~Something in the Clear Cold Water~ (a working title)~~May 15, 2016


The Magnolia, our '62 Impala, my
brother and me
Plywood, not press wood. My dad never let a salesman forget that requirement on all those Saturdays and Sundays we'd pile into the Impala and drive from graveled lot to graveled lot surveying mobile home dealers from Calhoun County, Alabama to as far away as the Georgia line.  Daddy had saved enough from his paychecks from the Anniston Army Depot to pay cash for a bigger home for the four of us.  The floors were to be made of plywood just as they were in the 500 square feet of the Magnolia.  We'd stayed safe in the Magnolia through over a decade of the kind of tornadoes that wipe out trailer parks and spear pine straw through boards.  I was afraid many times. Sometimes when a bad storm was coming, we'd walk across the road to the neighbor's brick house and stay there until the storm passed. Once I remember the foundation underneath the linoleum and the concrete blocks separated and for a few seconds, the Magnolia was lifted into the air. 

I thought about Daddy saying plywood a lot in the past month while I was tearing out the press wood, or particle board as it's now called, swinging the hatchet I'd been using to chop the bamboo hanging over the fence in my backyard.  Water dripping from a pipe leak had been sucked up into the cabinets and baseboards of the kitchen and bathroom.  The water had soaked into the drywall, and so I swung my hatchet there, too.

Somewhere between the cussing and the crying I managed to make peace with the inevitable demolition and swinging the hatchet became fun. Or perhaps I should say cathartic. It was both.The more I chopped into the boards, the more the boards crumbled.   I guess I'd become accustomed to the smell of mildew since the damage showed a gaping hole in the stainless steel pipe that had to take a long time to open, letting out more and more water from the draining dishwater.   Piece by piece, I dragged it all out to the backyard where I piled the rotting wood next to the brick wall of what I call my fire pit.   The pile is mostly gone now. 

Daddy used to say in his sweet country way, "Sandra can't see that "fir" (far) ahead of her" placing his thumb to his forefinger so only the small tip showed.  He was right. Sometimes I couldn't.  Thankfully, another configuration of my synapses countered that deficit, at least to some degree.  Must have.  I've never been arrested, never even handcuffed.  I've never been taken and placed anywhere for the protection of myself and others.  And so far, I've never been threatened with debtor's prison. Considering that Daddy also said, "Sandra don't see danger" avoiding such might ought to be counted as  accomplishments.

Mama used to say, "you're taking a chance", with an ominous tone, whenever I'd tell her about someone new I'd met, or a place I wanted to travel. I thought of myself then as bold and independent, daring even. Now what has seemed odd to me as I'm looking back, is that none of either side of my family, dead or alive, seem afflicted with similar proclivities. Of course, that doesn't mean they weren't.  But I digress.

Lately, I've been listening to the pile of cassette tapes my dad recorded of our family on the Realistic tape recorder he bought from Radio Shack in the 70's. Conversations from 40 years ago are as clear as if we were all sitting in my living room. My mother, brother, grandmas, aunts, uncles, and cousins.  In one conversation Daddy asks his mother,  my grandmother, "Wonder how long these tapes will last?" I've laughed and cried and learned, and I still haven't listened to them all. 

2009. The aqua color on the right is
part of the stucco process. 
My house was built in 1958. It sold in 2002 for $80,000 and was taken by the bank in 2009 when I bought it for $37,500. Concrete block, a concrete foundation, and tile floors.  Not ceramic tile, but tile by a name I can never remember. Most of the windows had been busted and only one of the original doors was worth keeping. Still, the house felt strong, had "good bones", as others also remarked. I worked on the house and took care of Mama for her last two years.  Some days I know my acrobatic feats fixing what was broken and making things pretty scared her. She watched me inside and out.  Her being there made my house a home like it's not been since she took her last breath in the room where I type now. That was December, 2011.  My brother visited a couple of times and I asked him if my house was better or worse than he'd imagined.  He said better. Felt like squeezing the last bit of toothpaste from the tube to get a compliment from David the last few years, it took effort but was more satisfying than he would ever know.

Just after I'd finally finished the demolition and was looking forward again, one morning before light, it started to rain.  It was a blowing rain and so I needed to get up and check the windows.  Sure enough, things I wished hadn't gotten wet got wet.  I looked up at the sky light in the living room.  A splintering crack, there since I'd moved in, gave way so that a tiny, but steady drip of rain made its way to the floor. I grabbed a bowl and a towel and lay on the couch watching the lightning from the sky, and all around me listening to the hard rain until it became soft again. The morning's show was as spectacular as ever.
                                      ~~~~~End~~~~~
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I've always loved this quote.

~~Writing a novel is like driving a car at night. You can see only as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.

-- E.L. Doctorow


Anne Lamott also likes this quote and added,
"you don't have to see where you're going, you don't have to see your destination or everything you'll pass along the way.  You just have to see two or three feet ahead of you. This is right up there with the best advice on writing, or life, I have ever heard."  Whether it is or not, for me, is to be determined.  So I'll just add, it is what it is.
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If you get value from what you read, I and my house will be grateful for any donation at all.  I've never been able to reconcile writing a story or an essay and thinking I ought to be paid money for it.  But I'll leave another quote I like anyway. If I've done any of this, well.

"Artists do what they have always done - take the burdens of life and explain them, ease them, or simply ponder them. They carry that weight for us."
---William McKeen, Chair University of Florida journalism department

To be continued.

Next: This Land is My Land, This Land is Your Land

I had an idea to call my house, "Three Writers and a Fruitcake" and offer rooms and maybe breakfast, maybe even  guided tours, all on a donation basis. Of course, this name would be misleading.  I have a gecko garden planned, too.  There's a wide variety who entertain me daily, a sort of cirque du soleil on a miniature scale.  Maybe I'll turn my house into a roadside attraction.  Now wouldn't that be something. 

NOTE:  I have never been nor am I now involved in any litigation with any of the entities I mentioned in my blog description. Nor has one penny been paid from any of the same to me or my family for damages I now know were related to living on contaminated land, eating the fruits and vegetables from this land, and the fish from the Coosa River and other all around Calhoun and Talladega counties.  I write to honor my family, knowing that many hundreds, if not thousands also suffered and still do. I write to shed a light, like I always have, if nobody even says boo.