A young actress I didn’t recognize mentioned A Trip to Bountiful on a talk show recently and I found myself wanting to see the movie again. My Dad was a fan and played it for us on a family movie night. But I don’t think I “got” it. I had never left home, never experienced the longing to go back, never felt the ache for days past to be more than just memories.
My childhood was bountiful. It was full of family and characters of all shapes and sizes. Little Bessie Vanderbunt and her stocky damaged body and hats with huge floppy brims alongside her tall and lanky husband John. When they reached an impass in an arguement, Bessie would spit out “Ish!”; John, “Isha!” And they would retreat knowing they were arguing over a difference between a woman’s view and a man’s that would likely never be changed. They had better things to do, so that was the end of that. John and Bessie found the house that my family moved into when we moved from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to Glencoe, Oklahoma. On their word that it was perfect for us, Dad bought the house over the phone, never once having laid eyes on it.
He was right to trust them.
Sally and Leo Newsom. She became Mama Sally to us girls at 10, 7 & 6 when we moved into the farmhouse in rural Oklahoma that had been their son’s house. Leo was always just Leo–didn’t want any of that “Mr. Newsom” stuff. He skin was leathery, a few shades darker than the khaki shirts and pants he always wore, shirt firmly tucked and cinched with a dark brown belt. I don’t remember seeing him in anything else! Oh, and his hat. Always a straw 10-gallon hat. He was loud! Intimidatingly loud until you got to know him. They treated us like their children and grandchildren. Shared their dog, advice about the well, and when my brother was on the way and Dad was at work it was Leo who drove Mom to the hospital.
We had horses and guinea hens, a slew of cats (no mice!), chickens, worms for a time, a dog, a goose, and plenty of time to play in the hay barn and roam the open acres behind and around the house. There were abandoned houses to make up stories about, working water pumps to find in the middle of what had become nowhere. We had fish to catch, wild flowers to pick, cool clutches of cedars on sandstone beside dark reedy pools to enjoy on a hot summer day. Bikes to ride, escaped ponies to find in the dead of winter, cattle to feed when Mama Sally and Leo were away.
We were Yankees with an accent and a strange religion, but we survived that too and made good friends.
But most of all, we had each other. We had a good family, full of all the strife imperfection brings, but my parents kept it together and taught us how to love one another. We still do. Always will. Not everyone has that.
It is that yearning to go back, to capture the youth and wonder that gives what was ordinary and what we thought of at the time to be “boring” a new life, rendering those days bountiful indeed.