Like a well-aged wine, the years of my childhood settle in my soul and radiate warmth to the deepest reaches of who I am–
I am my mama’s daughter. Everyone could always tell. I have the nature and the smile of my daddy. I have the wild, free spirit of the wind that whips through the cotton fields just before a summer storm. I have roots that run wider than the tallest magnolia tree. I have the grit of my ancestors, cotton-picking poor but wealthy with family and in faith.
I am the blue-eyed, cotton-top little girl with dirty hands and a crooked smile. I’m the butterfly chaser, the cicada shell sticker, the beauty shop entertainer with a laugh that carries farther than a country mile. I’m sweat-wet bangs and “skint-up” knees. I’m a hay bale-hopper, yard sale shopper, hand-on-my-hip popper, sassy Southern girl.
Yet, in my soul something stirs.
It pushes and pushes and pushes me away. Out and away. Bending, curving, veering like backroads in the summer sun.
With every push, my heart whispers, Go. See what lies beyond that Tennessee River and those white Dixie cotton fields. Your time here has been sweet. Sweeter than Aunt Jo’s homemade peanut brittle; Sweeter than the chocolate gravy Mama makes on Christmas Day.
Don’t worry–you’ll never forget.
When you hear the melody of an old gospel song, you’ll remember.
When you see the bottoms of the leaves and smell the rain before the storm, you’ll remember.
When you feel the morning dew wet beneath your bare feet, you’ll remember.
And one day, when you’re ready, you’ll see the same steel, stubborn will in your own little girl. She may not like dirt, or puddles, or the smell of freshly littered fields in the spring, but she’ll have those same roots, planted firmly in that same Southern soil, wherever she may be.
And one day, when she’s ready, her heart will whisper to her, Go.
And she, too, will go. And she, too, will find the beauty in the memories, and she will smile for what was and, just like you, her heart will quicken at the thought of what will be.