All Roads Lead to Tucker Georgia Category


My Aunt Irene never owned a home or car, but believe me, she got around. A downtown person who worked at interesting places like the Atlanta Journal Constitution. She knew the bus routes by heart. Seldom called to announce visits, rather surprised us by stepping off the bus at the corner of Lawrenceville Highway and Main in downtown Tucker. Up Main Street, left onto LaVista, final destination, my house on Morgan Road.

She brought news with her. Her daughter, Doris, lived in a log cabin in Decatur. Cousin Anna and Aunt Tillie, lived in West End in a big high ceiling house. Exciting to hear about Atlanta and Decatur. Irene also had a fashion model daughter, Evelyn, who lived in the D.C. area; Evelyn’s husband, an editor for a news magazine. And Irene’s son, Danny, was a career soldier who traveled the world, married a pretty German lady.

Irene had worldly  connections.

Never got in a hurry. Irene was slow yet deliberate. Thorough and methodical. Whether cool or warm, she wore a long sweater with over-sized pockets. Sometimes a dress, but always big pockets. Her eyes sharp for a four-leaf clover, special acorn or an unusual rock. I loved to sit on the front porch listening to the goings on in my yard. I never saw it, until she pointed it out, then it was clear as a bell.

One spring I discovered something on my own. A robin building a nest. Mother Robin worked for days carrying twigs to construct a nest on my swing-set. I anxiously waited for Aunt Irene’s next visit to show off my find. I watched daily for her coming down Morgan Road, but no Irene.

One day three tiny blue green eggs appeared. A beautiful sight to behold, still no Irene.

One Sunday afternoon, I saw her strolling along, not a care in the world. I ran to meet her, grabbing her hand to hurry her along. She laughed.

“What in the Sam-Hill? Diane, don’t you want to see what’s in my pocket?”

“Not today! Wait ‘till you see what I found!” I led her cheerfully around to the backyard, by-passing the front-door greeting. “See that? Three eggs – robin eggs – not two – but three! I watched the mother build the nest and everything, and now, there they are, three tiny eggs!”

As I reached for the nest, Irene grabbed my hand.

“Must never touch.”

Sensing something wrong, I explained, “I waited for you. I waited a long time.”

Irene relaxed as her smile returned, though she held my hand firmly. She admired my rare find, then asked me a question.

“Where’s Mother Robin?”

I shrugged my shoulders. Then Irene led me to the back-porch steps. We sat there for a few minutes while searching the sky for the mother. It sprinkled rain. She sat there just like it was a sunny day.

“They’re robin eggs alright, Diane. What a treasure! But you know, you must never touch a bird’s nest …”

“What about the eggs?”

Especially the eggs.”

Why?

Irene didn’t answer right away, but turned her face up allowing the drizzling rain to wet her face.

“Have you ever wondered why it rains?” Irene asked.

“No, not really.”

“Everyone needs to know why the sky weeps. She spoke in a soft whisper. I drew close to hear.

“Well, Diane, sometimes the sky rains because the world loses precious beings, you know, the little ones.”

“Like robins?”

She nodded her head in affirmation.

“A mother robin will build a nest in anticipation of her children. Just like your mother prepared for your birth a few years ago. Those eggs are babies, but not until she sits on them for a good long while. That’s her job – the job nature gave to her. Oh, she may fly away, but she’s never far. I’ll bet you by George, she never takes her eyes off those eggs. But even if she’s not looking, she knows when a human has touched her nest. And when that happens, she will desert the eggs. They will never hatch, never become little birds.”

Why?”

“She senses danger and will not sit on a touched nest.”

Irene pointed to the fast moving clouds, “The clouds quickly spread the news.”

What news?”

“That a mother has abandoned her young …”

“She’s not ever coming back?”

Irene ignored my question as she spoke of the sky.

“And finally the winds cannot take the sadness any longer, and the sky opens up and down comes the rain.”

My heart was breaking.

“That is sad for the sky.”

Aunt Irene and I sat there on the back door steps in the rain, both sad. For we knew the world was less three robins.

Irene Voyles-Allen (my PawPaw’s sister) was a wonderful storyteller!

