July 11, 2018
I feel an epiphany drawing near. I can’t say it yet, because I don’t know it yet. But I feel it. Kind of like how you can feel the secrets of a place, from the old parts, from the untouched places, the places you can still find when you go out and away from the concrete. The secret stories to be told by the shallow salty waters or in the dark of the brackish backwaters; in the tales being whispered by the winds sneaking through the low blowing moss reaching toward the earth from the sprawl of the live oak branches. You don’t exactly know what they’re trying to tell you, but you know they must be dying to tell you, something…scandalous debauchery, forbidden love, somethings good, somethings bad, somethings naughty or tragic, or the sad longings or regrets no one wants to say out loud. I don’t know if what I feel coming is any one of those kinds of things, but I feel them. And they’re getting close.
I wasn’t born in the south but I was raised here since I was toddling on the verge of being a little girl, so I do consider myself to be somewhat of a southern girl. People will tell you that Florida is not a southern state and even though we do possess the southern most point of the United States of America, being south and being southern, are two distinctly different designations. If we were southern, we would drink sweet tea, but we don’t and I guess that’s proof enough for most. I’m telling you right now though, even though we may not have all the charms of a southern Georgia belle, or have the crazy voodoo of a southern Louisiana bayou or drink sweet tea, there is some mysterious, swampy, southern heat kind of magic here. The kind that makes the voice I hear in my head as I write these words, speak with a soulful, southern drawl. The kind of nature magic kind of shit that defies reason sometimes. The kind of mystery that blows in unexpected with an afternoon thunderstorm that makes no damn sense how the air can be so full. The air that is so damn full of water, it makes the hair on my head a catastrophe in the way of trying to look like it has a purpose.
To begin with, I do have unusual hair. It’s not normal. It’s thick and course and frizzy, the wet Floridian air only exacerbating the problem. I’ve had people ask me if it’s real then pull my ponytail to test my answer. A woman once told me she needed to touch it, excitedly squealing as she proclaimed it to be like a horse’s tail. I didn’t know if I was supposed to take having my hair compared to the hair that hangs off a horses ass, as a compliment or an insult.
When I was little I remember my mom trying all kinds of home remedies on my head to try and sort it out into something manageable. Warm stinky olive oil under a hot towel. Mayonnaise as a frizz taming hair conditioner. It wasn’t my mom’s fault, but I hated it. All through grade school, being made fun of, all through my teen aged years being questioned about what malady I suffered to make my hair look as it did or the mostly unspoken curiosity surrounding the ethnicity of my ancestors. I hated my hair. It wasn’t until I was a little older and could appreciate my uniqueness while simultaneously discovering that normal was overrated, that I learned to accept my hair, and just deal with it. And then, it wasn’t until I was a much more mature woman, that I learned to love my hair, simply because it was Icy Pearl’s hair. My great grandmother. Even though she passed when I was too young to know her, we were bonded with a special connection, by our hair. I have her copper wash tub as well. Story is, she used to boil her white laundry in that tub, over an open fire. She had cakes of blue soap she would shave off and stir into the boiling water to make everything a clean bright white. I was told Icy Pearl had an Irish red temper to go with her Irish red hair. I suppose I got that from her as well.
I was born an a Wednesday afternoon in early June. I came exactly in the middle of the sixties, in the middle of the week, in a hospital smack in the middle of Ohio. My mother was beautiful. My mother was young, her nineteenth birthday only six days prior to my birth. In those days, ladies in labor where knocked out with anesthesia to have their babies birthed without them pushing. My mom was one of those ladies. I have photos of newly born baby me, all squishy and puffy eyed. From the looks of me, it seemed I was no worse for the wear whether I was consciously pushed out or not. I don’t know how my grandparents felt about their oldest daughter getting married and having a baby so young, but I do know that my grandma, Virginia Ruth (Icy Pearl’s only daughter) went out and bought a rocking chair for me and her. She brought it home so she could rock and sing lullabies to baby girl me, my tiny head nestled next to her beating heart. I still have the chair. She kept it for me and when my son was born, she painted it white and sewed blue cushions. Knowing my grandmother as I do, it would’ve made no matter how I’d been born. I was the first born grandchild, of her first born daughter. Grandma would’ve loved me just the same no matter how I came into this world.
I don’t know all the family stories, or even whole stories. They’re more like story fragments. Names, dates, birth orders, maiden names and which kids belong to who and little tidbits of interesting kinds of facts like, grandma, mom and I were all born in late spring, about to be summer time. Three generations of gemini women right in a row, all exactly 19 years apart. I like to think it makes the three of us like peas in a pod. I wrote a bunch of the story bits and pieces once as a crude family styled tree that ran off the side of the paper, on my grandfather’s side, as grandma dictated the information. She knows the stories. She tells me as much as I can think to ask.
My mother, sweet and beautiful Sharon Ann, was born on a Monday, three days into the month of June. Grandma was nineteen and grandpa, who’d just come home from the war, was four years her senior. Grandpa came from a farming family with 13 surviving children. He’d joined the army to find a new horizon for himself. I heard talk that his older sister’s husband had helped him to get enlisted. I also heard stories that the walk to his big sister’s house was so long, it wore out the soles of his shoes. I don’t know how far it was for him to get from here to there, but wearing his shoes bare, seems to me like a long walk of determination.
A person’s history being important and all, needing to be known and the stories kept alive, what I know for sure about my future story and what might just be a part of the epiphany I felt coming, is if one day I have the opportunity to become the best grandmother in all of existence, I’ll know how, because of Virginia Ruth. If someday, the universe sees it that I should step up and tirelessly, selflessly care for my elderly mother with absolute grace and patience, I’ll know how, because of Sharon Ann. If I am fortunate enough to become an old woman one day, still full of fire, with long, wild, silver colored hair, I’ll be that woman, because of Icy Pearl. I’m their fourth generation. I carry their stories in the red of my blood. I am their legacy, my life being lived, because they lived. I carry their wisdom and unconditional love, in the marrow of my bones; their compassion and strength is in every beat of my heart; their fierce loyalty and protection of the ones they love, is in the flame that burns in the belly of my passion for life and love.
I am Dawn Louise, and I have Icy Pearl’s hair.