Sent Away by Jim Murphy

Image: Clem Onojeghuo, Unsplash

Mom and Dad moved into the new house in the summer of 1968. They decided to send me to Atlanta and visit with Mom’s sister Lucy and Uncle Terry. I stayed for a week, a lonely week, and afterward came back to the new house.

Filled with great emotion, I walked up to the backdoor steps of the new house and stood on the first step, unable to open the door. Tears welled up in my eyes. Someone in the living room, Aunt Kathryn, I think, came into the kitchen, looked out the door window, and saw me standing outside. She turned and went back into the living room. I heard her call,

“Helen, Jimmy’s standing outside the kitchen door crying!”

Mom got up and came to the door.

“What’s the matter Jimmy?”

“I don’t know.”

Mom stooped down, helped me with my suitcase, and led me into the house. Dad’s older sister Corena and her husband Gwen Wilcox had arrived from Turtletown, Tennessee, and were sitting in the living room. Corena sat in the corner of the living room smiling in a peaceful demeanor. In all the days of my life, I can’t ever remember a day when I saw her otherwise.

My room was down a short hallway, the second door on the right. The first door on the right belonged to my sister Beth. For the next ten years that would be home. Eat, sleep, play . . . New memories began in that new, ranch-style house that sat on a little knoll above Shoal Creek.

My room had shiny, hardwood floors and dark, “wormy birch” paneling. It was a nice room, large enough for two bunk beds to sit side by side. The closet had two sliding doors that opened and closed on rollers, inside of which was a ceiling door that gave entrance to the attic. On several occasions while the house was being built, I crawled through that door and into the attic to pull wire or help place insulation. Sometimes I went there just to explore. Pulling wire through the rafters was not an easy task. But it was part of growing up and my muscles developed as I worked with Dad and Mom. I became quite adept at climbing and jumping, and every opportunity I got, I would jump in the house and on the carport to see how high I could reach.

Image: Nita, Pixabay, color adjusted, muted

The ceiling in the new house was eight feet high and I jumped from first grade to fifth grade. Mom would sometimes say, “Jimmy, don’t jump in the house; go outside.” And I would. But I would jump many times until I reached the ceiling.

Then one day, a strange swelling occurred in my throat. Knots like round banty eggs had formed under the skin. They were tender to touch but not painful. I learned that I had the mumps.  “Mumps.”  This word was new to my vocabulary. But they didn’t really slow me down. “Jimmy, don’t jump you’ve got the mumps.”  “They might fall” (from your throat to your testicles). But I still jumped. I just couldn’t resist jumping up to see how close I could get my head to the hallway chandelier. I would jump and practice landing quietly, like a cat. Thankfully, the mumps didn’t fall. They finally went away. And I kept jumping.


I was born the second of four children in 1961 in Copperhill, Tennessee, to James O. and Helen Graham Murphy. My siblings and I were raised in a modest and loving home in the foothills of the Smoky Mountains in Western, North Carolina. My public school years were at Hiwassee Dam in Cherokee County, NC. I attended college at Mars Hill near Asheville, majoring in English and trout fishing. During summer work, I met a talented girl named Debra Dean from Pocahontas County, West Virginia, and she finally agreed to my proposal. We married in 1984 and have two beautiful sons, Drew and Sean Patrick, who are grown and two of my best friends. Debra and I and our son Sean Patrick live in Bridgeport, West Virginia, with our lovable Australian/Chow.
The above piece is a chapter from Jim Murphy’s larger work in progress entitled His Love: A Memoir.


**Featured image from Havilah, Unsplash


  1. Love these stories, although I think the title should have been “Jump.” Enjoyed it very much.

  2. I love family stories. I thought the title of this chapter could be called JUMP …
    Having a new house is never an easy adjustment; I moved so much as a child, I never stayed at any school for more than 2 years, until high school.

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