One summer day in 1955, my father and I went for a ride in his car; just the two of us. Up our Morgan Road and then left onto Chamblee Tucker Road. He turned right near the “Pittsburgh” area and then stopped at a four-way stop which put up across the road from a spooky Confederate cemetery.
I always dreaded this part of the trip, because the cemetery took my breath and my heart stopped until he hit the gas. At night when the car’s headlights flashed across the cemetery it seemed as though the old headstones jumped out at us; not so much during the day.
Still Tom Story said the same thing every time he put on the brakes and we were face to face with the old worn stones of death, “Haunted!” After a moment of being mesmerized, he hit the gas and made a hard right turn onto Tucker Norcross Road, down the road deep into Gwinnett County.
That is where his sister Grace, and his two brother’s Robert and Lawton lived; all within a farm or two of each other. I had seven boy cousins and one girl cousin who lived down that road.
That road is now known as Jimmy Carter Boulevard, a place over populated with people and stores. But back then, it was farmland with a house dotted here and there. At night, it was darker than my home town of Tucker. The only light was from the moon and stars, God’s country to all my Gwinnett County relatives.
Daddy’s sister Sarah lived on our road, Morgan, while Miriam lived on Bancroft and Nancy lived on Henderson Road, all in Tucker. His brother Gene lived at the edge of Tucker on Lawrenceville Highway.
We were a close knit family who looked for opportunities to visit each other, and today was no different.
Today, Daddy and I were on a mission to get my haircut. My sisters had long smooth blonde hair while my hair was short, dark and wiry. I needed a haircut about every six weeks. My father’s sister, Miriam, usually cut my hair, but she was not feeling well.
I loved any excuse to visit with my older cousins, Ann and Ted Graves.
Their brother, Junior, was grown and married to Rena who lived near the Confederate cemetery.
Daddy and I arrived just in time to help Aunt Grace shell butterbeans. She was too busy to stop and cut my hair and insisted that Daddy let me spend the night. He could pick me up tomorrow morning and my hair would be beautiful when she got finished with me. He agreed.
I was disappointed that Rena and Junior did not come by to visit, since Rena allowed my sisters and me to wear her high heeled shoes.
After dinner Ann and Ted had plans with friends and went their way. I was hoping for a chance to catch fire flies with them, but I was left to spend the evening with Uncle Lester and Aunt Grace. They scurried about cleaning up my hair on the floor like we were about to have important company.
It was imperative that we get the kitchen “set to right” and to the front porch by night fall. We sat there; Aunt Grace and Uncle Lester on the porch floor with their feet on the steps. I took my seat on the next step closer to the ground.
The only movement was the fire flies, too bad there was no one to help me catch them. The sound of hot bugs grew louder the longer we sat there. The full moon and stars lent light to the surrounding grounds. All about us were farms; cornfields everywhere.
“Do you hear something?” asked Uncle Lester.
“Listen,” said Aunt Grace in anticipation.
“What? I don’t hear anything,” I replied.
“Shhhh,” they both said to me, “Listen!”
I took a deep breath and wondered what in the world was going on with those two. Maybe this was their way of keeping me quiet. You know, the children should be seen and not heard thing. But then I heard it too.
A voice of a man in the distance began to slowly surround us and give the hot bugs some competition. As the bugs grew louder the man’s voice seemed to grow louder as well, until I realized it was a familiar voice.
“Follow me, I will make you fishers of men,” the man’s voice went in and out, and I could not get all he was saying.
“He’s saying something about goin’ fishing!”
“Shhhh!” snapped Aunt Grace.
Again I quieted down and strained my ears to hear.
Uncle Lester quietly laughed and whispered, “Diane, if you will listen, you will know what Preacher Johnson is going to preach on this Sunday.”
“Shhhh, Lester!” Aunt Grace was having none of this conversation. “How can a child learn to be quiet if you, a grown man, can’t be quiet?”
Again, we sat there on the porch of my relatives’ farm, all quiet. Then I heard a different sound that made me jump up and into Uncle Lester’s lap. It was their cow mooing in the pasture just behind the house.
Uncle Lester could not help but burst into laughter.
“Lester!”
“I’m sorry Grace, but did you see how fast Diane jumped into my lap?” he whispered through his laughter. “She’s not used to life on a farm.”
