My grandfather, we called Gumpa, loved to gather with his family on the front porch of his old home. He built this home back in the 1900’s for a family of eight; the old house that still stands today. One favorite spot on the front porch was to sit on the old glider that Gumpa made.
I learned many lessons from Gumpa as we rocked and reminisced sitting on that old front porch. The old farmhouse house was built to withstand hurricanes, high winds and many other acts of nature.
In my new book, I talk about those lazy Sunday afternoons when I listened to conversations between Gumpa, Cousin Wee-Wee and Aunt Fannie. I learned how to swim when Daddy threw me off the tall dock on Abbapoola Creek. He tossed my siblings and me into the water when the tide was coming in so we could drift down to the metal ladder attached to the floating dock. I crabbed, fished, and went boggin’ in the pluff mud on low tide. Gumpa taught us how to throw a cast net when shrimping, how to tie boats at the dock, but most importantly, how to stand strong like the old house he built.
Gumpa was a Masterful Storyteller
H e was a masterful storyteller who spoke fluent Gullah. His favorite story is when he took vege-tables to the preacher and rang the doorbell numerous times. The next time he saw the preacher, Gumpa said, “Captain I brought you some vege-tables and no one answered the door.” “Yes, Mr. Jenkins,” said our minister, “my wife and I were in noon prayer.” “Well,” replied Gumpa, “you sho hell prayed yourself out of some good vegetables.”
We never got tired of hearing the story about Daddy driving Gumpa across the Cooper River Bridge (about a two-mile expansion). He was so afraid of crossing the bridge he wore a ski-belt in case the car plunged into the Cooper River. (For those of you who don’t know, a ski-belt is a lifejacket).
One of Gumpa’s favorite comments was, “thank Gawd dey built the bridge” since no one dare married outside of the family. Actually, we did not have a choice. There was no bridge to get to the other side of the Stono River, so there was no way to infuse new blood into the family. I guess you could say our family tree looked more like one of those wreaths you see in a cemetery that someone forgot to prune.
Gumpa built it with iron and strong chains that have lasted for almost 100 years. But if that old glider could talk, it would tell more secrets and celebrate sweet tea memories like no other.
How Families Stay Strong
Gumpa’s glider and the old home have so much in common that teach lasting life lessons on how functional families should function.
The family home that Gumpa built survived the winds of change. The chains that anchored the old glider, supported our family with many swings that challenge families. The best part of growing up as a grandchild in that old house and gliding on that iron swing is that our sweet tea memories are shared by all of the first cousins; I hope and pray this “Jenkins” tradition of story-telling will continue to be told and cherished by future generations.
About the Author
Jane Jenkins Herlong is a Sirius XM Humorist, international best-selling/award-winning author, professional singer, recording artist and award-winning professional speaker.
Jane is a member of the Speaker Hall of Fame and one of the 232 men and women to be awarded this honor including former U.S. President Ronald Reagan and the late General Colin L. Powell. Jane has also achieved the distinction of becoming a Certified Speaking Professional by the National Speakers Association.