The house was clean and comfortable, but its age had long ago warped many of the floor boards. In some places it seemed as if the floors, under the thread-bare carpet, had a life of their own, pitching and yawing; making sounds that defy description. The tar-shingle siding on the house gave away its age and it boasted a wide, welcoming front porch with the mandatory creaking front porch swing from which are born the summer memories of a small boy. The memories are particularly vivid because this particular house was where this boy’s Mamaw and Papaw lived. The moniker is a familiar one for those with roots in the hollers of Appalachia. It was in this setting that was born for me perhaps one of the best memories ever. It is so amazing that, on a day like today, I can relive that experience; although my role has been reversed. I am no longer that small boy reveling in the peace and comfort of his Papaw’s lap; I am the provider of the lap space.
The social networking application Tumblr recently posed the question to me. “What is your favorite inanimate object?” No thought was required. It is my large, leather, fully reclining, 360 degree swiveling easy chair. There are several reasons it takes the 1st place ribbon but primary among those is the access it provides my grandchildren to their Papaw’s lap. I begin to understand now how my Papaw was able to sit for what seemed like hours with one of his grandchildren on his lap. If I was the lucky one, and there was no waiting line of my siblings or my cousins, then it was like being king of the mountain.
From my kingly post, I heard stories about the mountains, silly jokes which my Papaw apparently thought were hilarious by the way he laughed at them, even though he was the one that told them, and special things that were meant only for my hearing. Those special lessons were about kindness, respect, being a man who knows the difference for right and wrong and standing up for what is right.
My Papaw was a pipe smoker, although he would never smoke his pipe if any of us were on his lap; that was his hard and fast rule. Still, today, there are only three smells that evoke such vivid memories for me. The first is a lilac flower. Below my bedroom window of my childhood home was a large lilac bush. A house with no air conditioning has windows open in the summer so the lilac was the smell of a cool night breeze or an early morning wake-up. The second is the smell of one particular perfume for which the real name is totally lost to me. I know it only as the small teddy bear shaped bottle it came in. It was the perfume that my wife wore when we first dated and to this day I can recognize it immediately when she wears it. The third is that of a good pipe tobacco. I can revel in that smell and allow it to take me back to the time I enjoyed so much upon my Papaw’s lap.
I am not certain how my own grandchildren might remember their time on their Papaw’s lap, but I hope they do. I also hope that their memory of it brings smiles to their faces, warmth in their hearts and a conviction to share lap-time with their own grandchildren someday. Even though age is allowing me to forget what seems to be more than I ever learned; I never want to forget the wondrous joy I have gained whenever my grandchildren ask to spend a little time on Papaw’s lap.