So much of my life is rooted along this road; the foundation of my heritage began on this road. My parent’s home, the home where I grew up is on this road. I went through twelve years of school on this road. I went to church on this road. I visited cousins, aunts and uncles and Grandma Pell on this road. Tom and I were married in Grandma’s church seen from this road. As husband and wife we lived on this road; first next to my parents, and then next to Tom’s parents…two places, same road. Our boys spent their earliest years on this road with the privilege of being within a short walk or bicycle ride to their grandparents. So many memories.
The clan included nine children and twenty-four grandchildren. Each Sunday whoever would be celebrating a birthday in the upcoming week was invited to Grandma’s house for Sunday dinner, usually fried chicken. The Pell’s gathered on all major holidays and Grandma’s birthday. Additionally, most of us would show up on Sunday evenings in the summer months for home-made ice cream. The “mixture” was made with lots of eggs. Grandma raised chickens – hence the reason for fried chicken and home-made ice cream. My uncles would sit on the screened-in porch each taking a turn at cranking the handle on the freezer to make the ice cream. My cousins and I would catch fire-flies, play tag, or enjoy watching the pigs woller in the mud while we waited for it to be ready to eat. I loved the time playing with my cousins.
Both Dad and I missed those days. I suggested to him that we plan a get together in honor of Grandma; a birthday celebration on what would be her 119th birthday, if she were still alive. He loved the idea and was excited to get everyone together for something other than a funeral. We had already seen so many family members pass away. We hoped we wouldn’t lose anyone else before the day that was dubbed as a “Pell Thing.”
Driving up the familiar road to Grandma’s place I still pass the homes of nine relatives. I noticed each one had freshly mown lawns seemingly in respect to honor Grandma’s special day. I was filled with joy at belonging to such a large and loving family. I was grateful for everyone along this road that had taught me the lessons that shaped me into the person that I am today.
The joyful tears turned to sadness remembering how excited Dad was for this day. He would not be joining us for the “Pell Thing” he had looked so forward to. He had not waited. Instead he was celebrating with Grandma.
It seemed fitting to hold the celebration on the grounds of what was known as the “old place”, part of the farm on which my grandparents lived. The long dirt lane to the “old place” has been topped with gravel. The old barn and log home that used to be there are long gone. Instead these days one can sit on the porch of a newer barn overlooking the pond that still belongs to a Pell. Some may even be able to smell mushrooms popping up in the woods nearby. It is only the railroad tracks separating the property of the old place from the cemetery where Dad and my relatives are buried.
Before my grandparents purchased this farm, they rented it from a relative that my dad was named after, Dr. Glenn Jay Pell. The home in which they lived was actually on the opposite side of the road and south of the lane to the “old place”. It is where my cousin lives now.
It was a beautiful clear, sunny, warm day with a gentle blowing breeze; a perfect day to celebrate Grandma. Many showed up, young and old. Even great-great grandchildren came that she never got to meet. One cute four year old was disappointed it was a party without dancing. Perhaps I should have played Chris Tomlin’s upbeat song, “God’s Great Dance Floor.” Miss Brynn, I believe your Great-Great Grandma was dancing on God’s great dance floor in heaven with your fun-loving Grandpa and my dad, your Great Uncle Jay.
In honor of Grandma I wore her favorite purple dress to the “Pell Thing”. We carried in the foods we remembered her fixing in our childhood…fried chicken, mashed potatoes and noodles. The celebration wasn’t complete without a piece of her signature Angel Food cake she made for nearly every birthday celebration. Of course we had some good ole’ fashioned home-made ice cream to finish off the meal.
God instructs parents to train their children in the way they should go (Proverbs 22:6). Jesus says, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life” (John 14:6). This is the way Grandma taught her children and grandchildren. She told of His power and the wonders He has done (Psalm 78:4). We have a responsibility to pass on the same truth and proclaim the Name of Jesus to the next generation. (Psalm 79:13)
This well-traveled familiar road is symbolic for me. It was the road that kept me on the straight and narrow path where every stop had someone showing me the right way. God had plans for me that I could not have understood then. It is now I can see the significance to that familiar road.
Someday all our bodies will reside on the other side of the track. It will then be too late to share life’s most valuable lessons with our family. The time is now to impress the love of family and the love of the Lord into their hearts.
I am so grateful for the extended family and the amount of time we spent together. I wished my children could experience the bond of a large and loving extended family. I had made a commitment to Dad to get everyone together to celebrate Grandma’s birthday and I was determined to follow through. It would be an afternoon for my boys to experience. As I write these words my memories wrap around the day Dad and I had planned together and once again the tears begin to flow.
Dad’s favorite hymn was “Precious Memories.” My childhood was filled with them. Maybe you didn’t belong to a loving family as I did and have trouble conjuring up any good memories. If you are feeling unloved… it is a lie. Jesus loves YOU! He loves you so much He died for you and He wants to make you part of His family. Those who believe in Jesus Christ become a Child God — a member of God’s family.
The “Pell Thing” was a family reunion. I am certain that all the good memories of the past cannot compare to the glorious reunion that awaits us. If we truly value our families, we will share more than the precious memories of the past…we will share the Hope of the future.