“Welcome the Double J.” That is what the sign read at the entrance to my grandparents’ property. Welcome the Double J. The Double J is a three acre piece of land nestled in the heart of the Big Thicket in East Texas. The Double J stands for Judson and Jo Evelyn. They were my grandparents and their home was where I spent numerous Spring Breaks, Summer Vacations and Christmas Visits.
My grandparents’ home was more than just a place to visit the elderly couple that taught me everything I needed to know about life and love. It was a place to run free in fresh country air, to till damp soil in a sprawling garden, to play house in a weather beaten barn and to pick mulberries fresh from the source. There was no such thing as wasting time at the Double J. Chores like shelling peas became a family affair on the glass enclosed porch with the sun pouring in and my Paw Paw’s skilled hands showing the way. Cooking dinner was a social event. We all gathered in the kitchen with my grandma to lend a hand and share stories of the day’s events. Life was carefree and we knew nothing but the embrace of love and family.
My sister and I had wonderful adventures with our cousins. We made up games and discovered the rich land around us. The thick stand of woods surrounding our favorite escape was heavy with the scent of pine during even the harshest of winters and still hung in the air on the rare occasions we got a dusting of snow. Dirt roads led to historic cemeteries and homegrown churches. Families sold eggs, berries, pies, jellies and jams of the most delicious varieties. Our taste buds were exposed to new flavors nearly every trip we made to the Double J.
Eventually, I grew from child to a woman. I had children of my own, which made my grandparents even greater, and still I visited them at the Double J. My children found great joy in exploring the same property I did, which still includes the barn, now more weathered and beaten by storms and sun, and an ancient corn crib, affectionately referred to as the log cabin. We often took walks after dinner to the same historic cemetery down the same dirt road. My Grandma read the same books to my children that she read to me once upon a time ago. Kisses were given before bed and antiquated quilts covered my children as they fall asleep as thousands of twinkling stars shone through open windows.
I soaked it all in; every moment, every play date, every kiss and every starry night. Slowly, the garden grew smaller and eventually turned to turf. The dinners became more pre-made and less home made, but no less a social affair. The voices grew quieter and the eye glasses got thicker. The walks got shorter. The hugs got weaker. The kisses softer. And one day, the family was decreased by two. But we could never have loved anyone more than we loved my grandparents and their home in the heart of the Big Thicket.
The Double J sign is gone now. When we make the three hour trek to their property, the anticipation is gone. We no longer meet for playdates, but rather to reminisce and divide memories amongst ourselves. The yard is overgrown and the garden is gone. Those same antiquated quilts keep us company at my own home, now. I make the family recipes in my own kitchen. I keep family traditions alive by passing them on to my kids. Our time in the Piney Woods has come to an end, but instead of looking back in sadness and regret I see only a lifetime of happiness and memories thanks to time well spent with my family at the Double J.
About the Author: Laura Romero is a blogger based out of Houston, Texas. Though her travels may not take her out her home state very often, life is always an adventure at with her husband and three kids.
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