I’m from the South and proud of it; the land is my home, my birthplace, my history, my future, my last breath. Today marks the day before and the day before and the day before, to the land before my time, the land of my parents’ parents’ parents’.
She was beautiful, vibrant, flirtatious, fun-loving, and smart. He was handsome, quiet, serious, and smart. She saw him on the street corner every day coming home from work. She’d wave; he’d wave. He called; asked for her sister; such is a twin’s life. “She’s dating steady; me, well, I’ll look at my calendar.” After hearing pages turning over the phone line he heard her reply, “I guess I can pencil you in the weekend after Christmas.” He called again to confirm the date; “I told you I had you on my calendar.” And that was that.
He was a pilot; rented the town grass airport for a dollar a year; he’d pump gas for those that flew in; kept up the place and recorded any paperwork needed. Back in those days there were no fancy instruments in the cockpit; a compass and eyes familiar with the land from the sky was sufficient, efficient, and frankly safer than relying on beeps and buzzers and switches and screens obscuring skylines, horizons, rivers, trees, buildings, and the occasional cow. His head was in the clouds.
Her feet were firmly planted; roots ran deep, so very deep into the land of cotton ginned, milled, spun, and sewn. Farm land plowed by mules if lucky, by backs bent straining to fill the hungry mouths at home. Her father plowed, farmed, provided law and order, took hammer to anvil, which led to welding, his artistry restrained by the depression; survival came before revival. Her mother cooked, cleaned, sewed, canned, and preserved what he produced; a team of necessity, love not necessary.
His father, fifty when he was born, married a girl half his age. Fishing brought them together; a marriage arranged between this man and her father; sealed before they’d caught enough bream for supper; love-uninvited.
A boy then a girl followed, farmland their playground; he was whipped when a hideout they made in the sugar cane was discovered; she just watched. A bicycle was given, loved, then taken away; sister rode by grinning. When nothing more than a toddler his uncle ran to his rescue as his father, in a manic rage was about to throw this child into the fire-like he was no more than trash to be burned. I never knew his uncle; my life to him I owe.
Mom and Pop ran a hot dog stand between jobs at the mill. The twins loved them with chili and slaw and lots of mustard. Grandgirls running between their legs made it hard to serve their public. A dime got them a movie, popcorn, and a drink; they loved Mom and Pop.
Never knew their older brother, Sonny. He died just hours after birth. Wonder if a big brother would have helped the girls. Their beauty and popularity in town didn’t win them any friends at school; a hate club formed; their once friends joined; brother Sonny wasn’t there to stand up for them; wonder how his life could have changed theirs.
Families didn’t mix well; personalities clashed; accusations tossed; hurts multiplied; relationships stopped before they had a chance to start.
They stuck it out though, despite their families. Independently fierce, he flew into rages when needed; she stood her ground unmoved. I was born.