The New South

A few weeks ago, I was in New Olreans, reuniting with old friends. There’s nothing like extreme isolation and a collective language barrier to bring people together. We walked old streets, told stories of our new lives, and considered one friend who couldn’t make the trip. An idea hatched – we had to get Ed a souvenir. But what?

The city was filled with street artists. Despite my lack of visual sense, I could at least identify things that thrilled me. Oh, that tree is growing goats like fruit? How much do you want for it? Most ran from fantastic to psychedelic, and held an intense faux-French flavor.

In the midst of painters, palm readers and those creating caricatures of old married couples from Alabama, we found a young man in a tattered jacket, sitting on an old crate and working from a typewriter. For twelve dollars, he composed a piece of flash poetry for Ed. It was quite good, too – that night, my friends and I took turns reading the poem aloud, offering our own emphasis and voice to personal interpretations of the meaning. In retrospect, they were probably just pretty words strung together in sixty seconds like a gypsy necklace, but still: impressive.

Wandering alone, I found a photographer who specialized in period piece costumes and sepia. I offered it to the group, two-part humor and one-part nostalgia for similar photos my awesome family took when I was younger. My friends agreed, enthusiastically.

ImageReviewing the costumes, we quickly realized that a) we were not up to cross-dressing, b) rumrunners are for people sans imagination, and c) there were not enough Union army costumes to cover those in the group who lived in the north. Though there were four Confederate costumes, I was the only one who lived south of the Mason-Dixon.

The grey uniform and the Confederate flag are still loaded symbols. That’s understandable. However, my friends showed real hesitation at the prospect of joining a lost cause. We compromised by writing a new ending, complete with individual characters and personal motivations. After a few failed poses and an impatient photographer, we struck on our own interpretation of the divide between North and South.

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Out of the Mouth of Babes

1) We’re transitioning to summer camp now, while the grass in my tiny yard accelerates. Last week we held our last club of the school year. Between games and celebratory milkshakes, we talked about Luke 24 and the resurrection. A seventh grader posed this brain-exploder:

“So after evil is defeated and Jesus comes back, God says he’s going to recreate the world, right? But won’t we still be tempted to sin? What if it starts all over again, like a cycle.”

To which one of the easily distracted kids said, “WHOA – WHAT IF THIS HAS HAPPENED BEFORE?”

Brain exploded.

2) On Wednesdays, I tell a story to our after school program, a collection of surly third graders from an elementary in Springdale. Currently, we’re on a series about Robofox and his best friend, Charles the Mouse. Charles has a tiny bow and tiny arrows. Robofox has two metal legs that can transform into many things. Through the course of the narrative, Robofox’s legs have been wheels, magnets, grappling hooks, flamethrowers, lightsabers, and a time machine.

After I finish, the program director asks the kids to recite the story. Then he’ll ask, “What would your arms turn into?” Aside from a few direct answers, we get these:

“Snakes!”

“Money!”

“Horses!”

“Medusa!”

The idea of a horse attached to each arm is disturbing and unlikely to be helpful. I’d like to know who taught Jose the word, Medusa.

3) Holly and I ate dinner with my parents on Thursday, celebrating an early Mother’s Day. I called my brother to warn him that there would be presents, and he claimed he may not bring one. He lied, and brought a 20-pound stoneware bowl. He said, “I got you so good!”

My nieces and nephew were there, climbing on the kitchen drawers and using the cast iron fireplace tools to clean the family room. I tried to stop them, afraid that they would rip the nobs off the gift wrap and ribbon drawer. My mom stopped me.

“I learned this lesson long ago,” she said. “If I own it, grandkids should play with it. You know, John Owen (my twelve-year-old cousin) said it best to my momma: Why would a grandma have a bed with poles you can’t swing on?”