Hurricane Memories

Brother and I huddled under the heavy, oak table on the old red corduroy chaise lounge cushion. It was a little more than a week before my tenth birthday, and he was only three and a half. We hadn’t been able to bring much, but I had my favorite teddy bear and Brother had his…

You Have to Float Before You Can Swim

Baw* taught me how to swim when I was four or five years old in Puppy Creek, a little tributary of Dog River just outside of Citronelle. We’d take the old truck and head off down the Prine Road and when it turned to dirt at the stop sign, we’d turn left onto the Lott…

How to Put the Scald on a Bird

It was Christmas day in the early double aughts, and it was just Sonny, Brother, and me. We’d thought for a few weeks about all the good things we wanted to cook for Christmas dinner and finally settled on fried chicken. To us, holidays are not about having the fanciest dinner you can have, but…

Lemon Jelly Cake

One of my favorite cakes is a Lemon Jelly Cake — yellow cake layers with lemon filling in between them and on top. No fussy, too-sugary icing (or Seven-minute Frosting). Just plain, buttery cake and a sweet, tart jelly. The recipe for the lemon jelly comes from my great grandmother, Ada Rowell, and I found…

There’s always room for one more

Brother balances the tinfoil-wrapped plates on his lap while I crank up Mama’s big Mercury, even though I’m not quite old enough to drive. The smell of turkey, dressing, and sweet potatoes fills the car. Brother looks a little scared as I mash the pedal to the floor slinging a little driveway gravel as we…

The magnolia tree and its gift

There is a cranny way back in the farthest corner of my brain. In that cranny lives a memory. Buried far beneath the births, deaths, tragedies, joys, holidays, and everydays that have piled on top of it, this little fragment has languished, long undisturbed. At least, that is, until the other day when KA-BLAP!!! Just like…

The pearl handle pocket knife

The pearl handle pocket knife. Once Christmas long ago Granny gave Baw a pearl handle pocket knife. A gentleman’s knife, it was a fine little thing, a knife you could take to church. No, it’s wasn’t any ordinary everyday knife to scrape the dirt from under one’s nails or sharpen a pencil. It was fancy,…

Murdering killers who might also be witches

When you live out in the country, isolated from neighbors, you take extra measures to keep your family and property safe.  My grandfather (“Baw” to me) was very vigilant. There was a gun behind every door, he had a pistol, and we had dogs that alerted us to any newcomer.  As an added layer of…

Sook and Sarah

I stood at the foot of her grave, the bahia grass tickling the back of my knees and a cacophony of summer insects loud in my ears. I hadn’t come to Monroeville looking for her, but I’d found her. Sook. Twenty-seven years ago, almost to the sweltering June day, I stood at the foot of…

The Walk — Part 2

One step is all it takes to begin a journey, whether it’s a thousand miles or only one. When I was a little girl I walked a thousand miles through Citronelle. With no one to look after me, I stayed at Mama’s office. More accurately, I strayed around Mama’s office. Left to my own devices…