North Carolina Back Road
My Dad (step-father) lived in Columbia, South Carolina for years. He married a woman who came from modest family money, whose father was nearby and growing older. She had family duty and eventually a full share of family money. This was fortunate for my Dad because he had run afoul the politics of advanced degrees in education and never could get his doctorate though he tried three times. My Dad was a poor politician and you have to be good at that both with educators themselves and with the parents too. He had a job for several years, first overseas, two tours as an administrator for the American Schools set up to support the diplomatic and business communities in foreign postings, such as Tehran, Iran and Dacca, East Pakistan. Then he worked in the states after his last doctoral attempt in Arizona as a Superintendent of Schools in Geyserville, California for about five years. After that he never worked in his field again.
When I returned from overseas with the family after the East Pakistan posting I watched the dissolution of an eighteen year marriage between my Mom and Dad. I was twenty-three at that time. My Mom eventually picked herself up and became a Unity School of Christianity Minister. My Dad went off to school in Tucson, Arizona for his third attempt at his PhD in Education. That's where he met his next wife, the woman who gave him the child he always wanted and couldn't have with my Mother.
They tried but she spontaneously aborted each of several times, even though she had birthed me with almost no trouble at all.
I had picked up a pair of women friends, younger and still in high school while overseas. One of them returned to the midwest if I remember right, and the other to Birmingham, Alabama. I was sweet on the one in the midwest and was in awe of the one in Ala. but thought her far above my pay grade. She invited us to Thanksgiving that first year back, so I went to Birmingham for a Russian ethnic Thanksgiving feast (in honor of her grandparents who emigrated from Russia) but I blew it big time. I was anxious to connect with the midwest girl and was completely surprised when the Alabama girl thought I had come to Alabama for her. If I had been smooth and willing to shift my affection it may have completely changed my life, but I lost them both of course. I would have happily lost my head and heart over the Alabama girl had I known that was possible.
So Birmingham, Alabama and Columbia, South Carolina. I flew to Birmingham and back to San Jose, Ca, already sick at heart for my mistake. The South for me is about the one that got away. The Columbia thing was a road trip from McLean, Va. through Virginia, North Carolina, and then South Carolina, there to stay for a week and then back home to Portland by air.
I think of the back roads of North Carolina in this poem. Some of the poorest people in the US live there.
Out For A Ride
What am I to make
of the back roads, the dirt roads
of the deep old lands
where the tobacco
grows even though we need quit
it's use, and ditch hemp
grows too and the heat
and humidity takes you
at mid summer noon?
What will I do if
my car breaks down in the dust
billowed up behind?
February 4, 2010 10:09 AM