By Stephanie Elaine Cavanaugh - http://stephaniecavanaugh.com
She moved through the Ohio countryside and insignificant town of her youth in what felt like slow motion, captured in her mind like those photographic exhibits that linger, without popularity, never instilling the excitement of new exhibits, but always there in the back museum corner collecting dust. She was leaving it all for Atlanta, city of promise, finally saying goodbye. She sat in the parking lot of United Dairy Farmers, eating her last UDF peanut butter hot fudge sundae without cherry, as she racked through the images in her mind, making sure it was all there. These memory snapshots weren’t as much physical landscapes as emotional ones, although some of the physical remained. Mostly, they were landscapes of feeling and internal battle wounds.
She saw the old two-story grey farmhouse, set on 14 acres of country, converted into a Christmas tree farm, where she lived most of her childhood. The landscape was beautiful in the summer, always lush and colorful with every variety of flower and plant life. Her father was trained in landscape horticulture and the acreage was his playground. She spent many summer days with scraped, dirt covered knees, the grass between her toes, exploring. There was the pond full of giant catfish, the row upon row of pine, the apple orchard behind the barn, the gardens of strawberries, giant pumpkins, cantaloupe, and herbs. In the fall, the land withered away like death’s doorstep, warning of the coming winter misery. Winter soaked into the bones like an icy sadness, while strangers came to kill the pines. Spring brought with it the smell of daffodil and hope for another summer whose visit never lasted long enough.
Inside the house, though the sinking back porch entry where her best friend would greet her with a bark and tail wag, sat the wood burning stove that brought an inch of relief in the dead of winter. The old brick floor lead way to the kitchen where she used to help her mother make pizzas from scratch. There was the dining room and the old round wooden table, used more for playing cards than eating, and the living room of Sunday movie nights. The walls that once held whisky, bullets, a handmade doll and baby shoes from the 1800’s; discovered the year they gutted the room to remodel, were now a cream color with stenciled heart patterns above the wooden half wall paneling. Up the narrow, steep staircase that creaked with age was the attic, her old bedroom. She loved her room most when it stormed. The thunder would roar its power as the rain pounded in torrential sheets of rage against the metal rooftop. Her heart would dance and energize at its strength, leaving no lack of respect for mother nature. This tiny spec of a place on the globe held summertime happiness, but past it, the landscape was cold and bleak.
She took a breath and a mouthful of ice cream.
Now, she saw the little town. But more than the physical buildings and roads and places, she felt the town. She felt alienation, fear, loneliness, and misery, followed by the intense desire to escape its chains and the vacuum of its black hole. There was the cruel tease of classmates for her glasses and love of books. Their malice towards anyone different with razored words and swinging fists. She remembered her classmate, the poor red-haired handicapped girl, repeatedly sexually harassed at her desk because of her looks and funny laugh. The gossip and rumors and everyone in everyone’s business, and the cruel teenage chatter when she was sent away to live in the children’s homes and later raped. She felt the weight of no escape and the whole white conservative region trying to swallow her whole with its uneducated ways and cultural emptiness of boys, marriage, sex, babies, drinking, and drugs. No intellectual stimuli, no cultural diversity, science, or art. The town was void of color, emitting only the drab grey of insignificance.
In front of her, stood the United Dairy Farmers ice cream and gas station convenience store where she once worked. She sat in her black Honda Civic, overflowing with clothing and possessions, a small puddle of ice cream goo in the bottom of the otherwise empty pink and white striped cup, not so different from the town itself. She started her engine, her cat by her side, and shifted into Drive.
About the Author:
Stephanie Elaine Cavanaugh - Hi, I'm Stephanie ... pleasure to become virtually acquainted. Please note the views and opinions communicated here are my own and not representative of any particular group or organization.
Interests, ever-evolving: Photography, painting, art, science, medicine, astronomy, yoga, travel, the world, culture, language, education, women's rights, human rights, making the world a kinder, more beautiful place.