Bringing My Daughter Back to My Mother in the Appalachian Mountains
When past, present, and future collide
You’re driving down a two-lane divided highway. The heat of an August day surrounds you; kudzu chokes the road, threatening to spill into your path. The wet air hangs from the sky. It’s Tennessee.
You’re singing along with your daughter and the radio. She doesn’t mind that you sing off-key, and you pretend it doesn’t bother you. Both of you forget most of the lyrics. Where did this CD come from anyway?
She fills in the words she doesn’t understand, singing about dinosaurs instead of diamonds and taking liberties with the rest. She is three, and her childish interpretation is both amusing and insightful at once — an incisive commentary about the world and your place in it, her place in it.
The cicadas are screaming outside. It’s a scream that comforts you and takes you back to an elusive place, endless moments in heartbeat time:
Standing on a rough wooden porch guarded by cedar posts, watching raindrops flicker-fall from the tin roof. When the rain is light, you thrust your hand into the stream over and over, testing laws of physics you know nothing about. The heavy rains send fountains endlessly downward into the pebbled dirt of your front yard. You place buckets beneath the streams, not knowing why, but thinking there is something important about collecting the water. You watch for hours or minutes — one wordless moment — noting the silver of the drops, the thickness, the clarity, the pleasant sting on your hand.
Moving alone to the darkened grove of trees behind the smokehouse, where you never play because there are snakes. The wild phlox grows in shades of lavender and violet just beyond the fence. There is something in that darkness that beckons you, where the wildflowers grow each year, as if they know you will come back.
You walk beneath the sycamore towering in the corner of the yard, picking up its enormous leaves and wondering if they are ugly or beautiful, with their soft backs and incomprehensible breadth. Caressing them with one finger, gently, waiting for the answer.
You step along the gravel road with bare feet, keeping within the smooth paths that have been worn by the brown…