The Road Home, Chapter 1

Guest Contributor, Judy, of somewhere in the Southwest.  This is one of (7) chapters to come. Come back soon…

“…The day sparkled painfully, seeming to shake on some kind of axis, and through this a leaf fell, touched with unusual color at the edges. It was the first time I had realized that autumn was close. I began to climb the last hill….”

-Deliverance, by James Dickey

It was not autumn, but summer that was approaching. The heat on the highway shimmered in the afternoon sun, and the smell of privet, once neatly trimmed and planted by the front steps of a long ago farm house, now growing wild and tall, drifted through the window of the car, and into my head, where it brought back memories of my early life on my grandparents’ farm, surrounded by my grandfather’s roses, shrubs of bridal wreath, snow ball, and wisteria vines dripping from the roof of the porch.

I began to have that uneasy feeling in my stomach, and I could feel the storehouse of my tears filling up behind my eyes. The panic of returning to the city of my former self was building rapidly and painfully in my chest. I closed my eyes and tried to pretend that I was somewhere, anywhere but here.

The traffic began to build, the closer we got to the city, and we soon found ourselves having to edge our way over so we could exit and take long-known short-cuts over surface streets. On the south side of the city, everything looked the same as it always had–dilapidated houses with peeling paint and torn screen doors, old buildings boarded up for decades, and on either side of the streets, hoopties were parked haphazardly. The people who lived in these houses had begun trudging home from work, from jobs that brought in only meager wages for all the hours they worked, and their slow steps and drooping shoulders told of sorrow and desperation in a city that had once promised deliverance.

After we crossed “Ponce,” the cityscape changed dramatically. There were well-kept lawns, and neatly cut shrubs in front of the homes in which many of our childhood friends had lived when we were growing up. Huge trees lined the streets, creating an archway dappled with yellow patches of sunlight. Winding, winding, winding, we finally reached the main street through the university. Here, all was changed. Huge new buildings were every where we looked. The little house in which I had lived in my grammar school and high school days was long gone, torn down, as were all the little houses on my street, to make way for more university buildings—for PROGRESS! “So be it,” I thought. I had no fond memories within those walls. It meant nothing to me that they were no more. The fact that I had no feeling for the place gave me some measure of comfort.

We turned off the main street and headed toward Mum’s house. The canopy of trees and vines began to thicken as we wound our way to her street. In its day, and even as late as 10 years ago, this area was sought-after real estate for its proximity to the C DC and the university. For all I know, it may still be. My own mother’s home, on the other side of the main street, sold only eight years ago for somewhere in the mid six figure range. If we could ever get that for Mum’s house, it could only be due to some serious divine intervention of the kind Lazarus received when he arose from the dead.

We turn into the driveway of a mid-century ranch designed by Rod’s dad with the help of a well-know Atlanta architect of the day, a friend not only of his but of my own father as well. The lawn looks neat and well-kept, but that façade ends when we pull into the carport and emerge from the car. Cautiously, I make my way to the kitchen door, being ever vigilant for something over which I might trip—some thing of the unwanted variety, carelessly thrown out and left for someone else to remove to the open trash cans beside the door.

I push open the door and step into the kitchen. Immediately the odor left by the two cats fills my sinuses. My heart sinks, and my brain screams out for me to take it anywhere but here. It takes all my fortitude to continue on. I close my eyes for a brief second, then regain my strength.

“We’re here!” I call. I try to make my words as cheerful as I possibly can. Rod walks in behind me, and together we make a sharp left turn into the tiny den. Mum is sitting in a corner, in her chair. I have to look twice before I see her.

“Hey, Mum,” I speak loudly, because she is almost deaf. “We’re here!”

She looks up, startled, and I am aware of her shrunken frame, her beautiful snow white hair, now so horribly thin, pulled tightly back with a clip, and her pale, translucent skin hanging loosely on her bones. Her eyes have faded even more in the last year, and now are a pale, watery blue. A glass of her favorite wine sits untouched beside her.

“Hi, darlin’!” she says. “Did you just get here? I’m so glad to see you! Is Rod here?”

“I’m here, Mum!” he says, and he is as dismayed as I by what he sees.


13 responses to “The Road Home, Chapter 1

  1. Love that photo of the broken window. Did you get the ones I sent today?

  2. I have read this series. It is a journey of strength and redemption, a tale of a woman who refused to allow the demons of her past to claim her spirit, her soul. It is riveting and painful and incredibly personal and I feel honored to have read Judie’s words, to have been allowed to revisit this memory with her.

  3. A poignant, and beautifully told tale of returning to your roots. Your descriptions really jump off the page. And I was feeling that uneasy feeling right along with you. So sad.

  4. Hi. Judie sent me over and I’m glad she did. This is some tight writing. Is this a short story or the beginnings of a full-on novel?

    I tried to see where to subscribe to your blog…do you have RSS feed? I’d like to follow along on this story but I have the memory of a dead snail and I’m worried I’ll forget to look for part two.

    Nice visualization.


    Where’s your copywrite on this post?

  5. Thanks for linking my photo back to my website I appreciate that..

  6. Such a tough journey… good thing you’re a tough lady. I don’t know if I could walk in your shoes…

  7. Heart-wrenching and heart-healing. While some of the sentiments are universally understood, they are still distinctly unique to Judie’s situation. Our “roots” have to push through a lot of darkness and dirt to get to that wellspring so deep in our earth!
    Thanks for sharing.

  8. This is such a poignant post, full of heart-breaking images but full of soulful truths. I look forward to reading more…more…

  9. I can feel the wind wrustling through the fall leaves lining the streets. The descriptions are so beautifully painted, and the story is growing and keeping me on the edge of my seat. The personal experience of this woman is reminicient of the struggle with our mortality in all of its glory. How we find the strength to carry on when it would suite us just fine to curl up into a ball and come out when its over. It is a lovely and heart warming journey and I want more!

  10. Sorry, I’m late commenting. Such beautiful writing on a journey filled with heart longings and very difficult emotions. Our demons may follow and taunt us, but we can overcome them with strength and determination and love. Judie displays the toughness it takes. I am grateful to read her stories and know that despite it all we can prevail.

  11. Judie has been a strong personality from the day she was born. Her life has always been about challenges and taking what is ugly and sad and all those things that put holes in your heart and turning them into images that are beautiful. It is the beauty of her art that fills our hearts as well, and now her words intensify the experience. Hers is a story that must be written and should be read.

  12. Sandra should know! We were closer than close for many years, until her father died at a very young age from heart disease. I will never forget the night he died.
    Our lives have been intertwined for more years than we care to remember. We survived!
    One Easter weekend we decided (actually SHE decided) that we should run away together. She was older, so of course, I went along. My father tracked us down and we were punished. We had to shell a bushel of butter beans, and we didn’t get to dye Easter eggs! Hard labor for two little girls!

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