I am more than a little excited about the prompt for today, South. As I read Small Town Ways by Stuart M. Perkins yesterday, memories from my childhood flashed like Polaroid snapshots. Although I didn’t grow up in a small town, Nashville definitely had and still has many “small town ways.”
I grew up in an average, middle class neighborhood in the suburbs of Nashville. The neighborhood was average, but I wasn’t one of the average kids. My little brown face was quite noticeable in all of my school pictures. During those days, any racism that I experienced was rather subtle, but I only had to deal with such things outside of the bubble.
Every weekend and nearly every day in the summer, my siblings and I would jump in the car eagerly anticipating the day’s adventure. The car would leave our Edge O’ Lake subdivision and drive 5 miles to my grandparents’ little farm in the city. New stories with a rotating cast of characters were written there everyday. Are we going on a trip to the big farm in the country today? Is this a work day or a play day? The only difference between a work day and a play day is adults were added to the story on a work day. Work days were hard but still so much fun. Who would be there when we arrived? Who would show up later? With over 30 first cousins, it was impossible to guess.
It never got old. The excitement of arrival always heightened at the moment we felt the car tire leave the smooth pavement and cross onto the gravel driveway that was a steady incline of about a fourth of a mile. The sound of the pebbles hitting the undercarriage was musical. The car would barely stop before we jumped out and ran up the wooden steps into the backdoor of the house (except when my grandparents had this crazy hen that attacked anyone that came near the house). The door was always unlocked. Always. As soon as you opened the door, you were hit with the aroma of country ham. Always. This house had so many rooms in it, and they were arranged like a maze which made for great rainy and cold days. We never worried about breaking anything. That takes a lot of pressure off of a kid.
Outside of the house, the possibilities were endless. Activities for the day were usually chosen democratically. But my favorite days just took on a flow of their own. Hammock swinging turned to tree climbing turned to sledding down the big hill to the barn turned to petting the new calves turned to blackberry picking turned to creek wading turned to field racing turned to hunger turned to why hasn’t anybody come looking for us? turned to take it on in to the house. I loved those kind of days.
Nothing happened in the bubble that wouldn’t heal. Why did family ever have to leave the bubble? We had everything we needed there. Family got hurt when they left the bubble. Family changed when they left the bubble. This is why the bubble is no more.
Whenever I pass the scorched house that sits on top of the hill at 1512 Bell Road, tears fill my eyes as I think of my childhood utopia in a bubble that sat perfectly in the South.