June flew by, packing a punch full of beautiful places and people.
To begin with, Bella Rose and I went to Harmony Hill Singing School. It was the first time with a baby. First time since I’d been married, in fact. Oh how hot it was, but oh how deeply sweet it was to see and meet many dear folks. I came away revived and refreshed, bursting with happiness of just Plain Ole Life. It’s made up of so many people – life is – and mine is enriched by so many of them. This year especially, I was impressed at how many people work tirelessly in the background to make this happen. No lime light – and no desire for any. What comes through is their desire to carry on a dream worth working for, so that their kids and grandchildren and kids they don’t know can benefit from it.
After a week of not seeing my man, JB met us at HH for the last evening and day there. Friday we began the drive to Memphis, caught up on the week’s worth of news until my voice ached, stayed in a hotel and made it to Memphis the next day. It was Arabella Rose’s First Birthday, and we celebrated it amidst my washing clothes, Aunt Judy working on prepping food and cleaning for Camp and John Barrett catching up on work. It was a fine little birthday and celebrating it with family was a gift to me, even if she didn’t know to be properly grateful.
Dawn and Bella Rose are practically birthday buddies. Bella Rose impolitely came the day before Dawn’s birthday, for which someday, maybe, Dawn will forgive her. As it was, we were able to spend both birthdays with both girls in Memphis. Sometimes Providence aligns the stars.
The week after Harmony Hill was camp. Dear Camp in the heart of Mississippi where the Black Eyed Susans and Queen Anne’s Lace grow up a storm; where hay fields and twilight bask in the song of saccades and fireflies, and where the accents and people are even sweeter than the tea. I love that place and the people, and the dirt and the grime that come with camping. Some people say with a sort of perverted slyness that the South is One Big Excuse for gossip. That the South can say anything they like about anyone and blanket it with “Bless Their Hearts”. The people who say this don’t know the South. When it’s said in the South it’s with the actual hope that your situation will be made better. It’s with empathy or sympathy implied, and with that sort of motherly and fatherly affection that says, “Goodness, child, I’m dreadfully sorry, and I care about you”. While there are times among Southerners when interest is dirtied by only the desire to gossip behind other’s backs, there’s also a broader depth of care and concern there that is distinct to it. There’s a willingness to step beyond some unsaid threshold and address hurt and pain, difficulty and shame in a way that is there to relate and help heal. There’s a openness and humility of being real, and admitting faults and exposing wounds. I’ve yet to encounter that anywhere else. I love that about the South. I loved dipping my feet in its balm again, and immersing myself in the sincerity with which people exude there. And when they said Bless Your Heart, I knew that it was in the way Southerners mean it.
The traditional birthday walk we take at Camp, where we drag out of bed and walk out our puffy eyes and breathe in the early air, and offer our small gifts to Dawn on the side of the road somewhere.
Seventeen. And I don’t mind saying she makes me cry. I love seeing her blossom into a lady. Blossom and expand her mind and her heart. I love this kid so much. At the Grey Sub it’s birthday tradition for each person to tell a memory or something you love or admire about the Birthday -ee. Anna Grace plucked a flower head and pronounced it our microphone. We were laughing to understand each other at first and had to repeat our sentiments several times before it could be understood.
I’m so glad distance doesn’t separate love. Bella Rose knows Mamsie even when her back is turned and she’s standing several feet away. She goes to her before me. Even before she could walk, she’d crawl through the rooms until she found Mamsie and would whine and hold up her hands for her. This fills my heart more than I can say. You can’t speak the connection. Sometimes it’s just there.
This was June. A blur of the sweetest and prettiest things. I cried all the way to Memphis when I left that Friday night. Sometimes life expands your heart so much that love aches. The South and its people are woven so deeply into the fabric of who I am. Its fragrances, its whippoorwills and pines and soft hills and accents, mockingbirds at twilight and effortless lushness. All of this tore at me, knowing it’s not what I can love as my home anymore. Knowing that in order to love what home is now, there must be a distance between my heart and what is naturally most dear to me.
And yet, it’s worth it. My best friend makes any place home for me. The fabric that wove me will always draw me. Will always be deeply endearing; yet, that tall man makes my life the sweetest tale I could’ve wished to tell.