Home

Home

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

This summer I had a profound sense of homecoming in Sweden.  It was the first time as an adult that I had such a clear sense of belonging, of fitting, of getting to say, this is where I would want to be buried.  It was uncanny, lovely and ever-so-fleeting. Ten days and I was flying back over the Atlantic to that edge town I live in, where I can go to IKEA for a Sweden fix, but I can also go to the “La Antioqueñita” bakery and have a pandebono,  one of the essential foods of my childhood. Where my husband steers his boat up the New River; the place where a river town boy like he is, has somewhere to go when he needs perspective and relief.  In that strange borderland space called Southeast Florida, Sherod and I have been able to serve, raise our daughter, and be married to each other for 16 years.

But after a life-time of living in in-between spaces, I struggle to ever say I’m home.  I love our house and yet I’d sell it in a heart beat if I could.  Maybe that’s because  “home” has always been a promise for me. If I have felt like I lived at the edges, if there hasn’t been the perfect place for me, I’ve always told myself it was because I hadn’t found it yet.  Each time I have moved, each new address that got claimed as mine, has given me an opportunity to reinvent and redefine the meaning of home so I could feel like I fit.  By not ever allowing myself to say clearly and unequivocally, “this is my home” I’ve always left an escape hatch open for myself, a silent reassurance that I am not trapped or—perhaps more important—not too far out at the edges in the place where I live.

Being in Selma makes me stop and reconsider that notion, especially now, when Sherod’s retirement starts entering my line of vision.  We’re staying with Cosby and Marsha and it’s a pretty straight shot from their house to Cedar Hills and my mother-in-law, a lovely 3 mile walk.  I go by the old cemetery and I know that Sherod’s beloved grandmother, his Aunt Flossie, the uncle who died during WWII and whom Sherod was named after, are all buried there.  When you get to visit your dead, you are home in a way that I am not.  We sat in the dining room at lunch a while ago and I heard about Miss Callaway’s husband who had a white Cadillac in the late fifties—one of those with the fins.  Mr. Callaway had put mud tires on his Cadillac and Sherod still remembers watching him drive his Cadillac in the cotton fields.  As much as anything, when I’m here I rediscover that home is where the stories are and the people who remember enough to tell them.

Already in the 25th year of my marriage, knowing my spouse as I do, if I could wish anything for him, it would be this:  5 acres of land, preferably with a creek running  through, old trees including long needle pines, some biddies, a mama hen and a rooster all full of himself.  Certainly a duck or a goose—Sherod would love nothing more than to see a goose chasing an unsuspecting guest down the driveway.  There’d be a vegetable garden with tomatoes you pick and make a ‘mater sandwich with while they’re still warm from the sun.  An exuberant flower garden.  A front porch, a nice big front porch with rocking chairs and two or three worthless dogs flopped down sleeping.  This homestead would be right here, somewhere outside Selma, the place for Sherod to come back home to,  Selma, where he could pick the story back up and write the remaining chapters for the next generation–the Kevins, Amys, Clays, Nellies, Piersons and Kens–to laughingly, lovingly–to tell about Uncle Sherod.

As for me, I’m trying it on for size.  It is good that we have no immediate decision to make.  How do a tumbleweed and an oak tree with roots that go down deep in search of the Alabama River figure out things like this?

Alabama Wedding

Alabama Wedding

 

It was a sweet wedding.  The weather was perfect; Clay and Amy were both joyful. Sherod was eloquent and the Episcopal Church knows how to do liturgy, helps us say beautiful, meaning-laden words that take something sweet and make it more than that.

 

I got to be barefoot at a wedding for the first time ever!

And the children were beautiful…

This morning, the weather has changed; it is cold, windy and overcast. We head to Selma next.

 

 

 

The Gift

The Gift

The Wedding Rehearsal

Last night was the rehearsal for Clay’s wedding.   I have never particularly enjoyed big social events but Cosby, the father of the groom, is Sherod’s oldest, dearest friend and I get to watch my husband be himself with these folks in ways that just delight me. I first met Cosby in the summer of 1988.

