Flowers Out of Bone
by Ethel Morgan Smith
The highway stretches before me like an open grave. My approach is as quiet as my exit had been nearly twenty years ago, when I was eighteen. I always knew I’d leave, but I couldn’t imagine how hard it would be to come back. After all, why would I want to come back to a place I had spent most of my life dreaming of escaping? But here I am, driving south toward Bone.
There hadn’t been a plan. One day I simply couldn’t come home anymore; and I didn’t. Not feeling close to my family, it didn’t seem to matter whether I came home or not. I could talk to them on the telephone anytime. And, of course, they could visit Emma and me in Atlanta, which they never did.
The first year I didn’t go home was by accident. My floral business, Classy Stems, had exploded into success; I needed to be around to hire new staff and oversee deliveries. The second year I didn’t go home because I was worried about my shipment of tulips arriving late from Holland. Emma asked if she could visit on her own by taking the bus from Atlanta to Bone. She wanted to see her grandmothers—Beauty, my mama, and Miss Sweet, her daddy’s mama. I was nervous about my ten-year old daughter making the seven-hour bus ride alone. But I couldn’t deny her all the family she had. And the bus driver promised he’d look out for her.
By the third year, I began looking forward to having a month during the summer with no home responsibility. July is so hot in the South and slow month for the flower business, maybe a few weddings or funerals. I could stay out late, spend a day at the spa, or just lounge around at home. Sometimes I had affairs.
The grace of the spirited sun guides us on the graveled highway. Maybe it is a sign that I can survive the trip. Draping Crepe Myrtles, towering pine trees, and the red clay feel familiar, but not missed. I’ll never know the love of land; it doesn’t bother me. I suspect it’s just one more of those American myths, like Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, and living happily ever after. What about the hate of land? Now that’s a concept worth studying.
I never dreamed that I would be Emma’s only parent. But I had never been able to see her daddy as the head of our household either. All of those years ago, he and I were just kids bursting with dreams. We got married and had Emma; and for a short time, we were three. After him, we were two. And now, when Emma goes to college, it will be one, me.
To Be Continued