By Cyndie Sebourn
Everybody has some special road of thought along which they travel when they are alone to themselves. – Zora Neale Hurston
I close my eyes and, with little effort, travel to a time when in the hot, dry summer, I would walk down a dirt road and feel the warm, soft dirt ooze between my toes – to a time when walking barefooted was habitual, yet well-guarded due to the prickly cockle burrs scattered on the ground.
Turnin' roads. People always laughed when I gave directions to our house: After the bridge, take the first right onto the first turnin' road. These roads were simply dirt road exits from the paved highways that led to some out-of-the-way place that was as lost as the "g" in "turning."
Home was the house that Daddy built. It was 2000 square feet that became the recipient of all of me: shyness, rebellion, intelligence, confusion. Its yard was a jungle of imagination. The pine trees edged the property, keeping imagination secretive. A clipping from my great-grandmother's rose bush had grown monstrous with memories, all prickly with dusty white in our front yard. Blue hydrangeas, real southern living, grew thickly untrimmed at the end of the house, sheltering me from reality as I traveled the world through my books. And I must mention the pump house out back; it was where I had "played school" with my friends – I insisted on being the teacher. I was in training for a platform that chose me as the boss.
Occasionally, I would conquer a barbed-wire fence for solitary walks to the bayou that was a forever half mile from home. Ignoring the accidental and occasional cow patty squish between my toes, I made the bayou my hideaway. I had nothing to hide from. I simply enjoyed my own company best. Still do.
There were evenings of lying on the ground under the pine trees, watching the Fall wind hauntingly blow the leaves and feeling it finger my hair like a lover. I was content to stargaze. I slow danced with the moon.
And there was cotton. I was so happy when crop rotations were in myfavor, and fertile soil gave birth to popping greenery—cotton, cotton everywhere. Fall afternoons, I would step off Mrs. Turnbo’s school bus, notice Daddy’s cotton picker working its work, and see the near full trailers ready for jumping. I would climb up one end and stand tall on the metal structure before making the big leap. I was always amazed at the strange sensation of nothingness when I landed. Then, I would just lie in my fluffy heaven for a while.
Now here I am again. Going home. I drive through this little town and see vague reflections of a time and life that have long since passed. It feels so different and yet so eerily familiar. I wonder… how many loops did my friends and I drive on Friday and Saturday nights? One end of town to the other, turn around at Kroger and go back the same way we had come. Over and over and over. As I now slowly leave this little town and its three red lights behind, I come to the farm. My family left long ago. The house seems smaller, and the yard seems sad – both are lonely for a little girl sitting on the ground picking clovers and saying, "He loves me; he loves me not."
I am a stubborn woman, and I refuse to give up what I love. So, on summer days, I often kick off my shoes, and my toes feel the oozy, warm dirt; on windy nights, I lie under the trees and the entrancing sky and then stand up and give life a big "what for" with my best dance. On autumn afternoons? By gosh, I let my mind take me back to a moment when HER big, yellow school bus would flash its lights and stop at the first turnin’ road to let a thrilled, little girl spring off and run with exhilaration toward an overflowing cotton trailer, climb high, and two heartbeats later - JUMP!!!
I choose the memory, or perhaps it chooses me. And then again, it does not just choose me; it seduces me. And we lie down. Together.
Dedicated to my beautifully sweet bus driver, Mrs. Joann Turnbo
By Cyndie Sebourn
As I stare at a black and white photo of my mother in the ’50s, I see a stunning woman. A trim figure and shapely legs accentuate a seemingly timeless facial beauty, and I wonder… Did she have any idea what she possessed?
As my memories move forward, I see her by her sewing machine creating dresses of matching fabric for herself, my sister, and me. I recall how, in the final days before Christmas, she sometimes let me open a present here and there just to ease my pain because she knew that my heart was about to burst with excitement. I can still see the dolls that walked, the dolls that talked, and a Bugs Bunny with a pull-string that said, “What’s up, Doc?”
Then there were summer months of blackberry picking together near the ditches of our farm. The subsequent cobblers satisfied my maternally-inherited sweet tooth. Cookies, candy, ice cream – my rewards for being good and my comfort during distress.
