By Pearl Eggleston Berryman
Note: Pearl Eggleston Berryman was born in 1979 in Knoxville, Tennessee, where her father was a physician. He later went back to Oberlin College’s school of theology and emerged a Methodist minister. The family lived in many towns and states, as it is the Methodist way for their clergy to change congregations every few years, but every summer while growing up Pearl returned to Chagrin Falls, Ohio, to visit her two sets of grandparents. Pearl wrote this biographical essay in 1966, her 87th year.
When I was a little girl I lived in new England. Nearly every summer my mother and I would visit my grandparents in a little town outside of Cleveland.
As the little train rattled its way to the Station I could see Grandmother Brown in her doorway wildly waving something white at us. Then at the Station was Grandfather Eggleston with old Nell – the old white horse – and the carriage “with the fringe on top.”
With Grandfather’s hearty greeting a feeling of peace and security came over me such as I’ve never had since.
The mansion on the hill overlooked the little village and the river. Grandfather Eggleston’s home was admirably constructed for a child’s pleasure – inside and out! The broad stone sidewalks were perfect for rolling hoops or playing marbles with my cousin from the town in the valley; and as the years passed there was croquet and tennis.
There were so many interesting things to see! The barn, carriage house, tool shop, woodshed; the hitching post – a little negro boy! And on the back porch was the “old oaken bucket” itself. One turned the crank and received the best water in all the world. Would that I had a drink!
At the foot of the long grape arbor was the privy: stiffly starched white curtains, upholstered seats, and a stool for short legs; pictures from “Godeys” on the walls; and a pile of S.S. papers in the corner, if I wished to rest awhile and amuse myself.
Saturday night was the time of the Great Ritual – the weekly all over bath in the big kitchen by the big coal range, in the tin wash tubs.
There was always a jar of cookies in the pantry, as I remember now – after eighty years.
Grandmother took care – immaculate care – of this house of twelve big rooms. No heat except three huge fireplaces and the kitchen range. She was a Lady. No bad words must pass our lips. A leg was a limb.
Grandfather was a fine figure of a man – I best remember him in a flowered “weskit” with a big gold watch chain across his chest, singing “A Frog he would awooing go” to me.
Grandfather Brown’s little white cottage in the little village held many delights. Grandmother was a pretty old lady with pink cheeks: wooed by Grandfather for his first wife and won for his third. After every meal Grandfather – with a bow – would say, “Many thanks for this good meal, Mrs. Brown.”
But the best at Grandfather Brown’s was a little room at the top of narrow, winding stairs. Grandfather’s den I guess we would call it now. Two sides of the room had glass cases filled with insects (dead, of course), birds and specimens of stones. (At Grandfather’s death they were given to some college and considered quite valuable.) Then there was a machine into which you inserted strips of paper with holes in them and put them in the machine and made music! A mystery to me then – and now! Then there was a little music box. If I could hold it and hear its sweet tones I’d be a little girl again.
Grandfather proudly considered himself an Agnostic, but wouldn’t allow a pack of cards in the house – “the Devil’s game” – and firmly maintained the earth to be flat.
Across the street was the village Graveyard, presided over by a huge angel over a grave occupied by a young lady said to have died of “unrequited love.” It was a lovely place to play with neighboring children, jumping over the gravestones, studying the inscriptions, or playing hide and seek.
Beyond the graveyard was the cheese factory run by my Uncle Parly Fliminus Brown. I enjoyed watching the farmers bring in their great loads of big cans of milk, and listening to their entertaining and instructive conversation re politics, religions, etc.
Now they all sleep peacefully in the little graveyard.
Pretty girl with a curl! This was so delightful to read. The memories are so clear and specific and full of colorful detail. I wish someone in my family had written something like that about their grandparents.
Thanks, Wendy. Yes, I am lucky. I also have a detailed 50-or-so page autobiographical sketch written by my great grandfather, four notebooks written by my father about is life, and then the daily journals over many years of my great-great grandfather. Now that one might sound exciting, but most days the entries go something like, “Sun came out around 11am. Walked to town.” It’ll be interesting to see what kind of stories I can squeeze from those diaries!!
Another great story about people of the valley – Shenandoah, that is. Thanks