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Saturday, October 31, 2009

Lamar's Visit

I received an email from my New York uncle, Lamar Carter, in early August, informing my sister and me that he planned to visit relatives in Mississippi the last week of September stating he would give us a call in a few days, once we recovered from the shock. And, it was a shock, as neither my sister nor I expected him to ever again visit his Mississippi relatives.

Barbara and I had already made plans to attend a Senior Adult conference in Gatlinburg, TN, with a group from our church on the week of my uncle’s planned visit. We suggested an itinerary change to either the week prior or the week after our conference, but as my first cousin from Dallas, GA, which is near Atlanta, planned to be here to chauffer Lamar, the scheduled visit could not be changed to accommodate our conference plans. Instead, we agreed to open our home to them for their use in our absence, and we’d plan to enjoy their visit as our schedule permitted.

Upon learning of our uncle’s plans, my older brother, who lives in Florida, and his wife drove to Pontotoc for the occasion. As a result, Uncle Lamar was able to visit my two brothers (one lives in Pontotoc) as well as my sister, in the absence of my wife and me. Uncle Lamar and Rebecca also spent a day and a night in Falkner, MS, visiting relatives there and making stops in Ingomar and Thaxton to visit old home places. They learned what I already knew, that little remains to remind either of them of the land once familiar to them.

Farmsteads are gone from the countryside throughout the area, and while a sense of rural America remains, many of the old homes of neighbors are gone. Fields that once grew crops of cotton and corn are now in pastures, or woodlands. The old home place of Hayden and Rebecca Carter near Thaxton is void of the features once so familiar: the house, barn, corn crib, work shed, and outhouse. Even the croplands of corn, cotton, and sorghum are gone and have long since been converted to timberland and pasture.

In time, the remains of the driveway leading from the road to the house, as well as the old well, will also disappear, if not by natural forces, then perhaps by the hand of man. In spite of the lack of visual clues it’s good for us to return to the terrain of our youth, if only to elicit a memory. The Biblical writer admonished, “Life is a vapor,” and in context refers to the temporary nature of our earthly bodies but also applies to all of Nature.

Barbara and I were able to spend a few days with Uncle Lamar and my cousin Rebecca before they returned to New York and Atlanta, respectively. Lamar and Rebecca got most of their site-seeing accomplished while we were away, leaving us to enjoy family time with them, upon our return.

It’s difficult to describe the excitement a visit by Uncle Lamar generates today, and harder still to convey to others the thrill of his homecomings of yesteryear. Sara Sue and I agree that on a family level, a visit from Lamar is viewed in much the same way others might treat a visit from royalty or a president. Not only are we honored, we feel a sense of awe in his presence.

In the years before the Internet, books and magazines were the principal resources for vicariously seeing the world. And, if one wanted to learn more about a city or country, a set of encyclopedias were indispensable. My family could not afford encyclopedias, but we had something better. We had Uncle Lamar.

By the time I was a teenager, Lamar was working in Venezuela for Exxon (Standard Oil, at the time). His company sent him around the world on business trips. We never knew just how affluent he was, but in our minds we had a “rich uncle.” And, why wouldn’t we think so? He went to all the exotic places, made thousands of color slides, and could talk endlessly of his exploits. Surely, the richness of his knowledge exceeded that of our own, and his lifestyle incentivized Sara Sue and me to obtain a college degree.

Before color TV, Uncle Lamar had color slides, ranging from slum dwellings of the poor to the palatial homes of the rich in Caracas, Venezuela, from the ruins of the Maya and Aztec Civilizations to the streets of London and Southeast Asia. Not only were we treated to the a movie-like atmosphere of color slides projected on a screen set up in our parents’ home whenever Lamar visited, we also received spellbinding commentaries on the places and people in the pictures shown. It was better than a movie in that we could ask questions, live!

Today, a visit by Uncle Lamar remains a thrilling experience. Yes, there’s less talk of world travels, and on this visit there were no color slides, but a friend of Lamar’s is transferring thousands of them to DVDs. However, one can, at Lamar’s feet, relive the tragedy of 9/11 and hear a first-hand account by one who witnessed and photographed the horrific events of that day.

Lamar remains active with ICIS (International Council for Integrative Studies), and is a patron of the arts, particularly Broadway. Surgery to remove an intestinal tumor earlier this year has slowed his New York gait, but even with a cane, he’s remarkably quick in his daily, three-mile walks.

I doubt my octogenarian NYC uncle will get back to visit us in Mississippi, but I hope to see him in New York during our next visit.

~ By Wayne Carter

1 comment:

Meal Planning with Connie said...

What a treat for your family! What an interesting life your Uncle Lamar has lead. So glad you guys will have it on film. I know they all appreciated you and Barbara opening your home!
Hope you guys have a great week!

About Me

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I'm a native of Pontotoc, MS, and graduated Pontotoc High School in 1960. I received a BS degree in Mathematics from The University of Mississippi in 1965. My wife Barbara and I have two children and five grandchildren and one great grandchild. We make our home in Pontotoc.