Happy Birthday Poppa

Happy Birthday Poppa!

My grandparents, known to me as Nonny and Poppa, lived about 20 minutes from here.  I spent many weekends at their place on a canal off of the Withlacoochee River.  The memories of those times have been flooding back to me since I have been here.  Being near the woods, seeing all of the wildlife, hearing the birds all bring back so many memories.  We visited many times each year, but always made sure to visit the weekend before Thanksgiving, so we could celebrate Poppa’s birthday.  There was an orange tree behind the laundry shed that was always ripe and ready for picking, and he would make sure to save the prettiest ones to be picked by me when I was there.  When my girls were little, he would do the same for them, leaving oranges near the bottom so they could continue our tradition of picking oranges on his birthday weekend. I wish I had appreciated it back because I miss those visits so much now.  Poppa passed away 14 years ago and Nonny 16 years ago.

Their little house in a town called Lake Panasoffkee had so many memories in it.  I drove by a few years ago and the house was gone, the property totally changed by the new owners.  I wish my brother and I had been able to keep that property back after my Poppa passed away, but sadly, events of the time made that not possible.  I may not have the property, but I have the memories.  Every visit my brother and I looked forward to our trips out into the river with Poppa in his little motor boat.  I can still hear my Nonny calling to us to be careful and not fall out of the boat.  Poppa would always find a flower mixed in with the cattails for us to pick for Nonny.  I remember hiding it behind my back, taking it to her, and her always acting surprised that we stopped and picked her a flower.  I remember sitting on the dock with Poppa, fishing for blue gills with bread balls and cane poles.  How exciting it was when we would catch them (they loved those bread balls), along with the occasional shiner, catfish & mud fish.  I would stand by Poppa as he cleaned our catch at his “fish cleaning station” and then Nonny would cook them up for us that night for dinner.  I can still hear Nonny’s voice telling us to watch out for cottonmouths (snakes) when we went down to the river.  I remember the big alligator that sunned himself on the little island across from their place.  His name was Charlie.  I am sure there were several alligators in that area, but according to Nonny, Charlie was the only one around.  I remember Poppa teaching us how to aim and shoot his rifle (or was it a shotgun?  Are they the same thing?).  We would shoot rounds into a marker he had in the middle of the canal.  Poppa always had a big garden, and I remember going out and picking the vegetables with Nonny for dinner, helping her prep them, and then her getting irritated with me because I refused to eat them.   I will never forget Nonny’s breakfasts.  You would walk away from the table 5 pounds heavier.  Being raised in Georgia, Nonny was a very southern cook.  Bacon grease was the secret ingredient for most all of her foods…just a touch for flavor.  Biscuits were homemade, and the grits were the real ones, not instant.  She also always made sure she had little glass bottles of Coke whenever we visited, because Coke out of a glass bottle tastes the best and was my favorite.  I so wish my kids could have grown up with some of the experiences I had there, and I really wish I had appreciated them more while I was growing up.

Happy birthday Poppa!  I am sure Heaven has a canal that you can throw out a cane pole and catch a fish..with a bread ball.  I hope they have oranges today with lunch, so I can eat one in your memory.

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