The Gossip Shed will forever be fixed in my mind. It is not the physical space that holds me captive. It is a “heart place” carved out by a deep connection that will forever be ingrained in who I am.
The Gossip Shed came from a creative stroke of brilliance, and I was there to witness it all. I was with my buddy, my childhood best friend – my grandfather. I rode beside him in the old pickup truck with an excitement that could only be felt through the wonderment of a child. I felt like an explorer on another conquest, when we pulled up to the dilapidated old well house on my great grandfather’s farmland. For years, it had been a life source providing water for the household. Now, it would seem that the well house had seen better days. To me, it looked like a pile of rubble, but in Granddaddy’s eyes I saw something different. It began with a spark, grew to an ember, and burned as a flame. It was the light of creativity. I could not fathom what he saw, but I trusted him.
The next few weeks I watched his labor of love, and how the family pitched in to help. They hauled the roof of the old well house to my grandfather’s and grandmother’s house where they laid the foundation and secured it with large rocks at the base of the supports. When the cement was poured to make a floor, Granddaddy called the family and said, “Write your names and make an imprint. This belongs to us. It is our gathering place.” These words echoed in my five-year old mind. I was overwhelmed with a sense of acceptance and belonging.
The finishing touches were four large porch swings and a hand carved sign that read, “Ye Olde Gossip Shed.” We have all heard it said that Southern women solve the world’s problems on the front porch. The Gossip Shed is where the matriarchs of my family met to do just that. I heard all about the goings on in the world. One of my favorite memories is shelling butter beans from our summer crop with the women, while the men fried fish that they caught in the black iron wash pot. All the cousins were “ripping” as my grandmother would say. Even with all our ripping and roaring, we kept our sights on the Old Gossip Shed. Not just to see if we were going to get caught in our mischief, but we knew the adults had our backs, we were safe, loved and had plenty to eat. Grandmama made sure of that and Granddaddy was always there smiling. Sometimes he would strike up a conversation about The Good Book. Sometimes he would sing, “It Is No Secret What God Can Do.” I loved to hear him sing. Through the seasons many gatherings would take place and many feet would pass under that roof. My granddaddy’s vision came to fruition. The old well house was a life source once again. We gathered, we laughed, we loved, we prayed, we sang, we disagreed, we argued, we forgave, we shared, we accepted, we supported, we belonged, and we lived.
As with anything, the passing of time and change caused the footsteps to dwindle. I am as guilty as any, and while Ye Old Gossip Shed is still standing, my feet do not pass by that physical place often. However, I walk there daily. It is a place that has been forged in my heart. In this place, the laughter and tears remain. The lessons and love remain. The belonging and acceptance remain. It haunts my memory every time I dare to dream, to live, to love, to teach, to pray, to tell a story, to read The Good Book, to eat, to smile, and to sing. The memories are forever alive in me. They echo the past, stir me to press on in the present, and challenge me to be better in the future.
In these uncertain times we are living in, we are being reminded of the importance of faith, family, and community. While we are separated physically, we are not separated in our hearts. It may seem that our world is like a dilapidated old well house that is falling apart, but it can be a life source again. The Creator can make all things new. To be honest, I can’t fathom what He is doing, but I trust Him. I trust that we will gather, laugh, love, pray, sing, disagree, argue, forgive, share, accept, support, belong, and live together again. As I remember this, I can take a moment to breathe. Stop and take a stroll with me to Ye Old Gossip Shed. The rose bushes are in bloom, something is cooking on the grill, the lightning bugs are illuminating the sky, children are laughing, the honeysuckles taste sweet, and Granddaddy is singing.
“There is no night; for in His light
You never walk alone
Always feel at Home
Wherever you may go
It is no secret what God can do
What He’s done for others, He’ll do for you”