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Sunday, April 10, 2011

This I Believe #11, 2011













The last one. ):

Due by noon on Friday, April 15th.

**Note: the above image, captured on our initial tour of the neighborhood, will be featured on the cover of the chapbook of This I Believe essays this year.

7 comments:

  1. I am a farmer’s daughter.

    When I was a little girl, Granny Mac and I would play dress-up, watch soap operas, write spelling sentences, and eat hoecakes while everybody else stripped tobacco, or did the cattle round-up. I read books when I could’ve been learning to rake hay. When I was at the tobacco barn, I did my best to sit in the black swirly chair reading the comics or planning the seating arrangements for Thanksgiving family dinner.

    Once I was old enough to realize how proud I was of my farming heritage, and not just because I knew where milk came from, as well as realize how much I was missing, it felt too late. I have a memory, I don’t know when it’s from, of walking down the lane and feeling like I wanted to belong there, to feel a connection to the land. I had already struck my stick in the ground, saying I was something else: a scholar, an academic. I was wrong.

    Though I think I’ve known it for a long time, I realized I was a farmer’s daughter sitting in an exquisite home on an expansive farm on the outskirts of Lexington. Coming to the city made me realize just what a country girl I am.

    First, though I avoided it I have stripped tobacco: Box # 3, Red. I’ve kicked corn, moved palettes, and climbed the rafters of a barn.

    But being a farmer’s daughter is more than owning a pair of cowboy boots, getting your first driving lesson in a pickup truck in the middle of a field, or thinking stringing green beans is fun.

    I believe that being a farmer’s daughter is knowing what willy is, and having some. It’s understanding the sacred beauty of land, being at peace when all you can see around you are trees, fences, and a few cows. It is appreciating what humans can do if they try in cooperation with the world and each other. It’s knowing dedication, hard work, ingenuity, and a bit of stubbornness will lead you far. It’s knowing that all you really need are the people you love. It’s cherishing a family dinner around the kitchen table. It’s simplicity and complexity in the kitchen.

    I believe very intelligent men taught me these lessons from the honorable work they did side-by-side every day.

    I believe I am a farmer’s daughter. And that one day if I have a little girl she might not just be a farmer’s granddaughter, but a farmer’s daughter too.

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  2. five things surprised me that day.

    one – the rain had finally let up, leaving the sky a cloudless, brilliant blue. i had not seen the sun in days, and yet there it shone.

    two – we made eye contact, she and i. i was walking as she drove by. our eyes met briefly, but notably. we had been out of touch for over a year, despite the fact that we still lived on the same campus. her choice.

    three – she was standing beside me. i turned my attention from the others for just a moment and discovered her, less than two feet away. she looked at me intently. i noticed the tear stains, her quivering lip. i opened my arms.

    four – she fell into me. she fell into my embrace and fell apart. i wrapped my arms around her ever-shrinking body, whispered hushes into her ear. she cried. gasping for air, for life, she let it all go in the safety of my arms. i took her hand and led her to a table in the sunlight, not unaware of the two long cuts above her ankle, nor the tissue paper binding her delicate wrist.

    five – she let me be there for her. for two hours i gave her my words and tried to convince her to hear them. for two hours i gently wiped away tears and kept my arm around her as we walked. for two hours i gave everything i had to try to help her, just like i always had before. and this time, she let me.

    i believe in being in the right place at the right time.

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  3. I sat down, ready to watch another bout of cartoons. Armed with my trusty bowl of cereal, underwear, and a “children’s” reclining chair I was ready for the action to begin. Immediately, I am in tears from the copious amounts of zany actions and improbability happening before me. Bugs was his usual snarky self and Elmer Fudd his clueless style. After the cartoons were over, I adorn some more natural clothing for going outside (minus the shoes) and begin playing with the neighborhood children. Mischievous rascals one and all, we get into all sorts of trouble (well, more like “harmless” trouble really). Climbing mounds of dirt, jumping in creeks, and messing through that junk yard were our favorite activities.
    One time, during our adventures, I had decided to climb one of those large red and yellow toy cars (the brand name is unknown to me). I quickly conquered it, but the wheels decided to have a little victory of their own. The toy car shifted unexpectedly and I fell to the ground, and broke my elbow. As a child, I cried till my eyes felt dry. Skipping the arduous story of rushing to the hospital, fast forward a week to the next Saturday. Again, cartoons with cereal and my “recliner”. Afterwards, my friends come to play with me outside. At first I’m apprehensive…until they pull out markers and ask if they want to sign my cast. One hour later, it looked like my encased appendage was multi-colored arm cannon…and that’s what we pretended it was that day.
    I believe in Saturdays.

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  4. Because writing about art, community, or boiling the ocean would be predictable and potentially boring like an essay about religion,

    because though it was an assignment that I accepted, like you, I have not yet adopted a tree,

    because my hands have been busy pressing paint and pushing paste against patterned brick and no time has presented itself for pruning,

    because Archie would like to be pruned from all photographs, Herald-Leader quotes, and the general understanding of a class that he has helped to teach for three years even though he has become so committed to the students that he plans to attend graduation,

    because Kremena writes essays about students that I cannot compete with,

    because her words make students cry,

    because I only make students cry when I accidentally hit them in the curiously-on-looking face with my large back-swing when I pound nails in with a hammer,

    because I cannot write about books, crazy monsters on Basset Avenue, forests, the goodness of children, dreams, spring, books, clutter, Squirrel Nut Zippers, sounds that transcend homes, flour, depressing truths, Cody’s home, books, breaking the rules, determination, the fact the Katie may not be broken, doodles, escape, ice cream, sleeping in, being empty, sticky-tack, or lists,

    because you have already taken these options (even though, I should say, typically ice cream is mine),

    because of all this, I had to find something else and I found it at the HopHop,

    because she pulls her toes in like a pigeon to cradle her black purse while sitting on faded orange pleather,

    because she will probably never join Kremena’s dating service (something both Kremena and Marty are sorry to hear),

    because she still believes in her son even though he collects dirtbag friends,

    because her glasses are more hip than his,

    I believe in Clay’s mom.

