Sunday, September 14, 2008

Ah, that family lore

SENECA ROCKS -- My dad and his family lived behind "the rocks" for quite some time.

My dad grew up in West Virginia. In the hills of West Virginia. In a time when the economy and opportunities were even worse than they may be in certain parts of the state today.
Naturally his family didn’t live in a grand house or have the basic amenities that we enjoy today.
And apparently he knew a family that didn’t care about the appearance of their home or surrounding property.
The family’s name was Helmick. Obviously I never knew this family; never met anyone from this family.
And I’m sure there are many people with this name who are neat, meticulous individuals who take great pride in their homes, however humble they may be.
By all accounts from my dad, this particular family did not fall into that category. They didn’t pull weeds or keep the grass at a livable level; perhaps chickens roamed free; maybe there were a few too many dogs taking up residence there.
I don’t know if there were any rusted-out vehicles on cinder blocks (doubtful, because of what they would have cost back then) or upholstered furniture sitting on the porch (again, doubtful, for the same reason).
But their home must have left a lasting impression on my dad, because if he came home from a few days of driving the tractor-trailer and he wasn’t satisfied with the way the yard or our small farm looked, we’d always hear, “It looks like the Helmicks live here!”
Sometimes I wished I could travel back to the mountains and actually see their place, just to see how we measured up.
But we’d hear it a lot.
Too many weeds in the flower beds or garden: “It looks like the Helmicks live here.”
Grass that had grown a bit too tall: “It looks like the Helmicks live here.”
Toys or other debris that hadn’t been cleaned up: “It looks like the Helmicks live here.”
You get the idea.
The phrase became an inside joke in the family, still used to this day, when things have gotten a bit out of hand in the “general appearance” category.
It popped into my mind just this week, when my daughter and I took delivery of a “new” couch and chair (well, new to us).
That meant that the behemoth that she had bought used several years ago for $20, on sale! — hey, have you ever seen an 8½-foot-long couch, not a sectional? — had to make way for the “newer” residents.
It wasn’t an easy or pretty endeavor, but we finally got “old blue” out the door and off the deck.
There it sat, in the yard, like some oversized, bloated patio furniture. Well, that’s being kind.
But the night was cool and the moon and clouds were beautiful. And we were exhausted.
So we sat down on the couch (which will be heading to the trash eventually) to rest a bit and enjoy the evening.
“Now I know why people keep their old couches on the porch,” my daughter said, settling into her beloved sofa.
“Yep,” I replied. “The Helmicks will be here any minute.”

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