Monday, April 03, 2006

Well friends, the man and I are getting ready to move. Montana did not claim us, we're still here in the Golden State, just some hours away from where we currently reside. Our house is a maze of boxes and you can hear echoes in our now-empty closets. The cat eyes us suspiciously every time he finds a new item in his regularly-trod pathway. Moving requires an enormous act of letting go and learning to embrace chaos for awhile.

So if I'm slightly less of a presence for a little while, don't fear...I will return. Meanwhile, I'll leave you in the good hands of visiting essayists, memoirists and other sundry writers.

If you would like to participate in the (usually) Wednesday Essay slot, please email your submissions to: jordansmuse (at) gmail (dot) com with the subject "Weds. Essay" Your Title, and your name. Please limit them to 1000 words.

Today I give you Donna Emerson:

For James

Your childhood home was not only “off the road apiece.” It was a mile up, at the top of a brown winding path strewn with pink and white dogwood. In what some would call a forest. The long drive around the rounded hillside, the welcoming Doric columns, through the carriage entrance to deep porches, broad staircases, sunrooms bigger than my living room. Secret back stairways, hallways of family portraits. All of it bigger than William Penn’s house, the only mansion I knew.

And acreage. Thick pink, red and white camellias tossed about the grounds. Fully grown. Many gardens. Azaleas in all colors, hardwood trees, taller than the house, taller than any building in my town. Servants at work inside and out. It felt like a party and it was just Tuesday.

Days seemed slower, dearer, with customs I did not know, like being at home after church and Sunday dinner until whenever they left, because these were the calling hours. Dressing for dinner. All meals served by brown hands and silence.

Walking down the streets of Selma with your big, friendly father, in his white shirt and tie. He tipped his hat or took it off, grabbed all the light colored hands and shook them, arms around because he loved them all, people wearing hats and gloves, they all knew him, they took time together, the people of his town.

He was the cotton merchant, the broker in two states, the man, the wealthiest man. He showed how cotton was combed and bundled. When I asked, he took me to his fields to watch the picking, even let me pick some myself. Sticky and thorny stuff, hard to pry off the boll. It pricked my fingers. Nobody else’s fingers bled.

We talked about polyesters, he worried about how they were taking over. I said we’d come back to cotton because it felt better on the skin, more wholesome. I liked his certainty, lighting up when he saw me. My own father was never this grand.

And your Little House, the one below your Big House, the one where Grandmother came to live, the one you had parties in when you got older, with your sisters and friends. We all sat in front of its fireplace and sang songs our last night. I wanted your sisters to like me, yet we approached everything differently. They were certain, I was not.

When we ended the night singing “Dixie,” I felt bitten by the sound of your gritty endings. Believed all of it, knew it had to do with your fierce attachment to this land, your hired help: you knew them and they knew you. Real love there, lifelong, in one town, the soft cotton, the Sunday mint juleps on your verandah, a way of life which lined your soul like batting and made all the rest of creation, far away. I wasn’t sure why I felt surrounded.

BIO: Donna Emerson is a college instructor, licensed clinical social worker, photographer, and writer of poetry and prose. Recent publications include “Father,” in Drum Voices Revue, “Unexpected Meditation” for The Labyrinth Society, where she won second prize, and she is a finalist in poetry for the Dickens eighth annual contest, 2005.


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