Tuesday, February 14, 2017

The Valentine promise

We frequently make promises in life. Some are forgotten, some ignored, and some fail...but once in awhile we really do keep one. 
On Valentine's Day in 1975 a young girl pledged a promise to her grandparents...that girl was me. I was a prolific writer of childhood poetry. The lyrical rhythm of rhyming words spoke to me...it's how I shared my love. 

This card created for Nellie's & Albert, Mama (maw maw) and PaPa (paw paw) was carefully tucked away in a keepsake box at my moms. In recent years she has gifted me all of my childhood memorabilia. Seeing this valentine brought tears...sadness in missing Mama and Papa, happiness for the sweet memories, and gratitude for the childhood promise kept... "I will never forget you" love, Kimberly

I grew up visiting Mama & Papa at least once a week. Mama had lush flower gardens all around the yard. Papa was a master vegetable gardener. He would often take us out to feed his chickens. He was a bit gruff in manner but we knew he loved us. Mama was sweet & always concerned about one's well being...which meant as a southern grandmother she loved to feed us:) 
It was the 1970's, a great time for childhood before political correctness and personal injury lawsuits dominated American lives. As you can see below my brother Todd had a toy gun in his hand! 

I do not have one single picture of me with Mama or Papa, only the treasured memories seared into my mind and heart. Papa began building this house after they lost their home in the depression. They started all over. I so admire the courage & resolve I see in their faces below.

Aunt Helen was the oldest of their 5 children. She remembered how embarrassed she was to lose their home. She is standing in front of the cottage as originally built.

My mom Martha came along 16 years after her next oldest sister. My aunts tell me she was quite spoiled:) Here she is in front of the home with an added screened in porch. 

Nellie & Albert were married 66 years.They were loved and well respected. I still miss them!

After Papa died in 1989 and Mama in 1990, my Uncle Albert took over the house. He lived there until his passing in 2009. At that point the house was in terrible disrepair. No one in the entire extended family wanted it...except me:) 
I dreamed a dream and could visualize the renovation possibilities!

My dad always said..."You have to make a mess to make progress" and boy did we make a mess. Day one, March 11 2009, I recruited son in law Travis, and Brian, best friend of my son Keith, for demolition. Hammers swung furiously as boots and fists went through walls, and cabinets were ripped from the studs. This was the day Michael stopped by after work, walked in and saw the destruction. He went totally white with shock as he thought we were going to slap some paint on the wall and find renters! I started talking super fast in my most charming southern accent and revealed to him my plan for a cottage retreat.

My marriage survived the information omission and once I showed Michael all of the research on retreats in Texas he jumped on board...well...more like cautiously walked on board:)
"Take it to the studs!" was the battle cry. Strong feelings of being "in over my head" were a constant companion as contractors and helpers came and went over the next 9 months.

Slowly but surely over the weeks and months things began to take shape. I cannot remember how many trips were made to the city dump and building supply warehouses. I became a back up pro with a lowboy trailer:) 
We completed the cottage in December 2009. Hallelujah, what a happy result! Taken to the studs and back again, Nellie's exuded all the cottage charm of my vision! 

There were many moments of complete despair during those initial 9 months of renovation. Even 7 years later anxiety can surface when thinking about this project! There were a few miracles along the way, and I often felt the spirit of my grandparents spurring me on.

Nellie's Cottage has continued to evolve and expand. A new large project room was added on the back of Nellie's, and Flossy's (Nellie's sister) cottage was renovated for additional sleeping space.
I sometimes sit in the driveway carried away in the wonder of this journey. As the girl who wrote "I will never forget you", I could not have imagined it would be so literal...that I would be the proprietor and caretaker of their home. 

Creative, kind and lovely women come from near and far to retreat at Nellie's Cottage. I always tell them the story of Nellie & Albert, about their courage and love. I end this story with a new poem...

Dear Mama and Papa,
I remember the garden, the chickens we fed,
The beautiful flowers lovingly planted in beds.

I still smell coffee in morning's early light, 
And crisp skillet pancakes, a breakfast delight.

The porch swing in motion, the two of you there
A memory my heart loves that lingers in air.

Sweet words that you loved me tucked deep in my heart
Hospitality given to all, you made quite an art.

A lifetime of service to family and friends
What lessons you gave me, true to the end.

A promise I made and a promise I'm keeping
Your home still well loved and happy, no weeping.

Love is forever and always my dears
I'll never, no never forget you in years.

Love, Kimberly

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