Back Around Again

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I’ve been remembering this post, one I wrote 2.5 years ago, and I’m reeling about it:

I went home again -

the mountain, saw the vertical beams of our gymnasium overlooking the hills, all the slight spreading of red at the fingertips of maples. The sun was hot, but the air had a glaze of cool in it, picking up little hairs and standing them on end.

I bought a bag of cotton candy with four tickets at the harvest festival, and I stood to the side and watched a woman sweat into some popular funnel-cake batter. A band played, “I’ll Fly Away.” I tapped my fingers against my leg. We sang, too, quietly. Ian bounced at the knees, the song he knows well, and we held hands and smiled.

I saw my cousin there. We love each other – even though the conversation began in a polite howdy and ended in a nondescript embrace. We don’t come out and say anything we know of things passed. He’s the first person that read poetry to me, first person to hand me a joint, to make me laugh so hard at nothing, we in Converse shoes and flannel shirts, we inhaling right about the time emo kids were being potty trained. He knows well the trouble I borrowed back then, the trouble I felt right for borrowing, confirming my brokenness.

I’m back in Arkansas now, and my cousin emailed me yesterday explaining the death (another one) of one of our friends. It happened two years ago, and I didn’t even know. I reeled all night about those friends, the ones still rocking life, how I loved them and didn’t know well then how to show it.

Now that I’ve moved away, had my own babies, and believed in Jesus, becoming someone I never ever thought I would be, Home is a sick sweet identity scrambler, a rolling scene with sight and sound alarms for the memory. So much of my life has been defined by who I love, and with love, a heart doesn’t divide, but rather it multiplies – as when a child is added to a family.

I will never not love the ones who gathered in the side room in the smoke cloud, Mad Season.

You think when you’re young that if you live long enough to get better, the old will somehow break off, and you’ll look back and call it Sonic Youth. Boom, then gone. But what I’ve learned is that your youth never stops bleeding into our older age. Not even fear keeps it from happening.

To the young: Love well while you can, and let who you love be those you want to keep with you forever. Because they do stay with you.

While still in Alabama, I drove by Robbie’s road, and I thought he must still live there, and I smiled and wished him well. So many of us lost ourselves in the same exact place we thought we had been found. Home can be like that, limbo – a balance between love and lost.

a trip

The acorns confetti the backyard like heavy pepper in the side of our Alabama hill, and I’m going there, where the trees go bare, where the creek and shifting leaves beg hush.

My daddy has a graceful red horse that runs (thunders) along side our van every time we start up the driveway. She runs, and her hair moves like one of those scenes that passes through your mind when you take a last breath.

We’ll take 5-minute walks 15 times a day. Horses and barns and acorns, allergies berzerk, tears coming out in happy stings.

But going home isn’t dramatic. It’s still just mostly huddling around the television and eating until we hate ourselves. My boys, though, will touch land that is theirs, taste a hint of milk and honey.

Here at the apartments, they don’t belong, can’t dig or climb or throw. Pray that the bottom of my Mama’s tub is full of dirt every night we’re there. Pray we smell sweet feed, open dusty hymnals and sing, “Flee as a Bird to Your Mountain.”

Thanksgiving time, I’ll write on paper with a cheap pen, and I’ll glory in boonies away from the internet, and I’ll wait until the dishwasher’s running to take a shower, and I’ll have a bite of the world’s best banana pudding just for you.

The Girls in the Yard

After the eggs and maybe cinnamon toast, as soon as we can get something pulled over our heads, we go outside. You, my little sister, follow me toward the barn, but I remember and say, “Let’s go back in and get it!”

At the foot of the bed, the E Encyclopedia opens to “Egyptians.” We get the shivers, crouch in the floor so they can’t look at us through the window. I see them out of the corner of my eye. You, too; we hide.

Leap-frog girl to girl into the hall, feeling every low angle of the house, we peel off the back porch, over work boots. Behind the tree is Ra. Hear the rustle, sun god in the leaves. Chills at the base. You look afraid. We feel the eye whirl in, cold air, the zoom of being known.

Cats belong to them, everywhere. Run to the oak tree! We squat down and look on all sides. You whisper, “out there at the road, they’re gone now.”

So we run to the flat rock in the yard. Wide open, our toes wet and crushing last violets. We are millionaires bashing rocks for quarts. All the jewels.

Tell me now. My name is Jade.

What do you want your name to be?

***

Many days it’s as though I’ve forgotten how to play, so I took a minute to remember it here thanks to Story Bleed, celebrating #GoGoDayofPlay. Can you tap back in, share a memory of play?

