I Remember Being Happy

gully /ˈɡʌli/
noun
a ravine formed by the action of water
My earliest, concrete memory is from when I was five years old. I'm sure I have other memories from before that, snatches of trees, glimpses of my sister's faces. But they're like Anastasia said in her self-titled movie, "like a memory from a dream." 

But I remember being five. I remember the hand-me-down dress from my cousin Nicki that I wore, loved, and danced in. It was black and white horizontal stripes, and clashed fabulously with the pink and purple crown that my sisters made for me. I remember having a silly but oh-so-serious dance competition with my older sister Stephanie in the front room. I remember getting Barney bubble bath and placing it gingerly on the bathtub (still in what would become the hallway; my parents were always renovating and growing our little house in the woods).

I remember that I loved playing with my sisters. Want to play Power Rangers outside and pretend that the trees are Putties? Yep! Want to pretend the lawn swing is an airplane and we're about to fly to Paris? Just let me grab my passport! Want to play Scotsy Order Hotel and clean the entire house with the reward of your eldest sister cooking weird shit at the end? Uh...Want to play school where your three older sisters are all teachers and you're the only student? Also, there's a test before mom comes home. Um...

It never mattered to me what we played or where we gallivanted. I loved being in our sunny front yard, sun-dappled side yard, and shady, ravine adjacent backyard. I lived for sitting in the broken-down brown car and pretending to drive. I relished the days when we hopscotched and karaoke'd our summers away. Home was home. 

I only had two imperatives: 1) do well in school, and 2) have fun with my sisters.

Now, with a different to-do list for every aspect of my life, bills to pay, and people relying on me, I wish I could go back. 

But what, exactly, would I be going back to?

My dad, Roy "Frog" (dad, daddy, muffin, sweetie, Skint, uncle, brother, husband, builder, mechanic, grill master) Williams, built our house on a small hill in Daphne/Montrose, Alabama, in 1987. He built it with the help of his 8+ brothers. He built it with the help of my mama. He built it with the "help" of my toddler eldest sister. He built it because we needed a house and my parents couldn't afford to buy one. Enterprising people, my parents. 

I remember watching category one and two hurricanes from the screened in front porch with my dad and sisters. I remember my mom pressing my hair at the stove while I winced and pleaded with my sisters for help. I remember climbing down into the gully, terrified and adrenaline pumping, for the first time through a hole in the woods. I remember Easter egg hunts and Independence Day grills with non-regulation tin can fireworks. I remember trick-or-treating at my neighbors' house, the elderly couple who always kept small sacks of candy for us, the only kids in the secluded, tree-enclosed community. I remember Thanksgiving dinners and Christmas mornings full of magic.

Of course, not all my memories of my formative years are perfect. I also remember the days of "go find a switch," belts swinging, arguments and accusations flying, yelling, fights with my sisters over who knows what, and all the "more" that goes into living a life worth remembering. But when I think about home, my home, our home, I don't think about the time I tried to run away and only got 7 minutes up the road, or the time when I stepped on a nail that was sticking out of a board in the side yard, screaming like I'd been shot, and having my dad count to three and ripping it straight back out on two. 

When I think of home, I think of watching I Love Lucy reruns. I think of watching SNICK until it turned into Nick @ Nite with my sisters after we finished our homework. I remember finding kittens in the backyard and finding myself in those wonderful woods that surrounded me. 

I think of my doting, hilarious, fun-loving mother. I think of my handy, beer-swigging, outdoorsy dad. I think of my best friends in this life - my sisters.

And so, that's why it's hard to think about the fact that our house, the house that gave us so much and stood strong through so many storms, isn't the same. 

I remember crying when I realized that the wall in my sister's old room was caving in from water damage. I remember trying, and only very partially succeeding at removing years worth of pine needles and oak leaves from our leaking roof. I remember trying and utterly failing to rake the overrun yard - front, back, and both sides. I remember the mold and the dirt and sag of too many Christmas morning runs to the tree, too many heavy Thanksgiving dinners, too many frenzied Halloween nights of candy dumping and swapping, too many impromptu dance-offs, and maybe one too many movie marathons. 

I remember bawling in the aged kitchen while I looked at the crooked board over the window; the window that I'd stared out while I got my hair pressed at the stove, and the window I'd meowed at my cat Tracy from when I was bored. I remember crying to my mom, trying to convince us both that if dad were still alive, he could fix it all. I remember her holding me and telling me firmly that that was no longer true.

Maybe it was one too many hurricanes, supercharged by climate change, that forever changed its foundations. Maybe the house was tied to its builder, and when dad died from hard living and even harder loving, it started to decay as well. Maybe the house and I have too much in common, and neither of us was built quite right. Whatever it was, I know the home I pine for every day I'm not there will never be the same, and that's hard.

It's harder than teaching K-12 during a pandemic, harder than living in a patriarchal country as a feminist, harder than this master's degree I'm pursuing, and harder to cope with than the depression it's given me.

However, my dad built more than just a house and home for his family, he built us all strong and rooted, and I know he wouldn't want me to give up on myself, or on our home. So I won't. Ever.

Where I did homework and puzzles, ate countless meals, drank all the drinks, and talked about heaven, hell, and everything in between. 

Comments

  1. Absolutely beautiful. It so perfectly captures all of the contradictions...but most importantly, all of the love.

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    Replies
    1. Also, remember when pretending to drive a busted car was FUN?? Childhood is everything.

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