"I'm going to Carolina in my mind," so sang James Taylor. I've not left her, but I still feel miles away from where I've been. Tonight is a song of my homeland, a prayer for my people.
I want to talk about the Carolina of my younger days. I want to tell you about a place that doesn't really exist anymore. A place I was lucky to love.
I miss being waist high to a woman, blonde headed and green eyed. I miss taking a train down to Kingstree unsupervised and going to lunch with Aunt DeeDee and having tuna melts and chocolate malts at a drugstore-at what might have been the last drugstore lunch counter in all the South. I miss DeeDee's kind face, her smell of the laundry where she worked, with its big iron papes and terrifying boiler. With its office and its giant stapler and celluloid phone.
I miss the smell of gardenia bushes outside open bedroom windows. I miss sleeping with windows open and doors unlocked. I miss rain on a tin roof and ghost stories told with a straight face because they were true.
I miss boating down to Charleston from one family house to another. I miss knowing the rivers like I now know interstates. I miss the taste of brackish water. I miss my family's plantation, before I realized it meant we were once traders in the business of slavery. I miss innocence.
I miss black voices, Gullah voices. Their sea island lilt soothes me.
I miss the day when everyone painted their porch ceilings haint blue. I miss the charms my Old Women would make to protect the family. I miss the magic of seeing things for the first time, before learning that they were wrong. I miss green rooms and art deco furniture and the smell of wisteria.
I miss so much about my Carolina, the place I grew up. As an older man, I look and look. I search. I yearn. And I find fragments of the charmed place in which I grew. I find little filaments of a web once so breathtaking and rare. I find them, and I treasure them.
And although the South may be unraveling in ignorance and poverty-I count myself thankful that I saw it, just for a second, as I would like to remember it.
16 hours ago