Friday, April 13, 2007

O I wish I was in the land of cotton, old times there are not forgotten ...

Few people know that I've spent just under half my life south of the Mason-Dixon line - in Rome, Georgia, in fact - a historic city founded by the wolf-reared, bluebird-frequented twins, Uncle Romulus and Uncle Remus. I used to be ashamed of my southern heritage (I had an accent when I was little. Most people say, "Oh how cute!" because they're thinking of a little Scarlett O'Hara when the truth is that I was just a little hick) but I'm distanced enough from it now that I can look back on it fondly.

There are a few things that always bring me back - the smell of green onions and clover, the smell of rain, the smell of Walmart, forests of evergreens, vines, Piggly Wiggly, Kroger, Chick-fil-a and Jack-in-the-Box. It's a very distinct feeling. Not like home - my current hometown fills that role - but perhaps just natal familiarity. I fly back to Georgia every year with my mom and my brother (there used to be more of us, but they've dropped off one by one as suitors and weddings and babies got in the way). We take care of some business there (my father still uses a foundry for his sculpture in Rome) and then we drive to Alabama.

My grandparents live in Centre, AL, and I can't remember a 4th of July that I haven't spent there. They live on the edge of Lake Weiss. Lakes there are different than lakes in the west; they're wilder, beachless, full of creatures and surrounded by trees so thick that you can only see the two square inches of sky above your head. My grandparents have two docks, two jetskis, and a boat (with a lot of toys to drag behind it). Nearly all of my aunts, uncles, and cousins on my mother's side (which amounts to thirty something people) come over for Independence day and swim for a week solid. They toss food to us in the water once a day. We do get out to use the bathroom (in a little outhouse they have temporarily installed every year, as goodness knows how many times we've flooded their septic tank), to play Nintendo or poker or ping pong on the big screen porch at night, and to purchase and launch fireworks on the Fourth itself. The Men take one dock, the Teens take another, and we have pyrotechnic duels while the women and children sing patriotic hymns under the canopy.

One of my favorite Alabamic memories comes from just before my brother left for his mission - me and brother and the Robinsons*, the cousins we grew up with and who smell like my childhood, had all just arrived at our grandparents, and to kick off the week we decided to throw a fantastic rain storm. This was one of those rare gems of a storm where the rain allows itself to fall full force sans lightning. The backyard (which is a slight incline all the way down to the lake, interrupted by a tennis court) began to flood a little, so we ran out to the blacktop in our clothes and danced (in what was probably three inches of standing water) and wrestled and laid down and played basketball. It was one of those moments that can never be recreated.

But my absolute favorite tradition is the annual Nightswim. A Robinson and I were catching fireflies one year when one of us said, "Race you to the water!" So we did - we ran down the dock and jumped in the lake in the darkness. The rest of the kids joined us. We've been doing it every year since, and it usually involves using funoodles as water-based blow guns and pretending to get pantsed. Also, there are a lot more bugs on the water at night.

There's more. There's Little Rock Falls, a set of waterfalls we jump every year, a little piece of nature that's still perfect despite being under an overpass. The falls we jump from are about 25 feet high, then in the basin below, there's a rock (it's gone by many names - Pride Rock, Pocahontas Rock, and the Little Mermaid Rock) you can shimmy up and jump from again, at a height of about fifteen feet. You can climb behind the waterfalls and try to get under them and feel the enormous pressure before you chicken out. At the top of the falls is a series of bumpy, natural waterslides formed in the shallow river. We usually slip around on the rocks up there for a few minutes before we leave.

There's a bridge over the lake that you can reach by jetski - its underside is entirely covered in muddy swallows' nests, and they swarm you when you ride by. Then you try to ride back and it starts raining and the raindrops hurt when you're going that fast but you have to go fast because you want to get out of it. There's a hotel across the water that's shaped like a giant riverboat. There's a restaurant that sells fried pickles and they're the best thing in the world. There are fireflies.

Please forgive the length, nostalgia, and indulgence evident throughout this post. The main point of it is that Elder M is coming to Alabama with me this year. Don't laugh. This is a huge thing for me. This is my romanticized past and my romanticized future coming together. Last summer my grandfather, who thinks that Dixie is the national anthem, took the Elder M letter that I received there and stuck it in the freezer, to "cool it down", which is something he used to do with notes from his sons' girlfriends. Now that same boy is going to meet my grandfather, and me and him are going to go to Little Rock Falls and kiss behind a waterfall. I told him three years ago that I wanted him to kiss me behind a waterfall.

This summer, there will be fireworks.

6 reason(s) to click here:

Biby Cletus said...
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Eliza said...

oh my fried pickles.

i love you.

Thirdmango said...

That is way cool. It reminded me of some cool stories myself and familial stories too. :)

Genuine Draft said...

I can't even describe how much I loved this post. It had everything I wanted and needed to read - it made me yearn for a childhood like yours, with fireflies and lakes and screened in porches. And I especially love that you threw a rain storm. Way to control the elements.

Also, my verification code, uouyxtbk = You, oh you. Why exit Burger King?

Krebscout said...

That's what I've been asking myself for fifteen years.

Kismet Keeper said...

Oh, man. That's all I can say. I hope some day to have a place that special, and a special person to share it with.