“Shhhh, Lester, shhhh! We’re gonna miss the whole sermon!”
When I realized it was the cow, I returned to my seat on the steps. We listened and heard the fading in and out of Preacher Johnson’s voice.
“Why is he preaching what we are going to hear Sunday?” I could not help but wonder out loud.
“He’s practicing,” answered Uncle Lester.
“Lester! Diane!” Aunt Grace reminded us both to quiet down again.
And then Preacher Johnson’s voice faded completely away, and I thought the show was over.
“Okay, can we go inside now? When will Ann and Ted get home? I don’t know why I couldn’t go with them.”
“Diane, they’ll be in before long. They’re out with some friends,” explained Uncle Lester. “They’re nearly grown, you know. You’ll understand that way of thinking when you’re a big girl. I know it’s tough being five.”
“Alright you two, quiet down,” Aunt Grace reminded us.
What? Will Preacher Johnson come back with an encore? And then I heard it, a man’s voice swirling through the ethers. It was out there somewhere, but where? I listened hard and studied the sound.
From our hill top view, we sat on the steps looking down across the road at a gigantic cornfield. I strained my eyes and tried extra hard to adjust my sight to night vision. All the full moon would allow me to see was the shadows of the cornfield. I did not know the voice, but I knew it was not Preacher Johnson.
Uncle Lester chuckled and whispered, “I knew we’d hear from him tonight, I just knew it!”
“Yes,” replied Aunt Grace in a whisper.
“Who?” I asked.
“He’s gonna make a good preacher,” said Uncle Lester.
“Yes, he is, pretty good one already,” whispered Aunt Grace.
“Who?” I asked again.
The mystery man began to bemoan the fact that he had lost his sheep.
“Oh no, he’s lost his sheep! Who has sheep out here? I’ve never seen any sheep,” I was puzzled. “I know about the haunted cemetery, cows and corn and walnut trees, but I never knew about any sheep!”
“Diane, will you please be quiet and listen? And no one has any sheep out here,” explained Aunt Grace who was getting a little testy with me. “And there is no such thing as a haunted cemetery.”
“Yes there is! Just down the road…”
“Shhhh, Diane!” Aunt Grace meant it this time.
“He’s on the lost sheep tonight, Grace,” whispered Uncle Lester.
“Sounds like it,” replied Aunt Grace.
“Who?” I asked again, this time a little more defiantly, “And somebody does have sheep out here! Why don’t you want me to know who?”
“Yore foot don’t fit no limb!” Aunt Grace snapped back.
What? Really? I had never heard Grace Graves speak broken English and was not used to her disciplinarian side.
“I wish I knew what that meant!” I answered back a little sharply. “I just want to know who you are talking about. Who is that man?”
“Yore foot don’t fit no limb,” was her reply for the second time.
Okay, if that’s the way you want it. I turned my back on the both of them.
Uncle Lester joined me on my step and put his arm around me.
“Diane,” he whispered, “Yore foot don’t fit no limb, means, you are not a hoot owl, so stop saying – who. Grace wants us to be quiet so we can hear a new preacher make his mark on the world.”
“Okay, but who is he?” I asked, saying the “who” word again.
Of course Aunt Grace said, “Yore foot don’t fit no limb.”
Uncle Lester tried to squelch his laughter as he whispered, “Tilman Singleton.”
“Alright, you two, quiet down over there. He’s about to really get into it now,” replied Grace in anticipation.
Yes he did get into it. When he finished, I knew all about the lost sheep and how to be found. Mr. Tilman Singleton attended our church, and had a lovely wife and a bunch of kids. They all sounded like a flock of little song birds.
As Tilman Singleton’s voice faded away deep into the hot night’s summer air, the sound of a piano took over. The music was beautiful and went on for some time. It was very peaceful and comforting, and then again it was fast, up and away.
Aunt Grace did not have to call me or Uncle Lester down again, because we listened intently as we leaned forward trying to be as near to the music as possible. None of us wanted to miss a beat. The music had a way of capturing the mind and not letting it go. It was beautiful.
Then the piano music slowed down as though it was a train waiting for someone to get aboard. And that’s when an incredible thing happened. The cornfield sang.
I sat there with my aunt and uncle for a long time that night. At five years of age, I learned a lot about my family. Grace Graves was a hard working woman who refused to miss an opportunity to hear the Word. Lester Graves was a kind man; the kind everyone wanted to be near. And for sure, the cornfields in Gwinnett County were the gittin’ place for praise and worship for our Pleasant Hill.
Author’s Notes:
The Confederate cemetery was replaced by Wendy’s, a fast food restaurant.