On our way down to Selma, right after we got married, we stopped at a big university hospital in Birmingham. Harriet, Cosby’s wife, had been diagnosed with liver cancer and was there getting some experimental chemo.  We walked in the hospital room where Cosby was lying on the bed, holding his wife and talking quietly with her. She was obviously so sick. There were layers of awkwardness.  The Carmichaels had been good friends with Sherod and his first wife, Harriet was so sick. Very active, devout members of the Church of Christ with it’s biblical literalism and strict piety, Harriet and Cosby were daunting to me. I felt so out of place.  And they could not have been more gracious.

We made small talk for a few minutes and then Harriet asked Cosby about the presents.  First, he handed me a wedding present and asked me to open it so I did.  It was a handsome knife block that still sits by my stove in the kitchen of our house.  Then, with a somewhat sly grin, he handed Sherod an equally nicely wrapped present.  Sherod didn’t want to accept it.  In fact, it was the first time ever I saw Sherod blush.  It started on his neck and climbed its way up his face till he was beet red.  Still, Cosby, and Harriet, with her soft and weak voice, insisted he open the present.  He finally did.  And when I saw what it was,  I wanted to die.  Gotta call it for what it was:  the biggest, most obscene and awful looking dildo imaginable.  I was so embarrassed I wanted to climb into my chair.

Turns out this was a storied gift.  One year, Cosby’s family invited his close friends to join them at the Tally-Ho restaurant for Cosby’s birthday.  His mama, aunt, children and cousins, everyone was going to be there.  The Tally-Ho was (and still is) the only nice restaurant in town and this was also a special occasion.  So of course, the buddies with nicknames like Bubba, Skeeter and Greasy, decided to make it even more special.  One of them found this nasty piece of plastic and they decided to wrap it up nice, deliver it to the restaurant earlier in the day, and have the maitre d’ give it to Cosby during the dinner.  This collection of bubbas thought an anonymous gift would be just the thing to make it a real classy occasion.

During the day of the party, one by one, each of his buddies realized they weren’t going to be able to make it to Cosby’s birthday dinner.  All their reasons were legitimate—and then there was the moment of panic when they realized the gift was already at the Tally Ho along with instructions for delivering it right after the cake, that the serious and devout Mama G and Big Martha (matriarchs of the family), and little children, would all watch Cosby open this gift and none of his friends would be there to ensure this didn’t become a friendship-ending offense.  Those boys had to scramble to rectify the situation and if I remember correctly, they delivered it while they had their regular breakfast at their favorite truck stop before going out duck hunting sometime after that.  Cosby saved his gift because what goes around, comes around.

So there we sat, in this hospital room in Birmingham, Sherod, Cosby and Harriet laughing their heads off, I learning something more about my brand new husband, both delighted and horrified, with this enormous thing sitting there on the bed like another honored guest.

When we got back home, Sherod hid his gift in the farthest corner of the closet he could possibly find.  Soon after, we had the Senior Warden and his wife to dinner and Sherod made a point of showing Walter where it was and instructed him that if we were killed in an auto accident, Walter was to come in and dispose of that box immediately.  Still a new priest as well as a new husband, Sherod couldn’t make himself get rid of it but was scared to death of what others would think if they found it.  Just that makes me laugh all over again.

By Christmas of that year, Harriet had died and Cosby was the heart-broken daddy of three lovely little boys, Ken, Pierson and Clay.  Right after the holidays, the four of them came and spent time with us in Huntsville and I got to find out some more about just what a wonderful friendship existed between these two guys.  And about 18 months later, Cosby married Marsha, as a good a person as I know,  devoted to Cosby, those boys and the Alabama Crimson Tide.  (Last night as people came in to the rehearsal party, they all greeted Marsha by saying, “Roooollll Tide” and she answered in kind).

A couple of months after Cosby and Marsha got married, another Selma friend hosted a group of us at their lake home for a weekend of merriment and celebration in honor of the newlyweds.  And don’t you know that the awful ‘toy’ got all wrapped up, and brought out to be presented with much fanfare when we were all gathered toasting the new couple.  Cosby blushed as much as Sherod had.

Today, my spouseman is officiating at the wedding of a little boy I met 24 years ago, who was five and lost and heart broken without his mama and who’s grown up to become another pretty cool bubba, just like his daddy and his Uncle Sherod. I wonder when that gift will show back up because I know it’s around somewhere…