Home AgainPosted: March 23, 2008
I drove from home in Mississippi to home in Tennessee this morning via Interstate 40 — with all the trucks going 85. I made the mistake of wearing sandals, and my feet froze the entire 6-hour drive. (I would never dream of turning on the heater!) The weather was deceiving — blustery, but bright and sunny … so bright the dog had to wear her sunglasses.
On the way out of Cleveland, I stopped, as I always do, at the cemetery to say good-bye to Dad. It’s always locked when I leave town; the gates don’t open until 7, but this morning, about fifteen minutes early, all the gates were opened wide. I was playing the tape of church songs we’d put on for Dad during the last few minutes of his life; it has some good Easter songs on it. Dad’s Easter Lily was still fresh and upright in spite of the wind.
This was a working trip to help my mother get her yard and house ready for spring. I weeded, planted, and mulched flowerbeds, front and back yards. I took down, washed, dried, and re-hung curtains in three rooms, and broke two curtain rods in the process. I scrubbed The Outback, a screened porch-like structure in the backyard, using Clorox and mildew remover and soap suds, and washed the furniture in there, as well. Every muscle I have is sore, but everything has a ring of newness that matches the season.
My mother’s North Carolina Jasmine is full and fills the yard with its scent.
The neighbor to the rear asked Mom if he could have the gourds in her backyard. He said he noticed they were not being used. Dad collected and hung them for purple martins, but in the two years since his death, they’ve been idle. I got a shot of them hanging, fresh and new-looking, in the neighbor’s yard.
The sun rose at the end of Deering Street, reminding me that this was the place where I saw some of my first sunrises, the place of my beginnings and firsts. I saw a lot of those old familiar things when I was home — the light pole in front of Alyce’s house next door, where we kids played after dark; the radio tower south of town with its blinking red light; the storage room with Dad’s caps and jacket and tools; all the streets parallel to Deering and the side streets that I still remember so well. I drove by Jones Bayou to make sure I was remembering if it really and truly ran under downtown — and it does. It disappears under Court Street and appears again two blocks north on the other side of Highway 8. I also drove by the old downtown hotel to count how many stories it has — five. I needed that bit of information for an essay in my memoir.
It’s always good to go back, and it’s always good to come home. And put on socks and warm up my feet. And rest.