Renfros are workers. Saturdays were never for sleeping in when I was growing up. When I got old enough not to snip my fingers off with the shears, my job was to trim around bases of the trees after Dad finished cutting the grass. I edged the flower beds and felt the backs of my arms burn sweeping the driveway. Being a girl did not make me exempt in the hard work it takes to keep a home. I learned to work inside too. Lemon Pledge will always and forever remind me of the edges of our big octagon coffee table, worn to a smooth touch from years of my brother and I playing games around it. Or building puzzles on New Year’s Eve, or sitting and watching reruns of Law & Order. We sat there and shared exciting news. I cried over boys. And we propped up our feet and drank coffee on Christmas morning. So I cleaned that coffee table with lemon-scented Pledge hundreds of times. I danced on that table in my socks.
You could say Renfros do things the hard way. We joke about projects taking weeks, or months and they sure did. When we lived in White House, my Mom picked a navy patterned wallpaper for the kitchen and eat-in dining room. For months our dining room had perfectly-spaced, navy stripes painted on the walls, because my Dad wanted the seams to literally disappear when he hung the paper. And they did. Dad dragged my brother and I outside in the summer afternoons to the neat rows of strawberries on the back of our property, where we learned to pull weeds. My brother’s favorite place to play was on a huge pile of dirt in our backyard. Our hands and nails were dirty. We worked hard. We woke up to three knocks on the wall- “GET UP!” And maybe not to do anything specific, but Dad would find something that needed fixing. And somehow one of our vehicles always needed an oil change. Saturdays felt like hard work. But these were the times that made us Renfros, Renfros.
I’ve held a flashlight at the top of a ladder, in the middle of the night, on the roof, in the freezing cold, with wind wind whipping my Dad around while he fixed shingles that had blown off in this same storm. All while he was literally tied with a rope around his waist and anchored to the frame of us truck, which was parked in the front yard. We have heard, “hold this flashlight” dozens of times over car motors and under sinks. We’ve been yanked out of bed at 2:00 am to clean up the yard after being rolled by my high school friends. We are doers. And sometimes that’s hard work. We are irritating perfectionists who hate these shows that teach you how to do things fast, instead of properly. And “properly” usually takes a long time. Doing it right means going slow and working long into the dark.
The weekend of my wedding it came a blizzard. And I don’t mean this sprinkling of snow that gets Tennesseans (including myself) in a panic. It was a real blizzard. And the water heater blew in my parents’ house the day before the wedding. Dad replaced that water heater not once, but twice, in the same day. Upon returning the first defective heater to Lowe’s, he was told they couldn’t accept the return at the store. What ensued from there, I am not sure, but my Dad can be a pretty scary individual, so let it suffice to say that he got home with another water heater. He gave me a hot shower on my wedding day, and that is still my favorite gift. And one of my favorite stories.
Renfros don’t always do emotion well, but what we do together best, is hard work. We would pour into the house from the garage into the warmth and low light of the kitchen, with steam pouring from the South’s finest casseroles and stews. Mama has been feeding us workers, and working beside us all our lives. Renfros work hard, and that’s what brings us together.