Southern Legitimacy Statement: Being from West Virginia, I am from a certain section of the South. I am Appalachian raised with a special place in my heart of all things Southern.
I woke up sweaty, tangled in the white cotton sheets of the bed. Stupid dream. The air was too thick and I choked on it. My momma was never one for AC. “Just lie there and wait for the breeze,” she’d say when I complained. I was a whiney, fuzzy thing too. Not like the little blonde angel curled up next to me. My tossing hadn’t woken her. The nightmare felt real, but I was safe, home. I wondered if the little girl had nightmares too, is she dreamed of sandy beaches, of a demon spitting fire, or had the Appalachians Mountains weaved into her soul as we drove through the heart of the country.
“Now momma, you gotta understand,”
“What. What do I just gotta understand.” She put her hands on her hips. The faded blue jeans hung too high on her hips, her puffed checks a contrast to her stringy brown hair.
“You ain’t stepped foot here for ten years, and yet here ya stand, with a mini you in tow, you think us country folk don’t tell time the way they do everywhere else, that you could waltz in that door like nothing ever happened. I didn’t even know if you was alive or dead. You know what that does to a woman, to not know where her child is!”
“I’m sorry momma, I am. I thought the world was different, that I was meant for more than this place,” I looked out the hazy window at the little girl playing on the tree swing, “And now I know I was wrong, and right.”
She sighed, huffing really like she believed me but didn’t want to give the satisfaction of knowing it. I was fifteen when I hopped a Greyhound and split. The world was my oyster, how was I to know that I was crazy, that a teenager on her own would face more evil than I could even imagine. Long nights huddled under overpasses, strange men that would glare, the booze, the drugs, how my head just spun with it. Shadows, that what that world was filled with, the remnants of home, I just hadn’t known it at the time.
“So, now what?”
“Can I stay momma, just for a little while. I want to show Grace the mountains, the way the tree lines snake up the gorge, green as an emerald after a spring rain, the pungent rhododendron and sweet honeysuckles pulled straight off the vine. I want to give her a home….” My voice trailed off there at the end and I wasn’t sure she had heard me.
“Humph, home, I’m not sure you even know what that word means.”
I stared at my toes, the blue polish peeling on the corners. “Please momma….”
“Well, you’re already here anyway, would be more trouble. Just make sure that little girl stays outta my rose bushes, my Damask bushes are the envy of Eden.”
I ran up and kissed her check, surprise flashed on her face for just an instance, and then it was gone.
“Thanks momma, I’m gonna take Grace over to water now, she ain’t never seen a crawdad before!”
“You’d think you was fifteen again,” She yelled as I ran out the door, the screen slamming shut behind me. And I was fifteen again as a giggled and pulled my daughter towards the creek behind the house. The nightmare chased away by the smell of roses blooming and the laughter of an angel.