Beneath the tides of sleep and time
Strange fish are moving!
I’ve been back in the region of my childhood for three years. There were a few times, those first years, when I came back for several months at a time before leaving again. But, I’ve never considered that “being” here. My reality is that I left at the age of seventeen and didn’t return for twenty-seven years. Now, in my early forties, I’ve come back to a town filled with ghost-like memories of a place and its silent-voiced people that no longer exist.
The clouds still look the same overhead, floating across cow-filled pastures, an opaque-white fluff against the blue-purple outline of mountains. The same sounds of whippoorwills and crickets sing through the nights.
I stand, on my back porch, as the last light of day slips away and the crickets hum. In this growing dark moment I can pretend that the twenty-seven years hasn’t passed – I am once again here in my youth listening to the singing of the whippoorwills as they welcome the deep night.
Most of the old home places are torn down – the grass, trees, and new growth disguising the old sites. Driving by them makes memory appear a trick of false pictures. Is that really the yard we once played in and the tree I loved to climb? Erasure, the way nature reclaims its own, in spite of previous existence and the blood of memory soaking that ground.
The vast-rambling plants, grasses, and trees disguise the greater void of all who are missing. This is the saddest part. Both sets of grandparents, aunts and uncles, and all the older church members are long dead and buried. Laying flowers across bronze or beneath the shadow of granite is all I can give them. Their personalities and laughter absent from the impersonal carvings. Their formal names and date to date is all there is.
I chose this path. Each step forward, toward the new, requiring a leaving behind and stepping further away from what lived here. I remember me as a thirsting, starving soul – I was silently dying. It took the leaving to make me grow, for me to understand my true and deepest identity, for me to become the intended individual that I now am. I know this as truth within my most sacred self. I chose this path – I am my own expertly crafted story.
* / * / *
The book of me isn’t finished, but the chapter I’ve lived in this past three years is telling itself into ending. I feel it. I’m familiar with these closures that seem to come unbidden, but later prove necessary and instrumental for the next phase of my life.
Coming home has been about reconciliation with myself more than anything else. I wouldn’t have expected that, but it is often at the end of a thing that you are able to see it most clearly. My life here, as a child and teenager, provided little community or friendship. I lived in an odd isolation that it would take me years to understand.
My grandparents, favorite aunts and uncles, and the like provided a foundational concept of love; but it was many long years before I could see that at work in my becoming. The deep sense of isolation, my inability to find fulfilling relationships, or a place where I could truly “fit in” as they say would change after my leaving.
In the twenty-seven years away – time divided between Atlanta, Georgia and Myrtle Beach, South Carolina – I would find my “fitting in’” and my individual identity, expand and examine my belief systems, and develop a workable life philosophy. It’s taken this time of coming home for me to actually see clearly who I’ve become. That I am happy with the overall picture is a surprise and a gift. Other than that, my past in this specific place holds less of value to me than I hoped it would. The past is a combination of shredded mirage-memory images. It is the future that calls and whispers to me as a vivid-flowing movement. And, it is endings that open the doors through which the future comes.
* / * / *
My children and grandchildren are here – that is my reason for staying. My son and daughter, both in their mid-to-late twenties, are adults living their own lives. We have grown together the past few years, each one of us helping the other or celebrating through alternate periods of trial and joy. I am proud of them and content in the knowledge that they are happy, healthy, and blessed with wonderful spouses and children.
I love my children dearly, but it is the love and desire for my grandchildren that holds me rooted in this place of thick-red clay. I enjoy being a grandma more than I could have ever imagined. The four “babies” range from 3 to 7 years old and are a constant treasure and blessing to me – each of them special and unique individuals that I adore.
* / * / *
I spent Saturday afternoon at work with a couple from Argentina (as they purchased a car from me). It was a wonderful visit for me and I deeply enjoyed our conversation. Lately, I drift in to thoughts of traveling overseas, even becoming an expat like Hemingway and so many others. There is something that calls me to South America and Europe – part of the artist that is enamored of these places where such long history and artistic depth lives. Just “to walk the streets” as they say . . .
I met a lovely lady from Poland last year (again, in the sales process of my real-world job) and we became immediate pals. She came to work for me for a while and we remain friends after her leaving. We talk often of a trip to Europe this coming year – she’ll take me around Poland, Germany, and maybe even Greece. I love this thought, love to contemplate this trip with a wonderful friend (who will make sure I don’t get lost since I speak not one word of German, Greek, etc.).
I have always wanted to travel overseas to these places – a longing I have often dusted off and examined, but began to take less seriously as the years passed. Thanks to my wonderful friend, Agnes, this desire is rekindled. I feel the shift in movement – in path – like a wave rushing the sand between my toes brushing the tops of my feet. Travel . . . again.
* / * / *
I’ve jumped on planes, traveled by trucks, hopped in my car and started driving – traveling throughout the United States several times. These “other places” seem to thrall my Gypsy blood – it rests awhile and then roars with rushing to movement, to travel, to seeking. Each of these trips and times in other parts of the US (often working in other regions for long periods of time) created deep changes in understanding and perspective for me. I was not the same person coming home as I was in the leaving. (I deeply believe every young person should travel for a time before settling down if at all possible!)
* / * / *
The past four months at work (day job again) have been horrific in many ways. I’ve experienced things I could in no way anticipate or expect – things that put me in a position to make some very difficult decisions. I made a decision that I felt was the “right one,” as well as the only one I being me could make following some very dark days of hurt, confusion, and serious in-depth thought. The coming weeks will bring the results of that choice and I continue to pray for wisdom moving forward and a final resolution that will bring peace.
I am coming to a cross-roads of sorts in my business life. Maybe it’s just that mid-life crises everyone jokes about! Either way, I’m giving serious thought to leaving the automotive industry – my 70-hour-weeks life’s blood for the past 7 years. I am transitioning mentally (and maybe physically). It will be interesting to see how it all turns out down where those “strange fish are moving.” I’ll keep you posted!
~South Carolina, January 2012
Artwork: Freya Wave by Laurie Behnen. To see more artwork by this artist, please visit her site at Fine Art America. Please help support this wonderful artist by visiting FAM and maybe even buying a print or notecards!