I don’t know how I ended up here. I mean, I remember the day I left my home and all that I’d ever known for what promised to be a grand adventure in my first time crossing the Mississippi and heading west. I remember deciding to call Colorado home for the first time, trading my hot southern summers and cricket songs for tall western mountains and fast rivers. I remember that Baboo (my grandmother) refused to write my address on my birthday cards because she firmly believed that one day I would return home, that she would never have to acknowledge that I was gone. I remember, clearly, each painful step I took in the direction opposite my family, wanting to belong, but needing to do it in my own way. And yet here I am, mimicking the lifestyle and desires of my grandparents in what seems to be a world away from where I spent my childhood summers. It must be in my blood; an undying desire to grow, to nurture, to provide. Things I didn’t know I had in me. Things I can’t imagine living without.
When my mom first told my grandparents that she was expecting a child, my grandfather threatened to disown her. She was single. I was a surprise. They were old-fashioned. When I was born, they arrived at the hospital. They helped my mother bring me home and when she awoke the next morning, she couldn’t find me in my crib. My grandmother (who had previously lost a daughter to SIDS) had placed me to sleep in a laundry basket filled with blankets, keeping her hand on my back while I slept so she would know I was still breathing. I like to say that I can still feel her hand on my back, despite the distance between us.
I remember helping in the garden at my grandparent’s house when I was a young girl. They must have cultivated over an acre of land to grow fruits and vegetables for eating fresh and storing for winter. Peaches, pears, scuppernongs, blackberries, strawberries, beans, peas, corn, squash, tomatoes… My grandfather was an artist, caring for each plant in the way you would a small child, coaxing each fruit to a state of perfection. The seeds were honored to arrive at his doorstep in spring, to fill his cupboards in fall. I remember shucking corn by the truckload, I remember squashing spit-bugs between my fingers, I remember eating strawberries until I was covered in a full body rash. Goon-goon want more ber-bers. They raised chickens and rabbits, hunted deer and squirrel. I was raised among these things having no idea that they would become part of what is most important to me. Having no idea that I would raise my children in the same manner.
I think about it now as I look back on what the past year has meant to me. Taking a piece of land from scratch, building a home, preparing the land to make it fruitful, growing a family. Not only have we accomplished a great deal on the new Acre, but I have come to realize to whom I owe thanks in finding the drive to tame such a feat. It has been almost a year since my grandfather’s passing, I miss him a great deal. For the first time in a decade, Baboo is set to come visit me and my family in Colorado. Perhaps she has come to realize what I have come to realize: No matter the distance, we are near. No matter the differences, we are the same. We are family, we are love. So tonight: I’ve got my toes turned Dixie way… Thinking of my family near and far, and of my Papa who I love and will miss always….