Southern Legitimacy Statement: I was born and raised in Vidalia, Georgia; I studied creative writing in Valdosta, Georgia, , and now I’m on the hunt for the most authentic southern sweet tea in Boston, MA.
Letter to My Niece, in Mount Vernon, Georgia
“Someday you will watch your mother lean on the rim of the sink to wash the dishes in a way she never has before and you will wonder if she was ever young.” – Alison Adair
You have yet to attend your first funeral, but it’s coming—you turn six this Halloween. I haven’t decided yet how you think of me: I would like to tell you that everything will remain the same—that you will still love Michael Myers and wearing skorts to school, doing your hair by yourself in the morning and eating tuna fish. I know everything will change.
Death never needed to be a living person, only a hollow carcass of something you knew. Your blonde curls are growing longer still, as you’d expect, but gray creeps up your nape, accumulates like cumulonimbus before a rapid Georgia rain. I have had three gray strands, your mother more, and your grandmother buys blonde in a bottle.
To you, we are fixed in our positions. Mother. Aunt. Grandmother. Only connected by you. My first funeral is where Jeepers Creepers ate my innocence in 2005, coming back for seconds in 2010 and dessert in 2013 (I have no grandmothers left, but yours are plenty). I haven’t yet heard the sound of his truck coming around the tight corners of Petross, instead watching your mama and daddy pull into the driveway.
I want to remain the one that pops popcorn for our movie nights, that holds my cat for you to pet, that lets you snuggle atop me on the couch despite my aversion to touch. I often find myself explaining to you that your mother was my sister first—that there was a time before you and time will go on forever after. I want to sit with you in the timeless now, with your sister, too, while Practical Magic plays and the Evil Queen Candles burn.
You probably think we’re ancient while simultaneously only existing within your Dorothean realm. We were young once, Dorothy (and I’d like to think that we still are). Your first funeral will quickly be followed by your second, where Michael Myers reads the eulogy of your innocence (having never been innocent himself) while Jeepers Creepers dines on your faith (he only takes the things that he needs).
There is more to death than a knife to the back, the lowering of a casket, and a prayer. It leaves you with less of yourself than you had—a carcass of what you knew, and less than a moment’s notice to hide before what’s been hunting you finally finds its prize.