Mama ‘encouraged’ me to go away to college. Concerned that her easy-going girl would marry the boy next door, have lots of babies and move down the street, she took me on a tour of colleges that would satisfy my straight B grades and not demand too much of her altruistic middle child. She wanted me to taste the world.
We meandered through the South, interviewing eight colleges. One nudged my spirit while walking in the Blue Ridge mountains. Because it was the farthest away, and I wanted to show my mama that I COULD do it, I selected that mountain haven and changed the course of my life.
I left behind my friends, two sisters, three nephews and Mama. Our dad was gone, having left the family a few years before to sail in salty air. I took comfort in knowing that when I tired of my new life and turned for home, my family’s warm arms would always welcome me back. That was a misconception of my childhood that I faced head-on. You Can‘t Go Home Again.
When I returned home for my first school holidays, changes were already evident. Nothing was not quite the same. Most of my friends had stayed home, marrying or studying book-keeping or hairdressing at the community college. I was one of few who stepped outside of our boxes to experience that big world outside.
It was 1970. Kent State and Vietnam had changed our direction and I came home blue jeaned with flowers in my long, tangled hair, vividly aware of what was happening outside of our tight-knit community. My friends looked at me with the fondness often received from an indulgent aunt while my mother beamed with pride at the newfound worldliness of her gentle offspring. My sisters saw me as eclectic but tried to keep up with my changes.
I met a boy and fell in love. He had dreams that reached like rainbows far past the realms of my imagination. With him I began to imagine the impossible, to explore the world and find MY place.
A lifetime later; children, depression and loss later; I returned home one last time needing the loving arms of my sisters to revive my bruised soul. Regretfully I was met with suspicion and fear. My loving sisters were gone, in their place were shrewish women who had lost their sense of earthiness and family. Our lives had taken vastly different roads and our rock-solid unity had dripped away like melted wax.
Mama had been absolutely right. To remain behind would have ruined my sense of wonder. I am grateful that she pushed me out of her nest. I wonder why my sisters never followed.
Mama knew that I had many lessons to learn. She wanted me to stand tall and discover my power. In her sacrifice, she taught me that the only person that I can rely on, without a doubt, is myself. And to learn to trust in ME would be one of the most exhilarating lessons that I would experience. There was no other way to teach what she wanted me to learn so she set me free to fall, to struggle and eventually, to soar.
But more on that later…