I’m cleaning, opening windows, recycling old stuff, tossing,
reorganizing, polishing, moving furniture, finding treasures.
This daylight savings time ritual syncs with the eruption of a wee brave crocus and tiny white snowdrops.
In the melee, I find a treasure, a perfect distraction from domestic inclinations.
It’s a picture of my sister and me in 1971.
This pictures tickles my memory.
There we are in Kentucky, freshly groomed ponies, hand me down boots,
noisy corduroy pants, a bit short in the leg and stride, posing with our dear friends.
I am led to seek respite from all tidying fantasies.
This leads to another treasure, an old essay about going and coming home.
And that leads to this…my foray into writing, an essay’s 21st century resurrection and very happy dust bunnies.
See that field? That’s where my mom practiced her elephant girl stunts at her father’s amusement park.
I want to smell the alfalfa, watch deer down by the river, and have wiener roast on the hill
overlooking my hometown’s red, white and blue flag water tower.
I want to see my family. I want my son to know parts of himself through his cousins, aunts, uncles and grandparents.
I want him to see pieces of my life, pieces shaping him.
There was a safe place behind a rickety barbed wire fence where my sister and I hid from an angry heifer when we patted her calf.
I want to dodge the fluffy purple-topped thistles and cow pies and kick rocks on the gravel road that leads to the barn.
And remember my chestnut filly, put to sleep after she re-broke her leg.
Her plaster cast had just been removed. She took great gulps of air and held her breath. I didn’t understand.
Then she was still.
I sort of had a storybook childhood, in a vexing perplexing Southern Gothic kind of way.
My grandparents owned an amusement park with a campground, NHRA racetrack, old zoo and water slide park.
It was a 20 minute pony ride from our farm.
My county vet father would often trade a distemper shot for baby chicks.
And once he got a pig and a fluffy fake fur coat from a farmer who was too poor to pay for his cows’ vaccinations.
He got Mason jars of moonshine and an assortment of wounded animals.
Little Screech, the owl, flew around our house surprising us with her accurate divebombs.
We nursed a three-legged fawn back to health. A fox lived in the fireplace.
I remember Sweet Charlotte. My parents raised her when my dad was in vet school.
Charlotte was a baby lion cub. When she started batting my sister, we put her in the zoo.
She died a few years later. It was for the best. She lived in a small cage.
Maybe that’s why Sam, the chimpanzee, chomped off my grandfather’s thumb.
Maybe that’s why Sam was so angry, a small cage.
One day Sam got loose in my grandparent’s house and terrorized my grandmother and Mrs. Rabold, her interior decorator.
They barricaded themselves in a room until Sam was captured.
I loved Mrs. Rabold. She always gave me Rolaids as a treat. Mrs. Rabold used to love our family stories.
She loved tales about the motorcycle gangs; how they tried to burn down the midway;
how my mom convinced the Hell’s Angels to be erstwhile policemen;
how my grandfather paid them with a truckload of Budweiser.
When I was 18 our house burned. The park was sold to Ronnie Milsap, a country singer, who promptly declared bankruptcy.
My parents waited 15 years before visiting the park again. It was a mile away.
When I visited I talked my parents into touring the old stomping grounds.
I’m going back to show my husband and my son a cherry tree planted in the campground when my Mom was born.
The park has re-opened and instead of a dime each for admission. It costs $15 a carload. We pay to enter.
The Milsap clan had sold the Tilt-A-Whirl, and the hand carved wooden carousel horses,
the Wild Mouse roller coaster, the Matterhorn, King-O-Slide, bumper cars and trampolines.
A parking lot replaced the roller skating rink, dance pavilion and the stage.
I remembered my grandfather drawing a winning ticket and giving the winner a wheelbarrow of pennies.
I remembered a stultifyingly hot day. I was dressed in a 20-pound fur chipmunk outfit with a beady eyed headdress.
My job was to entertain the visitors without speaking. Often I sat in the walk-in corn dog freezer trying to rehydrate and regain my wits.
All the years of stamping paid on the arms of the Hell’s Angels, inventorying chocolate nutty bananas,
cotton-candy sticks and pork butts began slipping away.
Pete, the 30-year-old white mule got hit by lightening. Purnell, the baby possum got stuck under the dryer.
Mike, the palomino who won “Warren County Barrel Champion” with my mom on board, got bad feet and died too.
Our dog Cephas died in the fire. Louise Butler, the family white-tailed deer, grew antlers and became Louie.
Heathcliff, the fireplace fox, found Mrs. Heathcliff. Dad sold my horse and his animal hospital.
I want to see if I can still hear my grandmother’s voice streaming from speakers mounted on the roof of her powder blue Grand Torino.
She drove through the park announcing her Bible classes. She would gather folks together and begin her ministry.
A flannel board with felt biblical characters was her medium.
My grandmother could also be found in the town square accompanied by an eager parolee.
They would stand, side by side, politely handing out Bible tracts to afternoon shoppers.
Her mission was saving people.
She sent Bible lessons to most prisoners in the county jail and said she sent one to Omar Khadafi.
Each lesson contained a quiz. She would affix sparkly silver foil stars after giving each lesson a grade.
Then she’d add a few personal comments in calligraphic penmanship asking if they had a job and enough food.
Certificates with big gold seals were awarded upon completion.
Many of her graduates became employees at the amusement park. I never completed my lessons.
My grandfather didn’t care too much for the whole speakerphones on top of the Grand Torino philosophy.
As my grandmother prayed fervently at dinner, my grandfather slurped his crumbled,
beaten biscuits out of a saucer of hot milk with equal gusto.
I want my son to see the field where my father lassoed some runaway buffaloes.
He sat on the hood of his truck. My mother drove. My father hooted and hollered as we bounced over rutted cattle trails.
I want to drive down a lane in my dad’s pickup, hook my arms over the window and smell honeysuckle.
The last time I did that I was 5 years old and the door swung open. I found myself suspended over the road.
Without a hitch in his giddyup, my dad asked me to get back into the truck.
I want to go back to the our secret hiding place. The place my sister and I found in the woods by the falling down cabin.
There we were cowboys. Our names were Bob and Jim. And my grandfather, well, he would slurp his biscuits if he were still alive,
look at my son, smile and just might say, “My, my, my.”
I returned to my hometown a few months ago. I found home was with me.