As the years progressed, I observed her unfaltering unselfishness. She gave my clothes away to girls less fortunate than me, yet I never lacked in my own closet. She made weekly visits to the local nursing home with gifts of home cooking for elderly little ladies of whom she was fond.
Although white hair and arthritic hands replace her youth, my mother takes such joy in her birthdays. She said that Oprah once said that if someone receives at least sixteen birthday cards, she is popular. Each year, my mom displays her cards on the kitchen table for everyone to see. My mom is popular.
My sister and I have noticed strange occurrences lately. We catch ourselves saying things like “Most of the things we worry about don’t come to pass” or “A hundred years from now it won’t matter.” We show our sons we love them by making them peanut butter candy and chocolate gravy. Sometimes we even find ourselves making certain expressions that only we could recognize. And then…well, we elbow each other, giggle, and say, “Mirror Mirror on the Wall – I’m my mother after all.”
I know I must have broken her heart a million times. And although I remember each detail, I truly believe she has forgotten. You see, a woman like her doesn’t remember her children’s failures.
Out of respect, I call the lady who sewed my clothes and curled my hair – who taught me the joy of sugar – who gave to others and denied herself – I call her “Mother.” Oh, but for the lady who sits with me during a migraine, who becomes strong when I am broken, and who doesn’t remember the times that I broke her heart... I call her “Momma.”
2020 and Me
By Cyndie Sebourn
“There’s an old song from the 70s… ‘Oh, What a Night.’ All I’ve got to say is ‘Sweet Jesus in the Morning.’”
My grandmother used to say that when I was a child. I didn’t understand it then. I don’t understand it now. Back then, I even thought, “Well, isn’t Jesus sweet in the afternoon and at night, too?" My point is… “Oh, what a year!” 2020 was just full of stupidities.
When the virus was beginning, I chose to end a three-and-a-half-year relationship. He is a wonderful man, but I knew he wanted to be married; I didn’t. I really felt that I was doing him a favor. I should have just asked him to marry me right then and there, you know? At least I would have had someone to cook for and clean up after.
I decided to pretty much be self-quarantined so that I could have my grandsons sleep over a few times a month. I did not want to expose them to the virus. My subdivision’s pool didn’t open until halfway through the summer. Often, we were the only ones there. The boys were used to playing with other kids, so it was boring to them. Our POA did have a wonderful idea to have a Bear Hunt, so at night, we walked the streets looking for stuffed bears in windows, in shrubs, and hanging from trees. I didn’t have a stuffed bear, so one of my grandsons displayed Buzz Lightyear. One night they invited Mr. Bill – that ex-boyfriend I should have married – to come eat pizza with us. He was late. Desperate for entertainment, they went to my driveway with colored chalk and wrote, “YOUR LATE MR. BILL!” Bless their hearts. We need to have a spelling lesson.
Since I seldom left my house, groceries, shopping, everything was ordered online. What did I do? I cooked… Then I realized there was only me to eat it. I don’t like leftovers, so I ordered food delivery, although most restaurants didn’t get my order correct. I watched everything on Netflix and Amazon Prime. I ate. I gained weight.
I needed something to do. I decided to organize outfits. Boy, I worked on that for weeks! I have closets of what tops look good with what pants, with what shoes, and with what jewelry and accessories. I even took pictures! They’re still in my closets, and the pictures are in a folder on my iPhone. Add to that, I’ve now gained so much weight that I can’t wear most of them! Not that I get to go anywhere because I don’t have a boyfriend.
I joined a couple of dating websites. Now, why did I do that? Can you really meet someone during a pandemic? I unsubscribed. They were all ugly anyway, and I was now fatter.
Now when I say I’m now fatter, I’m not thinking in terms of a muffin top. I’m saying that I look like a busted can of biscuits. I’m not sure, but I feel like that I’ve been noticing that whenever I round a corner, my butt doesn’t catch up with me until five minutes later.
There you have it - my outrageous, asinine 2020 stupidity! It was a slap dab mess. All I can say is “Sweet Jesus in the New Year,” and God bless this busted can of biscuits.