Squash Blossom

Long ago I left my small-town Tucker and moved to prominent Dunwoody, Georgia. My husband, Jim, had George Bramlett build my dream house, a spacious Cape Cod, on fourteen acres which was adjacent to more than two hundred acres of family owned, Pounds-Spruill property. My family and I enjoyed this equestrian domain, all the while convenient to Perimeter Mall and specialty shops, a perfect world to rear our two sons.

Although all seemed perfect in a perfect world, one night I laid in bed, longing for the simplicity of my sweet hometown, Tucker. I had had enough of “the good life.” My bubble of happiness in a perfect world had burst. It was over. And there I lay, with hot tear stained cheeks. I unplugged my phone and covered my head. I was at the end of my rope.

You see, I had a problem too big to handle. I lost all hope and felt as helpless and alone as ever I could be. How could this happen, with a lovely home, horses and barns, cars and trucks, beautiful meadows and big woods to walk through all the way to the Chattahoochee River? I had no answers, only a disturbing reality to face – the look of constant overwhelming despair in the eyes of my sixteen year old son.

Lois and Wade Voyles - "Memi and PawPaw"

Lois and Wade Voyles – “Memi and PawPaw”

I closed my eyes and longed for sleep. Relief, I must have some relief. I found it, in my dreams that night. I found myself driving my car down Main Street – Tucker. I drove slowly past Cofer Brothers. I stopped as always at the railroad crossing and proceeded with caution. I drove past Matthew’s Cafeteria. The traffic light caught me before I could cross Lawrenceville Highway. The light changed and turned green, giving me the okay to continue my journey. I drove down Idlewood Road, and turned right into my Memi and PawPaw’s drive-way. I put my car into park and opened the door.

I was delighted to see Memi and PawPaw standing on their front screened-in porch, already on their feet in anticipation to our visit. PawPaw stood and waited for me in the coolness of the far corner of the porch, while Memi stood in the doorway leading into the house, both smiling and happy to see me. I took my time as I strolled past Memi’s zinnias, and took a moment to admire the blossoms on PawPaw’s apple trees and snowball bushes. I made my way up the three steps and opened the screened porch-door.

Suddenly I heard someone behind me. I turned to see who it was, and was met with two little arms reaching for my neck. It was my son – at age five. I bent over and joyfully received his hug and heard him whisper, ‘Mommy, I love you,’ in my ear. I savored that unexpected moment for as long as I could. He pulled away from me and looked as though he wanted me to examine his face. I peered deeply into his eyes. Gone was the depression. There lived only the complete and total joy of a five year old.

I stood up and turned excitedly toward my grandparents, “Look who’s here!” But for some reason, my Memi and PawPaw refused to respond. They seemed preoccupied in their own thoughts – far away. I spoke to them directly, but still, they refused to speak. Their faraway gaze was frozen.

Curiously, I turned to my small son, but he was gone. He had disappeared as quickly as he had appeared. He was nowhere to be found. I called out for him as I searched the apple trees, the rope swing in the backyard, as well as the vegetable garden. I even called out to Mr. and Mrs. Westbrooks, trusted long time neighbors. I saw Mrs. Westbrooks pouring milk into the cat dish outside her backdoor. Mr. Westbrooks was busy tending to his tomato and pepper garden.

“Have you seen a little boy running around here?”

Neither acknowledged my call.

“Hello! Mr. and Mrs. Westbrooks! Have you seen my son?”

Again, I received no acknowledgment from either one. I searched the Westbrooks’ Muscadine arbor, but to no avail. My son was not there. I walked around to the other side of my grandparent’s house and saw Mrs. Almand playing with her two granddaughters, Cheryl and Carol Williams.

“Mrs. Almand! Hello! Have you seen a little boy out here today?”

Garden toolshed now in a deteriated state

Garden tool shed now in a deteriorated state

Mrs. Almand and her granddaughters continued to play their game of ring-around-the-roses, and completely ignored me. This was strange. These neighbors were always so quick to throw up a hand and give you a smile, but not today. Everyone seemed to be in their own world and I was invisible to them.

When I turned around, I saw something I had missed before, something I had not seen since my own childhood. There set my Memi’s dining room table and chairs under the coolness of the shade trees in the backyard. The table was set with china and loaded down with food ready for the whole family to share a meal – together. In the center of the table was a six layer stack of Memi’s apple pies; pies made from PawPaw’s apple trees. Ham and chicken were surrounded by her pickled peaches and spiced apples. PawPaw’s snowballs graced the table. I realized that the whole family was expected, but where were they? And where was my son?

I turned and went down a path in my Memi and PawPaw’s vegetable garden. I made my way through the pole beans and squash blossoms. He must be in their little garden tool shed, but no, he wasn’t there. As I walked back to my grandparent’s house, I noticed the tree swing empty and being pushed about idly by the wind. I came to the realization that my little boy was gone. Indeed, he was not the little five year old who so easily expressed his feelings.

Now he was approaching adulthood and struggling hard to find a reason to exist.

I awoke the next morning renewed and rested – back in my Cape Cod home in Dunwoody – ready to face the present world. I thought about my dream – my unexpected visit to Tucker. I realized that my Memi and PawPaw had given me a gift, a much needed gift, a heartfelt hug from my son. It was a gift that reminded me of just who my son really was and is. A gift I will cherish all the days of my life, especially in the difficult days just around the corner. It was a time when I discovered All Roads Lead to Tucker.