winston Churhill, was a descendant through the female line of David, 6th Earl of Ogilvy.

The present Chief served as Lord Chamberlain to Queen Elizabeth II. Angus Ogilvy, the Chief’s brother, married Princess Alexandra.

 

STORYS:

Edward Story died 1503, English Bishop

John Story 1504 – 1571, English martyr

Elias Story came to America on the Mayflower in the care of Edward Winslow

Joseph Story 1779 – 1845, American lawyer and Associate Justice of the Supreme Court (1811 – 1845) nominated by James Madison

Liz Story born 1956, American pianist

Ralph Story 1920 – 2006, American radio and television personality

Riz Story born 1973, American composer

Samuel Story 1752 – 1811, Dutch naval commander

Thomas Waldo Story 1855 – 1915, English/American sculptor

Thomas Story 1670 – 1742 English Quaker convert and close friend of William Penn, 1706 elected mayor of Philadelphia, but paid 20 pound fine for declining to serve, preached 16 years in America, returned to Great Britain 1714

George Warter Story 1664 – 1721 Older brother of Thomas Story the Quaker, served as chaplain to William of Orange and the Countess-dowager of Carlisle at Castle Howard, England, grew up in Justice Town near Carlisle, Cumberland

Tim Story, film director

Walter Scott Story 1879 – 1955, American author

William Wetmore Story 1819 – 1895, American sculptor

Horace Lawton Story, Sr. 1886 – 1963, Awesome grandfather

 

Historical information came from Wikipedia and Family

Daddy with the three sisters Diane, Patricia and Barbara

“I don’t want to stay here,” I pleaded with my father.

“We’ll see what the doctor says,” he said as he tried to console me.

Even though I was just seven years old, I knew Daddy was placating me as he looked around the over-crowded waiting room. I sat on a bench crunched up as close to Daddy as possible. Mama was in and out of the room. She was busy filling out papers and answering questions. Both seemed upset, but tried hard to appear removed from the grief in their eyes. I tried to be still, but fidgeted as any small child in such an atmosphere. The anxiety rose to a breaking point.

“I want to go home now! Please, Daddy, take me home! I’ve already seen two doctors and I don’t want to see another one!”

“Well, Donnie,” Daddy said, “the doctors may decide to let you go home…”

“If they don’t, you’ll stay with me, won’t you?”

“I would if I could, but I can’t. You know that I have to work.”

“What about Mama? Will she stay with me?”

Daddy took a deep breath and bit back his tears as he answered, “No, Donnie. You know she can’t.” My father rubbed his throat as though it ached, “She has to look after your sisters, at home.”

“I’m not staying here. I promise you, I will not stay here, especially alone,” I warned Daddy as my voice broke. I continued to negotiate with Daddy with questions and threats. I came up with every reason in the world to go home. The doctors and the nurses were too slow, not to mention, they were strangers. What happened to not speaking to strangers? And they couldn’t even get blood out of my arm. The doctor had to be called and he took it out of my leg! The hospital was too big. I could get lost or operated on by accident. And the hospital is in Atlanta for heaven’s sake! Atlanta is a big place! Still, nothing I said moved Daddy. He stared straight ahead not responding. As a slightly bloody gurney rolled by, I asked, “What if the sheets are dirty? Will you make me stay in a big hospital in downtown Atlanta – alone – on dirty sheets? Will you leave me here Daddy?”

“No, Donnie I won’t leave you here if the bed has dirty sheets.”

“You’ll take me home?”

“Yes,” he struggled with the words, “I’ll take you home.”

That’s it. I had it, a plan. I closed my eyes and silently prayed in earnest, “Dear God in Heaven, let this place have dirty sheets, in every room, on every bed. Please God, let there be dirty sheets!” I crossed my fingers, toes and legs for good luck.

Daddy gently touched my shoulder to interrupt my prayer. When I opened my eyes, I saw a nice man kneeling before me. The man waited for our eyes to meet, and then he smiled at me – with a big huge smile. He then reached into a large bag and pulled out a brand new doll wrapped thinly in white tissue paper, so thin I could see the doll’s face. The nice man handed the doll to me.

“Here, she’s yours, all for you.”

I hesitated and looked up at Daddy. He gave me the okay look and I accepted the gift. “What’s your name?” asked the young man.

