Tags: family


Goin To Carolina In My Mind

There is nothing more soothing to my soul than memories of hot North Carolina summers spent at family reunions. July afternoons spent in the grass with rabbit dogs, red plastic cups filled with sweet tea, and bellies full of fried chicken colored my early childhood with southern bliss. Even now, I harbor fantasies of picking up and moving to a tiny farming town to raise my yet to be born children and three beagles. I will be hard pressed to convince my city dweller fiancé of the beauty of this kind of life, but a girl can dream.

One visit to the home of my dearly departed Great Grandma Briley stands out in my memory. I'm unable to recall the exact day and year, but I remember important aspects in crystal clear detail; the way Great Grandma's hands moved as she crocheted a bright blue afghan, how the sun poured through the dusty windows of her tiny old house and lit up her snowy crown of hair, the lilting sound of her voice as she told stories of times long past. I didn't understand at the time that she didn't know half of us gathered around her in the room due to the hurricane called dementia that had ravaged her brain. All I knew was that the woman who had given me her name told fabulous stories about her childhood spend reading under the porch of her daddy's farm at the turn of the 20th century. It was a time I had only read of in books and was enraptured by her tales.

"I once stole Daddy's chew," she recalled, her eyes meeting mine.

"What's chew?" I asked from my section of pine floor next to her rocking chair.

"It's tobacco that you chew. Nasty stuff if you ask me, but I wanted to be like daddy."

"So what did you do?"

A smiled played at the corners of her delicate mouth. "I crawled under the porch where I loved to sit, and I chewed it. I mean I chewed that entire tin of tobacco. O child, I tell you, I've never been sicker in my life."

We all laughed hardily, including my Meme (Great Grandma's daughter) who had spent most of the day uncharacteristically quiet. She had heard this story a thousand times but she still found it in her heart to let out a chuckle.

It is a simple memory, but one I cherish. It was the last time I saw that institution of a lady alive. Since then, I've heard so many stories about who Great Grandma Briley was. But, somehow, in the midst of the 98 years she was on this earth, we all make our way back to the telling of this simple story. Not only is the image of a four year old girl chomping on chew amusing, but there was something in the way she spoke about her childhood that pulled us all into her memory. Somewhere in her frayed and torn mind, she still had the will to share with those in her home the gems from her childhood. We were virtually strangers to her at the end of her days, but that didn't matter. What mattered was the sharing of stories, precious memories, so they wouldn't whither away.

Maybe what I really want isn't about raising my family in the deep south. Maybe what I want is the kind of closeness that comes with the sharing of those stories. I want a place to hold my children and grandchildren close and to make sure they know how to remember…even if I one day forget.

When You Pray, Move Your Feet

The December air bights my ungloved fingers and nibbles my ears as we walk, just you and I. Thousands of lights wink at us from houses full to bursting with families and cookies and rolls of sparkly red paper. My mom's little, lonely apartment feels so far removed from this American Christmas panorama we're passing. I long for that simplicity; a holiday in one place with the same people year after year. How I can miss something I've never had is a mystery. I don't dwell on this for long since it seems fruitless to wish for things that can never be.

I tell you about the sadness I don't understand that has ballooned inside Mom since my step-father left last summer. The joy and release I felt at this event are not shared by all involved and I struggle to empathize. How can she love and miss such a cruel and thoughtless man? Why did she stay for so long when he did nothing but tare us all down as if we were derelict buildings deserving of destruction? You tell me that one day, I will understand; one day a love that is powerful and ugly will push me to the brink of myself and I, like Mom, will not always choose wisely. I, (knowing without a shadow of doubt that I am nothing like my mother), don't believe you. Still, I tuck the advice away in a corner of my heart to ponder later.

There is so much I don't tell you about; the alcohol, the boys, the sadness that ballooned in me… I don't really know when. I resolve to change, to try harder, to be more of what you want. You know where I've been without me telling you, and you don't push me to talk. You tell me I am good enough; you tell me I am loved and precious and just what you created me to be. I can't believe you… not yet.

The distant sound of church bells singing their praises reaches into my soul, warming some part of me that has been numb for too long. You've always done this to me; whenever I close my ears and my heart to what you say, you send music to tell me what I need to know. The notes are a salve for my wounds and a song for my lips.

Sleep in heavenly peace, sleep in heavenly peace.

 Amelia by Joni Mitchell from Hejira (Rating: 5)

Second Chance Idol Week 2

"Hey, Courtney. It's me...your long lost sister."

It's Christmas day, but you're not answering your phone. Sending me to voicemail must be your passive punishment for my sins.

"I just wanted to call and say merry Christmas."

Hoping you would answer to say the same was obviously futile.

"I wish I was there with you guys. Give Eve and Caddie kisses for me."

Maybe if we talked more like the close sisters I wish we were, you'd know not being around to be a real aunt to them is hard for me. I want a relationship with them beyond Thanksgivings and photographs.

"I know I need to call more often..."

But somehow, I always get your voicemail. You hardly return them, and when you do, the conversation fizzles out after ten minutes when you have something more pressing to do.

"I love you."

I love you, but I don't know you at all. All I have are shared memories of melted plastic coffee pots, pink Barbie bikes, and shared weekends at Dad's with Sweet Valley High and board games.


I hate saying goodbye. Sunday evening was always my least favorite time of the week. It meant I'd leave, and we went back to our separate lives, six years, forty minutes, and a million miles apart. But neither of us ever said how it hurt, and maybe it's too late now, the damage done and irreversible. I know I built up walls. and I think you did too. I used distance, you used a husband and family. Either way, maybe we've blamed each other for things we couldn't control. Maybe... maybe...

"Call me soon, ok?"