It was like a beautiful lush purple carpet that had just been vacuumed. It was carefully placed between the sidewalk and the curb of the road beside my grandparent’s house. Most of the year it was simply green but when spring arrived, it would magically change colors. For us, it was just like the red carpet at a movie premiere except instead of red, it was lavender.
As I child, I thought it was a magic carpet. I asked my grandmother what it was called and she said it was Thrift. I used to think to myself, “What an odd name for a plant.” Whatever its name was, it seemed to thrive where she had rooted and planted it.
Where most people settle for dirt or grass along the street beside their house, my grandmother had chosen to plant Thrift, a dense ground cover that produces clusters of pinkish purple flowers every spring without fail. So full of blooms and low to the ground, it appears to be carpet, especially back in the days of shag carpeting.
I remember this field of purple so vividly because we strutted beside it in our Easter outfits holding our baskets full of candy every year. Like a production in Hollywood, all of our family members would line up at the driveway and slowly sashay down the sidewalk beside the glowing purple maze. It was an Easter tradition.
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Easter after Easter, we all walked down the makeshift runway. Sometimes it would be just my sister and me making our entrance. Other times all of my family would walk down together. Then our cousins and their parents would join us, sometimes followed by my granddaddy. But, just like a red carpet event in Hollywood, there had to be a cameraman and most of the time granddaddy played that role, filming the whole production. On the other hand, my grandmother never enjoyed any of the filming process. She was constantly running from the camera and desperately trying to hide her face. I often wondered if she was wanted by the FBI or CIA.
My granddaddy had purchased one of the first home movie cameras. It was large, bulky and cumbersome but always came out of its box for a special occasion. It had what appeared to be an automobile headlight as a light source. It was so bright that all of our eyes were constantly squinting in the home movies. Because of the heat the lamp exuded, we were usually sweating and, without our knowledge, also receiving a suntan.
In my granddaddy’s mind he was a film producer, director and cameraman all rolled into one. You could just see his face light up when he had the camera in his hand. Maybe it is from him that I got my desire to be on television.
Occasionally, granddaddy would ask me to go and fetch the roll-down “silver screen” so he could show the home movies he had taken of us. Excitement filled the air! For the viewing, he set up the projector on the dining room table and placed the screen in the living room. Everyone gathered around, turned off the lights and, there on the metallic screen, watched ourselves grow up in living color.
From year to year, you could plainly see how much the Thrift had grown and the fashions and hair styles had changed. Every Easter for as long as I can remember, we promenaded down that side walk. It wasn’t Easter Sunday without it.
Years turned into decades and, somewhere in the process, we stopped walking the purple carpet in all of our Easter finery. I can’t remember exactly when it all ended, but there is a place in my heart that still misses it to this day.
When my grandparents passed away and we sold their home and divided up their possessions, I just had to keep my granddaddy’s camera and collection of old movies. I have boxes filled with reel after reel of films and year after year of memories. Even though they never won any Academy Awards, they are priceless to me.
Not long ago, I drove by the house where my grandparents once lived. The house, which to me as a child seemed huge, now appeared much smaller. It was in poor shape, unkempt and desperately in need of a coat of paint. I stopped my car by the sidewalk where we always had our own personal Easter parade. The concrete sidewalk was still exactly the same but granny’s Thrift had long been dug up.
As I sat there, I closed my eyes and saw my family walking so proudly down the sidewalk dressed in our colorful Easter finery. In my mind, I could hear laughter and my granddaddy’s voice directing us where to go and when to walk. I could almost even smell the roast and ham my grandmother had cooking. I didn’t want to open my eyes.
Gone are those days but because of my granddaddy and his motion picture camera he loved so much, I still have those memories forever captured on film. In fact, I just may have to get out that old silver screen this weekend. Have a wonderful Easter weekend filled with family and friends. And, while eating your chocolate bunnies and coconut cake, don’t forget to take lots of photos.
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Mark Ballard’s column runs each week in The Telegraph. Send your questions to P.O. Box 4232, Macon, GA 31208; fax them to (478) 474-4930 or call (478) 757-6877.