roots and wings

Trees Uprooted as Hot Air Balloons Print

My childhood was rooted in the metro-suburbiapocalypse of Marietta, Georgia. I grew up next to the roots of the live Christmas trees we planted each year. (And I proudly named each one: Candy Cane, Cup Cake, Ginger Bread.) My roots stretched out beneath the small patch of strawberries that grew on the sunny side of the house…beside the earthworms I saved from drying out on the driveway after every heavy rain. My roots are in the grassy slope in the front yard where we put the Slip ‘N Slide each summer. And running under the single tree in the front yard where Dad insisted we put every last strand of 300-count ultra-bright Christmas lights one embarrassing holiday season.

I was planted there. It’s where I bloomed shyly, blossomed hesitantly. And before I knew how to stay put, I was carried away. Like pollen stolen by the honey bees.

My adolescent roots are just down the road from that little blue ranch house. In a bigger brick home with a smaller yard. Dad and I dug up all the seedling trees we’d planted at Milford Creek Lane and transplanted them to new house on Breconridge Drive. They were Fraser firs. Only a handful survived the move. But the few that did grow tall and proud there still today.

My roots are in the soft grass I ran over in the yard as I learned how to back the Mustang out of our crooked driveway for the first, second, and fifteenth times. And beneath the daylilies surrounding the front porch, which served as a backdrop for prom photos and high school graduation portraits. My roots are anchored to the honeysuckles that bloomed along our rustic fence in the springtime. And the jonquils planted around our sweet dog Sunny’s otherwise-unmarked grave in the backyard.

Some days, those roots still feel like home.

Then there was college, the place where you barely stand still long enough to let roots grow. From dorm to apartment to college house, my roots kept me coming back to family and familiarity on holiday weekends and breaks between semesters. To make sure life still existed the way I remembered, even as I was beginning to change.

After college, I left for Charleston. It was a temporary move at the time, but now I’ve been here six and a half years. My roots started tugging me into place in this coastal town—beneath the coarse sand, beneath the pluff mud, beneath the marsh grass—as soon as I arrived. Urging me to stay. Telling me this is the place. This is the place where I can flourish.

Now, having closed on my first home, I’m ready to buy my own Christmas trees for the yard…and give them good Christmas names, of course. I’m ready to dig into the Carolina earth and see what the dark soil below has to offer my Georgia-clay bones. I’m ready to be grateful for old, stubborn roots that kept me from running too far away from the people I love. And for roots strong enough to let me drift off to this place. The place where I’m finally ready to fly.

Image source: DIYdelicacy via Etsy

my roots are just anchors; i am tethered to the south

I am of the South. I sprouted up, all pink and squirmy, out of red Georgia clay. Ate apple pie and drank Coca-Cola and sang Amazing Grace.

As a little pudgy girl with rosy cheeks and big, curious brown eyes, you could find me chasing fireflies at dusk. Poking holes in mason jars. Brimming with wonder at nature’s nightlight.

After supper, I’d lay on my back in our grassy front yard. Counting the stars. Hoping to catch one flying by. Flying on to oblivion.

Even if you tried, you couldn’t count the hours I wasted jumping on trampolines. Or swimming in the neighborhood pool. Or trying to dig to China.

I rode my lavender bike on make-believe trails through the backyard. I hunted four-leaf clovers. And made club houses out of empty refrigerator boxes.

I trampled through the creek in our backyard, looking for arrowheads, scared half to death of garden snakes and water spiders and southern boys.

Oh yes, the South runs through my veins.

I went to Sunday school. And learned to recite the books of the Bible. Genesis. Exodus. Leviticus. Numbers.

I wore curlers in my hair. Sponge rollers. Hot rollers. Curling irons. And everything in between.

My cousins were in beauty pageants. True southern belles with mascara on their lashes and Vaseline on their teeth before they ever had breasts or hips or a choice.

And that’s part of the South too.

The other part. The lonesome part. The part that won’t budge as the rest of the world spins on. Firmly rooted in pride and tradition. Arms folded crossly on her chest. Stubborn as an old mule.

The South isn’t all sunshine and swimming holes.

I have seen her darker side. Her demons. Her ghosts.

I have seen hatred and ignorance and long-lost souls. Anger and malice from hatchets not buried deep enough. Feuds not quite left behind.

I have met plenty of folks that never learned how to think for themselves. Never cared much about it either.

I have seen poverty. Trailer parks brimming with lawn chairs and empty beer bottles and McDonald’s wrappers and babies on the hip.

I have seen good men waste their lives to coal mines and poker tables and all-you-can-eat ribs and local bars.

Oh yes, the South has her own bleak, battered kind of underbelly. Sometimes that darkness is all I can see.

Until I remember the joy of a Sunday potluck after church. Or listening to my grandpa say grace.

Until I imagine the simple pleasure of picking fresh ripe figs. Pulling watermelons off the vine. A porch swing on a rainy day. A sprinkler party in the front yard.

And don’t forget about the fireflies. You can’t ever forget the fireflies.

I’ve seen big dreams lost to the small city. People, like me, who couldn’t quite escape. Moved away only to find that our roots are just anchors; we are tethered to the South.

But no one complains when they end up here. There’s still shade beneath the Georgia pines. And the waters of the Chattahoochee still flow murky and cold.

No, they don’t complain. They just pour themselves another glass of Country Time lemonade, find themselves a rocking chair.

And wait, and wait for the fireflies.

the places we come from

I’d be lying if I told you I drink sweet tea out of Mason jars. Or feel comfortable driving a pick up truck. My backyard never did have a tire swing. And I can honestly say I don’t own a single a pair of cowboy boots and certainly wouldn’t know the first thing to do with a teasing comb. Most folks don’t even detect that faint Georgia accent in my voice except on select words like sugar, maybe, and Marietta.

But the South has crept into me in others ways. In twilights spent chasing fireflies. In the sound of fresh-picked blueberries falling in yellow plastic buckets and the smell of boiled peanuts from a roadside stand. In rainy tin roof lullabies. In over-yonder and reckon-so and I-do-declare.

And the South taught me a thing or two. Like how to catch a tadpole. Or how to flirt with boys. What side of the plate the fork goes on. And which vegetables are best for frying. It taught me important contractions like fixin’to and all-y’all. And when it’s okay to wear white shoes.

But it was while buried in the South’s endless summers and darting beneath her falling leaves and scalding every last taste bud with hot cocoa and waiting for the jonquils to bloom… it was in the South that I found my voice.

And realized all that I could be.


(Image source: CarolinaBlues on Tumblr)