It Started With ….
John and I went to meet my former boss and co-worker, now our good friend, at a restaurant in North Carolina. As we waited, I noticed a goose sitting in the median next to a small bush, on mulch and tossed out French fries.
Children followed their parents into the parking lot. The van door opened. The children laughed and ran around it. None of the noise deterred the goose from her spot.
I wondered if the goose lost her way; if she did not know where the other geese had gone.
My husband had his little camera. I promise she is real.
A truck took a sharp turn, and the back tire went up on the median. The goose did not move. She stood up for 25 seconds, and nestled herself gently on the ground. John and I guessed she had a nest beneath her.
“Think about it,” he said. “She knows she’ll get food easily because people throw it to her. She is exactly where she wants to be.”
When we approached her, it looked like a nest lay beneath her. She was still in the same spot after our dinner.
I thought about how motherhood and family has influenced me—not only as a person—but as a writer. One of my clients told me in our Friday chat, “You are so lucky to have the family you do.”
My Six Mothers
My parents have been married forever, and filled my brother and me with love and understanding. I have an extensive family unit with my grandmother, aunts, cousins and uncles. Even though I do not see them as often as I did as a child, I know they are there for the good, bad and embarrassing. They are all across the state of South Carolina.
The family unit—particularly my grandmothers, mom and aunts—has influenced me more than I have ever credited any of them in person, except for my Mimi to whom I have always been attached.
Family–like my stories about girls, boys and young men–is the beating heart of many stories and Sons of the Edisto. Nothing has held a more powerful influence in my life than the women I call “My Six Mothers.” I told my mom I’m going to make it a nonfiction book one day.
Every one of them has a story, heart and character to make a comical and touching book. Aunt Sharon tore the ends of the early 1990s printing paper off at work and her house. She saved the paper for me. I needed paper on which I could draw my stories—in the time before I could write sentences. She also made empty booklets for me
Aunt Laura was the fun aunt. She also knew my mom—who knows I love her—knew nothing of fashion and some other important feminine qualities. She tried her best to teach me from any early age. This instruction included not wearing too much make-up, and piercing my ears in the fourth grade.
Aunt Martha is an educated, Southern belle with a unique sense of humor in what she says. She has looked at me as a daughter since she raised two boys. As she has often expressed, she wished to have a little more influence over certain aspects of my childhood, because I was “overly spoiled.” She taught me how to wash and dry my hair. Her nails felt like little pin pricks on my scalp. I still wash my hair the same way minus the nails.
Mom reinforced the values of education. She placed me with the best math teachers in high school, and perhaps poor English teachers—except for two of them. She knew I would make my way through English with flying colors. It was a miracle when I earned a B in math.
I loved all of them just as they looked at me as not just a niece—but as a daughter. They loved, cared and stood up for me as a daughter; each one under different circumstances.
My grandmothers touch a softer spot in my heart. Grandmother Dickinson cut cheese into little tiny squares over the sink, and put them in the grits after it was poured in a bowl. She never sat down at the breakfast nook. I began to believe she did not know how to sit down. My grandfather needed his coffee, fruit and pills. We watched the sun rise over the lake and wooden dock. The geese stood and made their way into the water as the orange ball of sun rose over the lake.
No one has captured my heart more than Mimi. She was born with the same soul as me. We are not quite sure from where our writer spirits come. Mimi and I have always desired to see something beyond our own world. She had a wish to escape small town Florida. I was always looking for the first ticket out of South Carolina.
Mimi and Sharon sat with me at an Italian restaurant in Columbia one Easter morning in 2003. I try to remember most of the details, because I was hung over from my first night of drinking ever. Perhaps not one of my best moments. I recalled the sunlight slipped through the windows. Mimi held my hand. They told me Grandmother Dickinson had died.
I wanted to runaway. I did not want to go to church. My love for my grandparents runs deep because both sides of my family represented best-selling love stories, hope and joy.
Three years later, Grandmother Dickinson would influence and become an inspiration for Sons of the Edisto character, Aurelia Jean Wilkins.
I always believed through a book I could give my grandparents the immortality they deserved. I could not stand the thought of them becoming just a name on the family tree in later generations. They are not the characters, but they inspired them.
I know I have written a long post for Sunday morning. Thoughts occur, and it had begun with a mother goose sitting over her eggs in a parking lot median.
What in your life influences you?