The Old Place burned down. Not a former home, or favorite bar or restaurant, but my family's homestead, for lack of a better word.
The Old Place was my Great Grandparent's land, and my uncle Jack had built a fantastic cabin where all of the family's important celebrations took place, or sometimes just because. We all called it The Old Place, because that's exactly what it was, where they were born, where they used to live, down a dusty red-dirt road in the back woods of Georgia.
My Papa taught me to fish there, and I helped provide the catch for many a fish fry. I knew that I was finally grown when I was allowed to help my mother, my Nini, and the aunts in the kitchen there. I snuck out onto the porch and listened to the uncles and cousins tell jokes, their laughter echoing off of the roof as their poles leaned lazily against the railing when the water was high enough to fish from there, the entire group springing into action if someone got a bite. I would sit inside with the ladies, listening to family gossip and that strange network that seems to belong only to Southern Ladies, whipping out pictures of distant relatives and new babies, my Nini whispering a litany of names in my ear explaining just how this one is related to me when she would catch my confused look when someone would introduce a new cousin.
When the cooking was done, everyone filed inside and held hands for grace, given by Brother Bill or uncle Jack, beautiful prayers that still touch me, blessing the food and the hands that prepared it and those who eat it. Then the room would be filled with conversation and the sounds of good people enjoying good food.
All that's left now is the gate with the sign, and the docks over the pond. The memories stay, though, we have that. For now, we mourn, but as always, we'll be back.