“Donnie.”

“Donnie? That’s an unusual name for a lovely lady like you.”
“My real name is Diane. Donnie is my nickname,” I explained timidly. We smiled at each other for a moment. He patted my head and shook Daddy’s hand. Daddy did not speak, but nodded thank you to the man. The man then moved on looking about the room for another child. I watched him for a few minutes and then decided to look at my new gift. I held my new treasure close to my chest. I felt a little guilty that my two sisters at home did not get a new doll too. We always got things together. I hesitated about tearing the paper away.

Daddy finally found his voice, although it sounded a little strained, “Go ahead, Donnie, open your gift. See what that nice man gave you. Go ahead, open it,” encouraged my father.

Reluctantly I tore away the tissue paper to expose her face. The doll looked just like me with short dark hair and blue eyes. She seemed to smile at me. Her smile was contagious, and I could not help but smile back at her. For a moment I forgot about the doctors, blood tests and the worrisome thought of spending the night alone in a strange place so far from home. I forgot, that is, until I looked up and saw Mama. As she walked closer, I realized the man pushing a wheelchair was with her.

They put me in the wheelchair, and pushed me to the elevator, and then down a long corridor. I held my new doll tightly, and prayed silently – eyes wide open – all the way, “Please dear God, let the bed have dirty sheets. Please, let me go home. My Daddy won’t leave me here on dirty sheets. He promised to take me home if they’re dirty. He won’t leave me! He won’t! I want to go home, please, let the sheets be dirty. Please Daddy! Take me home!” And then the wheelchair stopped.

Daddy spoke first, “Wait a minute, Helen. I want to take a look at those sheets.” He examined the bedding. Daddy  did not look at me when he approached me. He just bent down and picked me up in his strong arms. He set me on the bed. Mama dressed me in a hospital gown. Daddy walked about the room examining everything.

“You see Donnie? You see how clean everything is?”  Daddy tried to reassure me, all the while, making sure our eyes did not meet.

“Yes sir,” I answered in a faint whisper.

“That’s right, everything is nice and clean here,” Mama agreed, “and the nurses will take good care of you. Get a good night’s sleep, and I’ll be back some time tomorrow – as soon as Pheobe can come over and stay with your sisters.”

“What about Daddy?”

“Daddy has to work tomorrow. He’ll drop me off and then come back. When he picks me up later in the day, and you can visit then. Isn’t that right, Tom?”

Daddy nodded yes. He didn’t speak. Mama took over, “now, say your prayers like a good girl.”
I choked back my tears, bowed my head as I struggled to find my voice, “Loving Jesus, meek and mild, look upon a little child. Make me gentle as Thou art, come and live within my heart. Amen.”

I wanted to cry out and beg. I wanted to throw a fit and demand, but I knew none of those tactics were of any use. I was defeated. My throat ached as I silently accepted my fate. Mama and Daddy gently covered me up to the chin with a blanket. They kissed me good-night and good-bye. I was a big girl; I did not cry when they left me. As I lied there alone in the dimly lit room, I longed for my home in Tucker. I wanted my sisters, Patricia and Barbara.

The only one to hear my late night sobs was my new doll. She was my best friend that night, and stayed with me throughout my two week stay at the hospital. I returned to the hospital frequently throughout the next four years, and my special doll always accompanied me. I grew up and outgrew my heart condition. Forty-five years later, in 2000, I returned to another childrens hospital in Atlanta – this time as an aunt.

Emilee and Kate Story

Sisters Emilee and Kate Story

My dear sweet two year old niece, Kate, suffered a brain tumor. Kate faced surgery and more than a long year of chemotherapy, radiation, transfusions and morphine. Kate did not like being in the hospital. She longed for her home in Tucker. She wanted her sister, Emilee. Early into her diagnosis, Kate received treatment in the community room of the hospital. There she was entertained by a group of actors. Kate especially loved the dragon-lady, and had her picture made with the lovely green creature.  Kate admires that photo often. No matter how Kate feels, that photo always brings forth a genuine smile. And though Kate returned to the hospital frequently for treatment, she did not cry. As her parents carried her down the long corridors, her only question was, “Ma-Ma, Da-Da, where is the dragon-lady?”

May God bless all hospital volunteers!

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