Growing up in The South, in South Carolina, our Summers were spent at the beach. Families and friends would rent beach cottages for one week to weeks at a time. The cottages were simple with outdoor showers, window AC units to cool us off, and as many beds as you could get crammed into the small bedrooms. We didn’t need anything fancy because we spent our days sunning on the sand, or riding rafts on the ocean waves. We spent our evenings walking along the shore, playing pinball in the arcade at the pavilion, or strolling out on the pier as the dark waves hit the pilings underneath us and music from the pavilion jukebox floated out on the breeze. The evenings were my favorite time of the day and there is one particular evening that is fresh in my memory. My family had rented a cottage on the beach and the bedroom I would sleep in faced the ocean. As usual there were several beds in this room. It was dark and I had gone to bed before everyone else that I would be sharing this room with. The bedroom window was open and I could hear the sound of the waves. It was so peaceful. Something told me that I needed to soak this moment in because I may not experience it again. So as I lay there, I opened my eyes looked through the open window, past the screened porch to the sand and the ocean lit by a big moon, soaking it all in. I haven’t had a moment like that since. Time passes and things change. The beach has changed, the simple cottages are now overshadowed by hotels and condominiums, or they no longer exist. The South has changed, cities outgrowing themselves, everyone in a hurry, and sadly we are losing our sweet Southern dialect. I have changed so much from that high school girl. I’ve traveled to many places and experienced many things away from the town where I was raised, but when I need to go someplace calm, I take myself back to that evening and the gentle sound of ocean waves.
During baseball season my husband and I are away from home for months at a time, so rare is it these days that I get to spend Spring and Summer in The South. Recently however, my husband was given a few days off in June and we would be spending those days in Tuscaloosa, Alabama with our grandbaby who I call, Poopsie. When we stepped outside of the Birmingham airport I was welcomed by humidity. Oh humidity, you don’t know how I’ve missed you. Yes, I actually thought that. After being out West in the arid air for months at a time, you would be saying it, too. I soaked up that humidity and breathed in some good Southern air. It was all rainy and humid and wonderful. The rain fell our first morning in Tuscaloosa, but when the rains stopped I decided to take Poopsie for a walk in her stroller. A good Southern rain seems to bring forth tender sprouts of memory from the roots of The South that I used to live in. As Poopsie and I strolled down the streets of the neighborhood where she lives, that familiar smell of mossy earth after the rain was heavy in the air and I thought of the times playing in my South Carolina grandparents’ backyard when we would be covered in that mossy scent and wet sand. Nannie would make us strip down on her screened-in porch before stepping inside her clean house. As we passed by the neighbors’ yards, the aroma of the honeysuckle growing in those yards brought back memories of my grandfather’s Tennessee farm. That rambling plant would grow wild along his barbed wire fences and we would pick those delicate blooms for their sweet nectar. The “Good mawnin’,” that I heard from the people we passed along the way on our walk brought me back to my great-aunt Sarah’s house. My Nannie and her three sisters would meet there once a week for coffee, my sister and I playing in the nearby den and listening to their beautiful South Carolina drawl as they sat around the kitchen table sharing the town gossip. The following day, Poopsie, Phillip, and I took a stroll along the banks of the Black Warrior River that runs through Tuscaloosa. As I looked past the trees growing along the bank, I saw two men sitting silently in their fishing boat, fishing lines in the water as they trolled quietly near the shore. I thought about those sweet lazy days that I fished for Bream with my father as we moved slowly and silently through the waters of the Cumberland River. Down somewhere underneath still exists that simple life, that simplicity of The South.
The sights, sounds, and smells of those few days spent in Alabama brought back so many precious memories, but both The South and I now find ourselves being engulfed by what the rest of the world has become. Life seems to be a whirlwind, a force of change we can’t hold back. Every now and then something will trigger memories that rain down and remind me of what once was. The memories rain down and bring forth from my Southern roots the tender sprouts of my youth, and I soak those moments in.
The Black Warrior River….. Tuscaloosa, Alabama