Monday, January 12, 2015

Grandma Susie Lyon- Birthday Tribute- January 10, 1894

"Up on the Hill" (and yes "Hill" is capitalized)is the term for where my father-in-law grew up on Bryan Hill in central Pennsylvania. His sister, Twila, still lives on the homestead. Before dementia carried Dad Lyon's mind far away, he wanted to visit the Hill every day.
We made the trip on the Hill one day, when Dad still was at home. I have been up on the Hill many times, in all weather. My favorite is fall, of course. The first time I went with David to visit his grandparents was a dreary fall day that dissolved into snow. Grandpa at the time sat in his chair staring at me.
Grandma Susie in the middle with her brothers, mother, aunt, and uncle
I didn't get to know him very well, as he also had that dementia that runs in the family and died in 1981.
Then, it was the two ladies on the Hill, Grandma and Aunt Twila. David and I always made the visit up on the Hill. Susie Skillman Lyon, truly was a refined mountain woman, always gracious in her elder years. At her funeral, Ray, my brother-in-law declared she had a ministry to the down and out. All who visited her, knew they would have a praying ear.
The church on Moore Hill played (still does in Aunt Twila's life) a central part in their lives. It had originally been on Church Hill, where all the ancestors are buried now, looking over the slope to the new church, which is a white old school house. One of Susie's proudest moments was when she could play the pump organ, as they had installed an engine to power it. Instead of Little Brown Church in the Dell they changed the chorus to Little White Church on the Hill. The Sunday after Labor Day is Homecoming when members that had moved away, come home for a day with a picnic in the pavilion.
I gazed out the window on our trip up a few years ago, looking on the highway so very far down. I remember when the road up the mountain was paved, the biggest news in decades. There is the house on the bend that I wonder how many cars have run into it or at least how often headlights disturbed the peace inside. Hunting camps scattered over the area, old abandoned trailers left to rot. In the dreary rain with no leaves on the trees this is the least favorite time to look at the sights.
This day, a well was being dug in the front yard because the spring that never dried, did so that past summer. A buck's head with a rack always stares at us in the living room. Dad asks, "Did Dad get that in Hick's Run?" to the point I'm sure the buck was killed in Hick's Run.
I observed the living room, trying to imagine the family raised here. Dad was the youngest boy, Clark and Leon, the older brothers, Aunt Twila, the youngest and only girl. She remained on the farm. I think of the baby with a heart defect, that would stop breathing. Years ago, Dad spoke of him. When the baby stopped breathing, Susie would dunk him in cold water to shock him back to life. The baby didn't live longer than seven months, I think. The saddest part of Dad's dementia, was the  difficulty to carry on a conversation. He had to stick to the script.
Aunt Twila talked about a creek that Paul, David's older brother, played in. My husband sitting on his bent over legs, like a little boy, insisted, "I played in it, too." I wish I had that time machine to go back for an instant to see a small boy, not in black and white, but flesh, splashing in the creek that isn't there any more, either.
After David helped his aunt move wood in the small basement, we loaded up the car and drove away. David chose the other side of the mountain to go back into town. The old school, where Dad walked uphill both ways is gone. We go past relatives' homes, that remained on the Hill. David talked of riding his bike down this twisting road, after someone drove their bikes up to Grandma's.
The day was too cloudy and wet to stop at Look Out Point, but many times we rested and took in the town there. Before we know it, we crossed the Broad Street bridge, but it is a new one, not the humming bridge of years ago. No loitering on the bridge this rainy, cold day. The first day of trout will not see fishermen on this new one.
On this day, I really wish the Hill was in my deep recesses of memory, like the fact, they didn't have electricity until the 1950's, who lived where, riding down that Hill with the wind in my hair as a free kid. This is in my children's DNA, their ancestral history. They'll remember four wheeling, sledding parties, feeding the horses, and the rest deep down in their souls. I hope they take away this family's deep faith. Also from my mother-in-law's family that lived on the other side of town.
This past Saturday, January tenth, marked Susie Skillman Lyon's birthday. Especially after she turned ninety, we made the effort to celebrate her birthday on The Hill. The ninetieth birthday, the family got her a Troy-built rototiller, since gardening had gotten hard on her knees, afflicted from arthritis. David always remarked about the year she turned eighty, a tree was the gift and she outlived the tree. She lived to ninety eight and at that party, we sure felt we would celebrate one hundred with her. That was twenty two years ago, so I guess she would be one hundred nineteen.
David's cousin, Betsy, also was there with her family. Bill, her husband, loves the outdoors, with family skiing vacations, not uncommon. During one of these parties, snow began to fall. Before we knew it, Bill had his daughter outside in the few inches to slide around. The genesis of  the snow party arose.
I believe the next year, more snow had fallen and the birthday party officially became the snow party, with sledding down the hill in the yard- not The Hill. Munchies provided by us all and hot chocolate warmed us after the outdoor activity. Several years, we made the trip on the weekend around Grandma's birthday. After Grandma's death in July of 1992, we moved the date to around Aunt Twila's birthday, which coincides with President's Day weekend, (how convenient.)
One year, as it tends to do often, a great snow storm visited that week around Valentine's Day. By the time of the weekend's Snow Party, although it had been quite wintry with frigid temperatures keeping the white stuff on the ground, the sun shone on us that Saturday and heated up the air. In fact, my neck got sunburned. We shed outer wraps, sat on the crunchy crust, as Aunt Twila served us cherry pie on china with silver forks. No scrimping on the finery, even though we ate it outside. Aunt Twila also rode down the incline on the old toboggan.
As we talked about this, I realized how long it has been since we did this, since my twenty year-old does not remember these parties at all. A rumor went around
The road to get to the Moore Hill Road at Howard's Siding
one Christmas, Snow Party may be resurrected. Three years later, schedules kept us from doing so.
The older grandkids got busier with school and activities. To get away any weekend proved harder as children get older. These older kids now are married, some are parents, scattered over the world.
Maybe it is time for the great, great grandkids' trip down the hill on an old toboggan.
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