The Sidewalk and the Sound a Bookstore Makes: What I Wear

People already know I’m a country girl, not a redneck, not a belle. I do happen on a sidewalk now and then; in fact, I don’t even have to touch the grass to get to my car now. Shortest distance between two points, straight down the middle I’m smart, would rather be in the grass singing a song to myself.

13 years ago, I moved away, to town, and now I visit the square and buy the tall boots I wanted. I drink the froufrou coffee and meet with my under-surface country friends. All along we listen for the music that haunts like the woods in winter, the sound books make when they’ve never been opened.

The mall makes me happy dizzy like a party. A lot of people. The perfume cards rubbed to wrists. I confess that I try on the shirts that show my tattoo. The dangle of silver at ears, clicking heels to tile to bass, I’m thinking the skinny boys at Abercrombie and Fitch need to pull their britches up and grow some hair.

But I’d rather be in the middle of your yard sale, looking at your grandma’s jewelry and gloves. I’d wear her hat over one ear and that one big clip-on on the other.

The dust in the long bookstore reminds me of pickups without AC.  I think of taking out the trash with my daddy, making the haul up to the main road. I remember, too, taking out the scraps.

The country girls don’t have to be altogether unclassy, but they just won’t mind your trash. So much of it reminds her of bumpy rides and the dirty smell of sweet feed in a flatbed. Pothole straddler, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve bottomed out.

 

Tunic:: Forever 21

Black  Legging Jeans:: GAP

Boots:: Steve Madden

linking with ladies, No Model Lady and The Pleated Poppy.

To One of My Homes

There’s no way to stand back far enough to show you how big it is,

all the living that has gone on under its arch.

Our family is in Louisiana, and I shirked this blog, packed our stuff, and went there – way down South, where the Live Oaks cover an acre and several centuries. This tree has seen the Mississippi swell higher than this, knew the land well before the sugar cane.

We stand in the sun and have our rituals.

{the beer did not belong to the child - just so ya know.}

We let watermelon juice run with dirt down to our elbows. We talked levies and church, prayed for family, hurt for Joplin, and made loud noise at several tables. We took a drive, and I held a dog in my lap. He stuck his head out the window. We were quiet at times.

The real Summer air blew in, and I called it temporary, and even that made me smile.

 

On Elvis, Alabama, and Coupons

I drive to Walgreens in a downpour and listen to Elvis, who makes me cry and smile all at once. An old man looks over at me from our stoplight, and he wonders what hip minivan music moves me so. He never would guess Elvis, who reminds me of August.

August is the month I was born and the month this baby inside will be born. August reminds me of Mama Lois, my great-grandmother next door. She had a record player as big as a buffet and record after record of Elvis. She danced like Daisy Duck and had visited Hawaii once. She left the day Elvis got there, so close. He died in August. She always mentioned it.

I go to Walgreen’s because I love a deal, and I’ve taken to liking Extreme Couponing, because of people like my sister-in-law. Only three more months till the baby’s due date, and I drive to save, and I think of Elvis at Mama Lois’s, how my sister and I wore her clip-on earrings and ate our weight in Starbursts, how she saved our Summers, was the spice and the Dr.Pepper.

I never imagined minivan, a notebook full of coupons, Elvis, and the nearness of my 4th son. I never knew how fondly I would remember the childhood I wished away.

I never would have imagined hurting so badly for home during times of trouble either, especially this time while the tornadoes ripped through Alabama, using hundred year oaks to bowl down houses in the historic district.

Many still don’t have electricity. Their sink-water trickles brown. They further learn to love the grill, to stockpile more for next time, and to bid farewell to the deer meat in the freezer. Some have started the slow soak in grief.

My beautiful sister-in-law is a servant-hearted genius and started Couponing for a Cause where she’s asking for donations and your Sunday Paper Coupon Inserts, printable coupons, and any other coupons you find.

She and her home church in Owens Cross Roads are collecting to help the needy surrounding areas in Alabama, to distribute food and supplies. They met in the dark of a Fellowship hall to take communion yesterday morning, their hearts filled with gratitude among the living. You can’t serve from a better place than that.

My sister, Shannon, wrote on the facebook page: “There is no need to clip your coupons! :) Simply grab a few newspapers and stick the inserts in the mail to P.O. Box 217, Owens Cross Roads, AL 35763.”

That’s all we have to do!

Thanks for serving the people and the place that fills my heart with such Southern memories. Maybe by August, life will be filled with different meaning there: hope, good food, and newly planted trees – grandmothers and granddaughters pulling out the music that makes them smile.