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  5. We are told it is bad news if we sneak in a cell phone. We are checked for proper attire and valid identification.

    The men in uniform articulate each word with precision, as if we are hard of hearing.

    We are told those to be sworn will climb two sets of stairs. The guests can take the elevator or follow us.

    “They want to know you are fit,” my accent-less American husband assures me.

    We are asked if anyone is from Kazakhstan. Rumor spreads that the Kazakhs—numbers 43, 44, and 45— are stuck in morning traffic. They are driving from Paris, someone offers. The man in a Christmas tie doesn’t flinch.

    My Canadian friend says the man in the Christmas tie looks like a lackluster lieutenant. I suggest
    that he is an actor: perfect in his depiction of jaded efficiency, nothing personal.

    While we wait for the late Kazakhs, the man in the Christmas tie asks if we have questions. Like us, he is passing time.

    I inquire why we must climb the two flights of stairs. He explains it’s like herding cats: they need
    to keep us in order.

    We are told that God will or should save the United States of America before we are asked to introduce ourselves.

    “I am Jazmin from India. Now I live in Frankfort,” the short woman 3 seats away whispers. Miguel from the Philippines drove here from Florence. Abdullah from Somalia came from London. We are all cosmopolitan: citizens of the world.

    We are asked to recite the Pledge of Allegiance. A dozen 5th-graders in Sunday best lead our public delivery.

    I offer my Mexican neighbor a cough drop. We discuss how to tell our facebook friends about becoming American.

    The judge sends us away with the story of George, a man who became something because his immigrant parents set goals. “You too should work hard like Gorge,” the judge waves his finger.

    When the Daughters of the American Revolution tell us America is the greatest nation on earth, I look at my once-Canadian-now-U.S. citizen friend. He doesn’t meet my eyes.

    We carry China-made American flags back to cell phones locked safely in glove compartments. 25 minutes after becoming American, I still believe in the self-worth of immigrants and I wonder if this belief disables me from belonging.

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  6. They’re too cliche when placed in murals, a sentiment with which I happen to agree. I had no idea what to believe in, until my roommate came in and glanced at my blank document and ruffled my hair.

    I believe in hands.

    Not because they are an over used icon in a sea of new and old art, but because they are the tools we must use to navigate our world. I believe in hands because they can be soft and slender and cold, or warm and calloused with bent fingers and scars. Warm and worn smooth, or angular and covered in smeared graphite. I believe in stories, and hands tell stories.

    Hands work hard. Hands have rebuilt the neighborhood where a man plants vegetables in his front yard. They guide hundreds of pounds of metal machinery, they scritch behind the ears of kittens who watch them type essays with big curious eyes. They adjust glasses, lift weights, and make you jump if you are not expecting them in your hair.

    I believe that my hands are moving more quickly than I anticipated they would have to to finish this particular essay. I believe in hands. Hands help us experience our worlds in ways our eyes cannot, their experiences make the discussions of sex on the stairs while slightly horrified prospective students edge around our class, and their parents look nervously at my professor who is laughing loud enough to draw the attention of even those standing outside the coffee shop.

    I believe in hands because when my roommate finally speaks up instead of just using her hands to navigate my startled hair, while laughing, she asks:

    “What are you writing about this time?”
    “Hands.”
    “I don’t believe in hands.”

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  7. We met her while pulling an all-nighter my freshman year.

    Some friends and I decided to go on a cruise to take a break from the coffee and Adderall and we had just sparked the bowl as we were coming up the overpass on Leestown Road by the cemetery.

    I was only going about thirty, thirty-five maybe, but I had to slam on the brakes by the time I saw her standing in the middle of the road at the hill’s crest--waving her arms.

    She was a middle-aged Black woman, and due to the circumstances--it was about three in the morning at the time--I got a little freaked out and went to lock my doors. But I failed.

    So she hops in the backseat: "Crack deal gone bad! Crack deal gone bad! Go! Go!"

    Pure terror at this point, I hit the accelerator.

    My friend sitting shot gun keeps telling me to stop at the Speedway and make her get out--but it's closed and the haggard woman's frantic story already has me concerned. She says someone is after her, that the deal went sour under the bridge, and she ran up to the road hoping there would be a car. She says he's right behind us.

    So I keep driving.
    And the truck turns off after a few minutes.

    We try to calm her down. Ask her where she needs to go. She tells us her name is Crystal.

    Eventually, we made it back downtown near the Courthouse. And just as suddenly as she came into our lives--"Hold on, let me out right here, that's my cousin"--she was gone.

    I still think about her, as is evident by my saying this now. I've had time to think about it, and I'm not sure how much of her story I believe anymore. But I don't think that part matters. I still worry about her and I'm still glad that I stopped.

    I believe in the reality of drugs, the humanity of the people using them, and the need for us all to acknowledge them both.

    I believe in Crystal.

    ReplyDelete