Amazing Grace of the Tipton Place

Mountain Laurel in bloom in the Great Smoky Mountains
Oh, what pleasure to leave our critters and land in good hands Memorial weekend to attend a family wedding, to behold young love.
                  My sweet niece and her beloved spoke their vows under Nashville’s sun and on the grounds of The Old School Farm. My four sisters and I gathered with our spouses from various parts of the south and Mid-west to witness this holy moment.
The assurance of my niece’s happiness mellows my heart and mind. Tori’s a reader and artist from childhood, danced in little red slippers at four-years old. Her husband’s a musician. You have to admire a young man who’s devoted to his accordion and guitar.
There’s a lingering charm from The Old School Farm and our travels within the Blue Ridge Mountains. Our first vacation alone in thirteen years, my husband and I didn’t want to depart the misty incense of the Great Smokies. A week of mountain watching wasn’t enough.
We wanted more trail time in hopes a black bear would cross our path again like a mother and cub did twenty years ago. Tennessee’s Cades Cove was where we found respite with our younger daughters after we buried our firstborn.
Dear Reader, it was bittersweet to return, to revisit the churches, cabins, and barns within the Cove. The valley’s cemeteries, footpaths, and rough-hewn buildings hold our sorrow with the loss of countless tourists and the European settlers who followed Indian hunters into the region in the early 1820’s.
There’s Murphy Charles Tipton who served in WWII and the Korean War then left for Glory at age 48. His predecessor, Charlotte Tipton Riddle, outlived him to 96. Little Neller, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Sam Tipton, was born June 1, 1906 to delight her parents two brief months. Neller’s small tombstone with a lamb resting atop is inscribed “Asleep in Jesus.”
I find consolation in this truth and recall my granny’s stories about her babies Thomas and Paul. They also left this world in their cradle. God willing, this August I’ll climb the Appalachian hill to the cemetery where they’re buried.
Unlike the Tipton Place, no signs or material structures of my ancestors’ humble, Old World culture of self-sustenance and faith remains. No church, cabins, barn, apple trees, fences, and water pump I remember from early childhood.
Only Uncle Herm and his daughter reside on the farmstead my mother’s grandparents settled in Kentucky’s McCoy Bottom. At age 84, Uncle Herm still grows a large garden and is one of two remaining uncles I’ll sit before this summer and hungrily collect family history.
                  Stories much like those once told in the old Tipton Place. Overnight wagon rides to town to buy and sell. How Grandpa built Granny’s church with wormy chestnut wood. The day Uncle Herm ran off and married the girl who stole his heart.
                  Amazing grace, how sweet the sound that rises from cabins, barns, and piano keys in the mountains. The song of young love that settles in the gaps and hollows with blooming Mountain Laurel.