My father, Fred James Flagler Jr., 83, passed away on Aug. 25. A few days before my dad's final hospitalization, one of his grandsons, Jackson Fleer, 16, wrote the following essay as part of a high school project. I share the essay, trimmed for space, as a tribute to my parents' way of nurturing the many sprouts on our family tree:
"In the Flagler family, 1250 is a name, not a number. For almost 40 years, my maternal grandparents' home at 1250 Yorkshire Road in Winston-Salem, N.C., affectionately known as '1250,' served as a meeting place for Flagler 'jollity.'
"Over the years it endured six children, one dog, two cats, 12 grandchildren and five great-grandchildren. Despite, or maybe because of, the havoc wreaked upon this house by all the children, 1250 managed to comfort and unite our family, whatever the occasion. Just before my grandmother's death in 2006, the house was sold, but it lives on as an intricate part of the Flagler family tradition.
"The front porch of the house was just roomy enough to allow for conversations where aunts and uncles could talk about family matters.
"With the first step into the side door, smells of my grandfather's caramel corn and my grandmother's twice-baked potatoes excited the nose. Always the center of activity, the kitchen consistently buzzed with aunts and uncles helping my grandmother prepare Flagler family favorites. The door from the kitchen led to the dining room. On holidays, the whole family would eat in this room.
"From the living room sprouted a long hall. At the beginning of the hall sat a staircase that led to the cousins' lair -- the basement. The seclusion of the basement allowed us to make as much noise as we wanted while not annoying our parents.
"Always a comfort, my mother's room was where I slept. When I went to sleep at night, the light in the closet could be counted on to foil the boogeyman. Every morning when I woke up, the smell of Hungry Jack pancakes and warm syrup lured me out of bed. My grandfather's unsurpassable pancakes brightened the mornings. In my early morning stupor, I sat at the kitchen table watching the smooth batter sizzle on the griddle. This delicious, fluffy breakfast treat always started my day off right, but before it was finished, my grandfather could be depended upon to ask what we wanted for lunch.
"One of the most important Flagler traditions took place around the kitchen table late at night. 'Chat 'n' Chew' involved two simple concepts, eating and talking. Although I never lived in it, 1250 is one of the most important homes of my childhood. It provided a comfortable haven. Each room sparks a comforting memory or a story that must be told one more time."
Betsy Flagler, a journalist based in Davidson, N.C., teaches preschool and is the mother of a teenage son. Reach her at email@example.com.