The Good Old Days: In Memory of Frances Nelson

by Larry D. Asher, Jr., Executive Director, Asher Family Foundation

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The Good Old Days, read the magazine title. It was among several magazines and crossword puzzles that my grandmother kept.

Reading through it, it was very much what one would expect: people sharing stories, mostly happy memories, of their lives in the 40’s, 50’s and 60’s. They wrote about loved ones going off to war, their homecomings, the Great Depression, and other major events. Most however were about simpler things, such as, celebrating birthdays, Christmas, going to school, and family vacations. Just everyday life.

The good old days, words that take each of us to different places in time, a simpler time in life. A time we were less concerned about the weight of the world, a place where we felt loved and secure.

In one of her memoirs my grandmother fondly recalls growing up in the mountains of West Virginia.

“I was born September 6, 1924 in Portsmouth, Ohio, to Clorie Laferty and Genora Menzella. At three months my mother took me to Huntington, West Virginia, to stay with my grandparents, Susan and Jim Laferty. Along with my two older sisters, and my cousin James, we were raised as their children.”

“My first remembrance was about six years old, when we all moved out to the country. We went in poppy’s old car. We drove up a big long winding side of the mountain, over the top, and then down, up into a holler called Babe Branch, up a little lane to a small log cabin which became my home for many years.”

“Mommy and poppy had a bed, the kids slept at the foot of the bed on a make-shift mattress: two at the top and two at the bottom. I always slept near the foot of the bed. My mommy always kept her feet out from under the covers, when I got scared at night I would reach up and grab her foot, she would wiggle it to let me know everything was going to be alright.”

“On the nights when the moon was full it cut a light through the feed sack windows. The whippoorwills and crickets would put us to sleep. Some nights in the summer you could hear the ‘Katy-did’s’ singing and other sounds. At times, I stayed awake to hear all the night songs.”

She would go on to write about her experiences, the closeness and family interaction: listening to the ladies talk as they worked, stringing beans and making apple butter. She wrote about her adventures with James, they became very close, walking to town to get the latest copy of Mystery Magazine. In her words, “everything was so good, I thought I would never leave the mountains.”

The good old days a simpler time in life. A time we were less concerned about the weight of the world, a place where we felt loved and secure. For me, one of those places has always been my grandparent’s house. Early on spending the summers with them in Indio, frying eggs on the sidewalk, playing with the dogs in the backyard, the smell of my grandfather’s pipe. Later watching the snow fall in Calimesa, sitting in front of the fireplace, listening to my grandmother tell stories. She could tell a story, starting with a single thread, weaving it into a blanket, and then wrap you up in it, carrying you off into her imagination.

She shared her life with her family, freely giving of herself, putting those she loved before herself. Each having a lifetime of memories: times we laughed together, times of joy, times of sorrow, times we cried together, time just spent together. She offered us a place where we could feel loved and secure.

My grandparents shared a wonderful life together and truly enjoyed each other’s company. René and I will always remember how they spent time together in the mornings him drinking his coffee and her tea, reading their Bibles, sharing in conversation, and McDonalds pancakes.

They set a great example for us showing us how a man should love a woman and how a woman should love a man. He loved her, tenderly, caring for her. She loved him and longed to be with him. They also demonstrated how we should love one another and care for our own families. I believe one of their greatest desires was that we, each of us, would find a love for the Lord and come to know Christ as our Lord and Savior. Then to love one another that much more.

"They set a great example for us showing us how a man should love a woman and how a woman should love a man.

As I reflect on my grandmother’s life I see a life of faith, a life of hope, a life of love. Her hope was not an ordinary hope, it was one based on the promises of God. Rooted in the fundamental promise of salvation that those who believe Jesus is Lord, and confess him to be their Savior will have life everlasting, spending eternity in the presence of God. By faith it extended beyond a hope for eternity she placed her daily needs before God, the desires of her heart, prayed on behalf of others, knowing that God has the power to deliver us. Time and time again she would see God move in her life and those around her. Knowing that not every prayer would be answered to her liking, but having the confidence to put her request before him and trusting in God’s will.

The good old days may be something we find ourselves looking back at. Yet, for those who share in the same hope that my grandparents shared, the best days are something we can look forward to.

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life." John 3:16

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