Tuesday, February 20

No Anchors, No Chains

I have a past, but it is not a past rooted in familiarity, extended family or geography. I am a person with no roots no early memories of American culture. No Elvis, no Ducktails, no Airstreams, no Saddle Shoes; no television, no belonging and little close kinship. There is No sense of family on Daddy's side and burnished early memories on Momma's side her sisters, all married, some with children already then and an aunt and uncle who were sharecroppers, working the land for another man.

That was the old log cabin. I remember my aunt pumping water from the well right off the door around back at the kitchen. They kept a huge tub to bathe in, pulled it right out into the kitchen, behind a screen. My aunt heated water on top of this huge stove. Aunt Samantha was a farmer's wife, the best cook I ever met. She ran two huge kettles that she poured into the pan, mixing with buckets of fresh pumped well water. I would sit at the table, watching her bustle between stove and pump, screen door banging as she went out with her empty bucket that time when we stayed overnight the first trip back through this area of the country. She'd start out with as much of that hot boiled water as she could, adding just enough cold for Melville to tolerate and he took his soak and she put on more hot water. We kids were lucky, as her niece and nephews we got our own bath in it long before Melville got in from the barn. I thought it odd at the time and sad in a way because she and Melville couldn't have kids and she wanted them so, you could just tell in the way she loved on you. I wanted to jump in her arms and tell her I'd be her girl and just stay there, because what it looked like didn't matter, it made you feel like you'd been well hugged. Later, she and Melville were blessed with a daughter, after they gave up trying to have one.

My daddy was a traveling man. He liked to see new places and he liked to drive. I think the journey for him was every bit as fascinating as the destination, perhaps better so every time we travelled it was by car. We'd ride in the backseat, and sometimes (and my favorite cause I could stretch out) I'd lay in the floorboard. I used to climb down there and lay beside the drive shaft, my legs tucked under the seat in front, a bit of a trick but comfortable for a bit, I could lay there and have my legs stretched out cause when I couldn't stretch them they started getting cricky and hurt. Long journeys Momma and daddy took turns driving, Momma usually during daylight and Daddy taking over long up till about midnight or later. Finally he'd pull up to a motel, quietly pay the room and tumble us all into the bed together, he and Momma in the other one, us four kids in various stages between slumber and wakening, flashes of the activities relaying the information that we needed to clamber up all together there in those cheap motel rooms. Just long enough, sleep till morning then Daddy'd get up and go gas the car, refill the coolers, lunch stuff packed and iced, soda's replenished and he'd pick up a favorite breakfast of doughnuts and milk. for us all while Momma set about the task of getting us ready to ride again for the day.

Later, mostly, we took day trips to the same areas to visit my cousins and aunts and uncles; trips which my daddy would map in his head each time he made the drive learning the lay of the countryside. He took us every single route he could find until familiarity of it bored him and he began exploring, veering off the arteries to explore the tar, and gravel and dirt between my momma's family home and ours. I believe in all the traveling he ever did, my daddy never really did find a place he felt really comfortable in.

I believe Daddy's granddaddy re-invented himself in Huntington when a gentleman of reputable note died there. Strange to find two men in the same town with almost exactly, first and last name, who are unknown to one another. Stranger yet that same name showing up elsewhere in the country prior to his Granddaddy's arrival in Huntington, and a certain marriage there of a man by the name and a woman by the same name the same day his granddaddy married his grandmomma. The dead gentleman, old money for generations, the once land owning family now bereft of wealth and land, a name alone surviving, a tombstone carved in granite at the back of the most prominent cemetery in Huntington, headstone epithets of those whose kinship's twined and intertwined. There is no kin in this lonely place for me. Where or whether there is any kin anywhere outside of Huntington on that side of the family is something that I may never know. My great grandparents and my grandparents are both buried there though in a different cemetery in another area of town.

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