My Humid Hot Alabama Summer

Me (with "fake hair" because learning to love your natural,
Afro hair is hard), Stephanie, Sam, and Dad
Twenty-one hours, four tanks of gas, and five pee/snack breaks later, I've arrived back home to spend a month with my mom. Home. A simple word that's packed with complicated meanings. 24455 Holy Cross Circle has never been just my first address, it's always been home. It's where I grew up with my three older sisters and two free-spirited parents.

It's where I watched Power Rangers and Sailor Moon and Dino Babies. It's where Snick and hide and seek and freeze tag happened. It's where I ran away from when my mom became too much for my teenage nerves to handle. It's where I had my first kiss, my first arguments, and it's where I learned what a family is.

My home is where I sat on the front porch and talked with my dad. My home is where I watched my mom plant and later kill many garden tomatoes and cabbages. My home is where I sat at the stove, paralyzed in fear, as my mother pressed my full, nappy hair. My home is where I watched Disney movies on VHS tapes and where my sisters played School with me as the only student.

Now I'm back for the summer. I'm back without my sisters and with the knowledge that my dad won't be pulling into the familiar driveway ever again. It'll be just me, my mom, decades of memories, and our collective grief.

So here I sit, in the small parking lot of the Elizabeth S. Yelding Park, siphoning internet and staring at Macedonia Missionary Baptist Church across the narrow strip. It's the church I was baptized in and the church that held my father's funeral service. We still don't have internet at the house and the library's closed for the day, so sitting in my car in the rain in front of my childhood church it is.

Dad sitting Mom down for a breakfast he cooked
Being here alone, just me and mom, also reminds me of how important Dad was in making Alabama home. Without him, there's no one to tell me it'll be okay when mom starts grating on my nerves, something that has already happened twice and we're only two days in. There's no one for me to talk to for hours on end, no one for me to roll my eyes in unison with, no one to help me relax and unwind. It's just me and mom, two tightly wound people who seem to have lost our glue somewhere in the Southern summer humidity, carried off by mosquitoes and millipedes into the darkness that surrounds our house now.

If dad were here, he'd fix the leaking roof and creaking faucets and crumbling walls. He built this house 27 years ago and he wouldn't let it fall apart around him. Or maybe he would - he was a different person after he became too sick to walk for long distances or see and hear well. It's hard for me to reconcile the dad of my childhood and teen years with the father of my late twenties. He was very much the same, but the fire wasn't there and I could tell that his physical incapabilities are what took most of it away.

So now I'm here. I have graduate school applications and freelance writing and selling my car to keep me busy for the next month while I squat in my sister's old bedroom, but still my mind races 24/7. I love and adore my mom, a woman who has become one of my dearest friends as time moves on, but it's hard not to miss what home used to be when we were all in it. It's dangerous to be back in the same place I cherish but with almost everything changed. No dad, no sisters, an aging house that's lost it's "homeyness", and almost three decades of memories that I can never fully relive.

If home is really people and love and not man-made structures and windows, then I think my mom and I might be homeless for the first time in our lives. However, I'm glad we have each other to have, to hold, to irritate, to joke, to sit, to walk, to cook, to live with for the next few months.

You leave home, you move on and you do the best you can. I got lost in this 'ol world and forgot who I am. I thought if I could touch this place or see it, this brokenness inside me might start healing. Out here it's like I'm someone else, I thought that maybe I could find the house that built me.