Sunday, April 27, 2008

The Drift of Time

There are places you remember.

Wednesday, I head back to one of those places.... a place of heavy air, sweet tea, front porches, people who say, "Why, look! It's QuinAnne!"...who have known me since before I was born--who know my Mama, my Mawma, my Pawpa, his Daddy, his Daddy's Daddy, and so on back generations. They know the family secrets (why we never plowed in that back corner in great Grandpa's land), who married who and why... they talk about how both of Duck's boys were "he-shes, don't you know...and moved to live in the Quarter, leaving Alice in that big ol' house with her Momma"... it's the interwoven fabric of time and family, as tight as the moonflower and honeysuckle vines that cover the sides of houses.

I'm going back to asphalt roads, red clay, huge oak and pecan heavy meals, long Sunday afternoons, slow strolls in the ease of the dusk when it's cool enough to move, green grass, flowers tumbling, train whistles in the far distance...where sugar coats everything from the crust of a cobbler made with freshly picked blackberries to the words that take their time leaving the speakers mouth.

Back country Mississippi.

There is something to be said for that part of my world... I remember weekends spent there, chickens slaughtered by Aunt Id and my grandmother and the Volkswagon, drinking Coke out of bottles with a hole punched in the cap by the ice pick, waiting for the train to swoop through and throw out the bag of mail--the wind of it's passing swallowing up our screams of delight as we waited for it to race on, allowing my brothers and I to not only look for that thin mail bag holding the goods of the mysterious Uncle Sam, but, to see if our pennies had stayed on the track... gone from good currency to flattened bits of copper....always, always, as the train moved over the spot where the pennies were... we grabbed each other, our stomaches dropping in fear, our screams rising to a fevered pitch... would our three bits of metal really throw all of those boxcars off the track, causing chaos and destruction? The combination of fear and hope churned in our souls, devil fighting good until the train passed... relief fighting disappointment as the caboose passed, the waves that came our way met with a fair-weather wave from us as we climbed down to seek our goods.

Just once, just one time.... we sorta kinda wished maybe perhaps a few cars could slide off the tracks, please?

I hold whispers of memory... my tiny grandfather, white hair, large cigars, thick glasses...hearing aid turned up to catch my voice. Holding my hand, walking down to the Post Office--pointing out trees and bushes and flowers--" That's an azalea.. and that's a beech. Over there, it's a magnolia, baby. Look! Quick...see the hummingbirds??" I always wanted to hold one of those...and he'd say they were just too quick for that to happen. I wore railroad overalls, because he worked for the railroad, and thus, I wanted to look like I worked on a railroad. When we walked, he'd wear crisp grey pants with a white shirt my grandmother had washed and line dried and ironed. My hand fit into his as we walked along, unlike my other grandfather, who was large....I could only grasp his fingers when we walked. We were a pair-- his white, white hair smoothed over from a side part, my brown hair brushed into curls, he'd curve down, speaking to me. Those are my memories of him... those walks. I carried that to my own children; I do it now with C... "See? Those are tulips. Over there is a rosebush. That is an apple tree, see the flowers? They will become apples!" Bonding time, teaching time. A way of showing love. For me, the smell of cigar smoke brings me back to those long walks with a man who reduced his quick pace to my slow one, and would bend over to my size to discuss whatever it was I wanted to discuss, pointing out things with that hand holding the cigar, his soft drawl holding me tight, he listened to me, as if whatever my four year old voice said held the weight of great importance. Patience and love were his gifts to me.

His wedding ring fits my pinky... he was a big man in every way but his size.

I'm going back to help my Mom for a bit.... a week of slow times, family, the terrier will be there. Mother and I will share a bed, a small house, she'll get on my nerves, I'll baby her, she'll fuss, but, she'll love every minute of the time.

We'll drive out to the old home, which is owned by others now...go over and look where Aunt Id's house used to be, until it finally collapsed under the weight of it's memories and termite damage. I'll put flowers on my Papaw's grave. My Mawma isn't buried there, even though her name is on the headstone. She said she had her time in Mississippi... she didn't want to lie for eternity with that "....damn red mud in her face."

I'll drink sweet tea, smell the roses in mother's garden, the mint and the herbs, and half listen while she gossips about people she knows and I have no interest in... fall into that half somnolent state you live in when you are there.

Think about what I've got to do, know I should be doing it, and then... well, I'll have some more sweet tea.

Some places, you simply don't move very fast....unless you are a hummingbird. Even then, you can come to rest, if you choose.


coastrat said...

I DO love your writing! Sounds like you have a beautiful week coming up. My own pet nickname for my daughter is 'Duck'. The hummer image is amazing!! Holler if you want to have a cup of coffee Saturday sometime, and I'll make a run over there... Have a great week back 'home'.

Amber said...

It sounds like an absolutely wonderful place to be, Miss Quin. I'm quite sure you will make the most out of every moment - savoring life as it gives and takes - just like you do wherever you are at, with whatever is given or taken.

Enjoy. Savor. And don't forget to keep in touch!

Much love to you, sweetie!


austere said...

This is beautiful, it has that captured that slow, easy pace and the hot summer days...

When I think of the South, I think of Huckleberry Finn or Scarlet- now I shall add this post to that memory treasure box of "how things are" as well.

Writeprocrastinator said...

Is it true down there that iced tea is served just as much as Coke is everywhere else?

Peter Varvel said...

Lovely, lovely post.
Thank you, for this.
What an appropriate image, the hummingbird, for memories that are too fleeting and precious, as we yearn to keep/hold them close.

golfwidow said...

Mom's special needs kitty, the late Ricky, caught (but did not harm) a hummingbird, once. I made him let it go.

Bill From Gainesville said...

The words you used to write that were perfect. I get it, i feel what it was you were conveying. Sometimes walking with a child and pointing out stuff is lost on little kids until the time when they can look back on it having had enough life and love to gain perspective, and realize that the grown up wasnt just pointing out flowers and plants and trees but showing them unconditional love .. I loved that piece

Therapeutic Ramblings said...

Great entry! I love the South, and I think you did a great job capturing it.

Quin Browne said...

cr~i wish i could say yes...we'll see. ok?

amber~i plan on it, : )

austie~once there, you'd understand, and, i think, feel at home.

wp~the making of sweet tea is an art. and, yes, we consume it by the is NOT the same as sun tea. go here( for the full recipe.

peter~glad you caught that

gw~special needs kitty. made me laugh

bill~thank you...very much.

tr~it's my place, you know?

MrHarlequin said...

I was never ready to read it, but now I am. Now I will be able to understand the South.

Thank you for this. Not the worst thing you've written...

... not the worst thing I will ever read.

I just hope your favourite becomes one of mine. I just hope her writing lives up to yours.