Heritage Days

For those who live in these parts Heritage Days is an annual fall festival which takes place every second weekend in October.  It is a celebration of all things culturally important to us.  You can walk down Main Street and literally have to swim through the hundreds of people who come from miles away to see lost arts such as basket weaving and hand carving.  The smells wafting from vendor to vendor float to your nose and you smile at the undeniable scent of kettle corn.  You can generally hear soft bluegrass being picked out on strings and the local dance troupes perform their latest routines to a variety of songs- everything from Justin Bieber to good ole’ Rocky Top.  During a perfect Heritage Days weekend the leaves would be changing and the homes up and down Main Street and even the courthouse lawn would have been decorated with magnificent mums.  Each popping with crisp fall colors in orange, yellow, purple, and deep red.  This is what Heritage Days means to East Tennessee.

To me, this afternoon, it took on a whole new meaning.  While cleaning my house in preparation for children’s birthday parties this fall weekend I came across a basket of all sorts of things which needed to be sorted through.  In it were papers- some wadded into balls and some not.  I found toys my children are unaware have been placed promptly into trash bags and even a pair of hand weights.  I sat down beside the basket and began pulling out items one by one making sure that nothing of importance would be tossed.  As I made my way through the layers of what appeared to be nothing more than clutter, I accidentally stumbled into a virtual treasure trove of memories.  I had just thrown out about 5 months worth of unneeded homework from the previous year when I pulled out a picture that took me by surprise.  It was my high school best friend, Dawn Cole Horning.  She and I were standing in front of the mantle in her home in Denison, TX.  The picture was taken many years before this same, sweet friend succumbed to breast cancer.  She was only 38.  It was a bittersweet moment.  So good to see her face and those always-beaming beautiful eyes.  How sad to remember in that instant she is no longer here.  I kept digging…

An old matchbox car (trash), several markers with no lids on them (trash), and then I came upon a stack of papers.  Legal documents stamped and sealed to make them official.  Tough reminders of a tough time my husband and I went through last year.  Custody agreements, hand written notes reminding him to return Ava and Eli’s soccer clothes to me when he brought them back to me after the weekend, and letters of heated exchanges from one lawyer to another.  I could literally feel a knot in my stomach as I remember how large that knot grew last year at this very time.  He and I had been separated for just a few months, but the level of tension was stifling.  It took your breath.  I remember praying to God daily for peace….even just a few hours of it.  I had to have relief or I didn’t think I would be able to make it.  It was excruciatingly painful watching my children being pulled from this place to that and knowing that they didn’t know why mommy and daddy were fighting.  Just that they were.  What a difference a year has made and what a faithful God I serve.  It is only through His grace and His might that our family is restored.  I kept digging…

Fallen down into one of the corners of the basket I found a tiny white envelope with “Ms. Amanda Elder” written in very small, precise strokes.  I know who this is from.  I pull out the letter, the HANDWRITTEN letter.  This was before the age of email and texting and Facebook.  People used to actually have to buy stamps and mail letters for those who may be too young to remember.  A part of me wishes for a return to that more personal time.  I read the letter front and back.  It is dated June 22, 1995, over15 years ago.  It ended with this one sentence (and I’m quoting), “… I simply want to tell you how the faint echo of your name resounds in my mind, how your faint image hovers in perfect clarity before my eyes.”  Wow.  This was a boy I knew long ago from my college days in Arkansas.  A friend.  We were never anything more.  I never even gave him the time of day.  We were only friends.  Wow.  I kept digging…

As I came to the bottom of the basket I found a Ziploc bag with a handful of pictures down in it.  I sorted through them one at a time and smiled at each funny or sweet memory.  Then I stopped.  In my hand I was holding a picture of me and my father.  We are standing in downtown Rogersville and it is Heritage Day’s weekend.  If I were guessing I would say the picture was taken in about 1995 or 96.  You can see the mums in the background and my dad is sporting that year’s Heritage Days shirt.  He and I are both smiling and obviously having a good time.  This is the father I remember.  This is the father who could communicate with us and laugh and joke with us.  It is easy to forget this version of my father since the current version is so far different.  This is my father before he was sick and many years before we had ever heard the words “corticobasal degeneration”.  What a wonderful time in life.  This is how I will always remember my dad.

I learned a valuable lesson today.  I know that “heritage” generally means something we’ve inherited from our ancestors, but I like to think of it in more basic terms.  I think a simpler definition is “where ya’ came from”.  We all have a heritage.  We all come from somewhere.  I’ve come from a long line of wonderful friends.  I’ve come from moments of adversity and situations which I felt were practically impossible to overcome.  I’ve come from relationships realized and those not.  Most importantly, I’ve come from a happy, peaceful time in life with parents who were always present and nurturing, and are still to this day even though in the case of my dad “present” takes on a different, more serious meaning.  We should all take a moment to reflect on our heritage.  We should remember to live as fully as we know how in those tiny moments because we simply do not know for how long we will have them.  This is my lesson learned today.


4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. elfinfun
    Oct 06, 2010 @ 21:19:50

    Kind of reminds me of when I travel back to Indiana. Grace took a picture of my father as he entered the family room in his robe and slippers Sunday night. Girl, he looks so old to me. He is less confident since his colostomy. It is hard to watch them get older and their health decline. I like that I have very few pictures of my mom while she was battling cancer. The ones I have and keep out are the ones where she is healthy or at least unaware that she was sick. That’s how I want to remember her. How fitting that I write a much different blog about my hometown’s fall festival and you write one about Heritage Days (our children’s hometown fall festival). We are both learning about heritage – just in different contexts and settings. I like it when God mirrors our lives. Can’t wait to see you and spend time with you this weekend.



  2. mom
    Oct 09, 2010 @ 21:37:10

    Personally, i think one of God’s most gracious acts on our behalf is that we do not know what the future holds. i am grateful for the love we have because there will be no end to it. Time only exists on the Earth, and we are merely pilgrims here.



  3. mom
    Sep 02, 2015 @ 22:44:54

    This is just wonderful



  4. Ann Poythress Trent
    Sep 02, 2015 @ 22:53:21

    You are a wonderful person.



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