Marsha Owens: Memoir: Feb 2022

Southern Legitimacy Statement: Born in Richmond, VA, I’ve made it my forever home. My paternal grandpa was a waterman on the Chesapeake Bay, and to this day, I’m a seafood snob. I married an ex-Amishman to whom all things Southern have to be carefully explained. He doesn’t hold chairs for ladies or scurry to open doors. But he is a fine gentleman nevertheless. I’m proud to say that I survived teaching middle school English for eighteen years. Now happily retired, I spend time at my small cabin on the Bay reminiscing about how Daddy would cast his fishing net out from the beach and “catch a mess” of fish for supper.

Boxes and Beds

So she said you need help, we’re coming to your house tonight, and I said you don’t have to do that, and she said we’re coming anyway, and I was relieved. I couldn’t pack 26 years into the ten, twenty empty boxes stacked in my house that night so I just stared and wondered if I crawled into one and let

myself be carted away would anyone notice? That seemed easier than sorting through the china, baby things and dishtowels. And what should I do with the baby bed?  So many nights before she had outgrown it—or was that just last night?

So they came and I sat immobilized on the steps and watched as she marked each box POS, another POS. I asked what the label meant and I thought Plates or Saucers and she said Pieces of Shit, and I cried, sitting on the steps, watching 26 years crumble into Pieces of Shit at 10 p.m.

I tried to get up, do something, move my feet, manage this packing up of my life and figure stuff out like what to do with Daddy’s bed in the downstairs bedroom. I remembered the evening Desert Storm began. I cooked him an egg for supper. He ate, then said he didn’t need to see another war, went to bed and died the next day on a frigid January afternoon.

So they fed me pizza and we drank beer, they laughed at the craziness in the house until I laughed too and thought this must be what happens when the mind shatters into pieces. Or does the heart break first? I was a kaleidoscope, fragments of my life spinning, crashing, folding into each other.

It’s just a fucking house! I had screamed that night he and I first talked about packing up our lives. And he said, It’s a beautiful house! But my heart had left long before. I had already packed my boxes. But where, I wondered, did I pack the joy?

The music blared, the beer worked its miracle until I began to move on heavy feet, slogged from room to room, touched the antique lamp, scratches on the kitchen table, the wing-back chair covered with cat hair. Then I looked once more into the closet where the kittens had been born and remembered the white runt kitty who looked like a mouse, so I named him Algernon, and I remembered, too, that he fell from the second story landing into the hallway below and survived.