Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Alabama Time

My memory is a series of memories, hazily blended together...

Of the first time, me - at 7 years old - left the city and ventured down south to Alabama with my best friend, Agi and her mother, Jessie for a few days.  Me, crying as the Amtrak train left New York City's Penn Station and my mother behind.  It was the first time I had ever been away from her.

The hot, summer sun and dusty open land as we stepped off the train in Alabama.  The heat wrapped itself on my bare arms as we walked out of the train station to the car.

A cacaphony of 'Bama accents from brownskinned cousins of my best friend and her mother as the cluster of arms wrapped around us in greeting.  And Ma Dear, the grandaunt to Jessie and the matriarch of the family, petite and round,  bringing up the rear, welcoming us to her home in Talladega.

There was me, in the backyard of Ma Dear's with Agi and the rest of the cousins,  being sprayed by a hose,  barefoot, in my favorite green tank top and shorts combo - the one with the apple on the front.  Hands snatching at the green hose, each one wanting to take their turn spraying.

There was me, walking the tracks with Agi and a few of the cousins on a Sunday morning trying to catch up with the rest of the family at church.  The dark metal steel of track was hard under my feet as we moved along and I stared out at the miles of light brown, dusty dirt road  that ran along both sides of the track for miles ahead of us.

Me, sitting outside on the porch steps and looking up at the twinkling stars in a black-as-night sky, as the dark quiet settled around me. A quiet so foreign to me, a little girl from the city.  Shifting in the bed I shared with Agi, listening to the crickets talk outside our window.  Looking up at the weathered walls that Ma Dear called home.

Good southern morning breakfasts of biscuits and bacon and grits with butter in the center.  The shouts of the cousins as they called out to Ma Dear: "Ma Dear, where's my shoes?", "Ma Dear, when we headin' out?", "Ma Dear, ain't nothin' like your grits!  I just love them!"

"Ain't that the truth!" I'd say, my northern accent tinged with the southern, and the southern part would get stronger by the time the week ended.

Can't remember getting back on the train to go home but I do remember shouting and running into my mother's arms on that train platform, my grin huge and my sun-darkened face refreshed and happy as I brought the good memories of Alabama back home with me.

This was inspired by a memoir prompt from The Red Dress Club that asked that we write a memoir piece inspired by this picture of a garden hose.


  1. My favorite part is when you run back into your moms arms. Maybe its because I'm away from my daughter for the first time right now or because you wrote so beautifully but I could see the joy and loved this part.

  2. I love the descriptions of your trip to 'Bama! You were so little! it makes me want to go and squeeze my own 7 year old tightly right now!

    This was my favorite part:""Ain't that the truth!" I'd say, my northern accent tinged with the southern, and the southern part would get stronger by the time the week ended." because I so adapt accents, too and you captured that perfectly here!

  3. I really enjoyed this. I grew up in Kentucky, and my parents are from the Florida panhandle. This felt like my childhood.

    I liked the part where you walked the tracks. They are hard and seem to go for miles in both directions.

  4. This brought me back. That first "real" trip away to such a strange new place. Coming back changed, older, but also more thankful.
    What a lovely walk back in time - thank you!

  5. beautifully told, you have a real gift for personalizing the experience you had here! I could identify with some parts, and felt like i was a spectator watching other parts. I love how you bravely left, and then blended in once you got there, becoming one of Ma Dear's little ones. And your reunion was so sweet :)


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