Muscadine Lines: A Southern Journal

Change of Venue

The Anonymous Mother


On a hazy August morn in the mid ‘70s, I was college bound. My flight was scheduled to leave at 11 a.m., and I had the jitters. This was the biggest transition I’d ever made – goodbye to friends, parents, grandparents, and my hometown. Plus, I was going to have to give up smoking because smoking was banned at this college. “Oh, well,” I told myself. “I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it.” Yeah, I crossed that bridge, all right, about 10 minutes after touchdown. Smokers, like other drug addicts, have a gift for scouting each other out and finding great smoking hideouts. There is a dangerous recognition in addiction.

I have thought of that August morn many times. My parents were downstairs, spazzed out and scurrying around like hyped-up Coneheads. My father had irrational fears of being late to the airport, and my mother tended to chain smoke and twirl around in circles whenever she got nervous. Our family could have easily been called “The Frightened Family,” but that’s another story.

I remember climbing the steps to my bedroom one last time and sitting down on my bed. I’d lived there for years and never seen it in that way – “The Wizard of Oz” on the bookshelf, the window seat with a great view of the walnut trees on our downtown street, the built-in chest of drawers with socks and t-shirts hanging out of it. The bottle of Mateus on my windowsill with a melted candle stuck inside. The pewter piggy bank my best friend had given me for my sixteenth birthday. James Taylor’s “Sweet Baby James” staring up at me from the floor, reminding me that at least the song and its memories would remain the same.

I sat on the bed and noticed that everything seemed still, as if the moment were frozen in time. It was a new sensation – one I later felt the night my mother died – and one I am feeling right now.

It’s called change. I sat on that bed, aware that if I didn’t get out of there soon, my parents would have simultaneous heart attacks. But I took a long look around, knowing that when I returned, things would never be the same. It’s like that when you go away to college.

My daughter leaves today, and I know that when I walk into her room, that same stillness will be in the air. There will be childhood pictures left on the dresser and flowers left in the vase. She’ll leave books and clothes strewn on the floor, but they’ll be remnants of a life well spent, one that has already accomplished much. She’ll move on and she’ll do well, but things will never be the same.

I recently spotted a bottle of Mateus and envisioned a dripping candle sticking out of the top. “It would look perfect on my windowsill!” I told my husband, who had that “whatever you say” look on his face. For the life of me, I couldn’t understand why he didn’t get excited about a candle sticking out of a bottle of Mateus. “Do you know how long it’s been since I’ve seen this stuff?” I asked him. “I thought it was extinct!”

He popped the cork a couple of days later and turned up his nose like a pig in a slaughterhouse. “Skanky,” he said.

I turned on “Free Bird” and turned up my wine glass, anxious to re-live my ‘70s moments. After a few sips, I had to admit the best thing about Mateus was the candle stuck in the top. Life is full of realizations, some slow and some sudden.

Here’s a toast to the future, with all its uncertainties, and to the moments of our pasts, when time taps us on the shoulder and makes us stand still.

***

The Anonymous Mother lives in Middle Tennessee. In July 2000, the editor of The Daily Herald in Columbia, Tennessee, replaced a nationally syndicated humor columnist with The Anonymous Mother's weekly column because he felt the writing was funnier and reached a broader audience. “Anonymity is a big no-no in publishing,” she says, “but somehow this works. The mystique has created a certain appeal that allows for a freer voice through which others can vicariously live. I write about the things people feel but are often unable to express, and this provides much-needed relief for us all.”

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Muscadine Lines: A Southern Journal ISSN 1554-8449, Copyright © 2004-2012