Friday, June 15, 2012

Hanging plants

I just finished reading "Bastard Out of Carolina." If you are a sensitive, "Woman's Day" kind of person, I wouldn't delve into this novel. If you like grit in your teeth, hair and heart, this is a book for you.

This is where the spoiler alert would go, but I ain't giving up the ghost. Suffice it to say, this novel touches on all things dear to my little black heart; broken men, strong women, poverty, young motherhood, peach moonshine and survival. That last bit gets right to the core of the matter.

How have we made it this far? I am in constant awe that I am 35. Awe and dread, because I thought for sure that I wasn't long for this mortal coil. In fact, 30 was supposed to be the magic age. I could feel the shadow looming by the time I was 27 years old. Life, then, was not good. I was sick of being poor, sick of moving from house to house, sick of being sick, sick of feeling guilty about my non-conventional parenting style. Sick of drinking and burying.

The woods were thick and I was so, so lost.

Sounds like a bad opening scene to a Nicholas Sparks novel (gag, cough, puke), but it's true. The tidal wave of life was drowning me, filling my nostrils with salt and grit. To think that humor and Maker's Mark were the taproots of my existence...sad stuff really.

And family, my god, family. The main character in the novel, a 12-year-old girl goes by the name of Bone, must have been taken out of the Dupont family scrapbook or something. I saw everyone in Bone, including myself. There was my daughter, an unofficial bastard, strutting around in her Converse, not knowing, never caring about the big empty hole on her birth certificate. There was my grandmother, snapping the ends off of peas, alternately weeping and humming listening to Carter family classics on the radio. And there I was, and there was my mother, physically numb to harm, living a tough life with a recklessness that many would deem dangerous. Everybody's washcloth, nobody's love.

Like I said, gritty stuff.

I will never know what happened to Bone, the novel ends pretty abruptly (and, of course, violently). But I can guess. Oh, I can guess. If all goes relatively well, she will be weeding the hell out of her garden one day and suddenly realize that she is worth something. A lot of something. She might even crack open a beer on her back steps and shake her head in disbelief and pride that the children are fed, the garden is yielding and that love is just the gravy on the grits.

It's a hellish road, but you have to start somewhere. You might even have to kick the crap out of that 12-year-old living inside you that keeps telling you that you are all that you will ever be.


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