Time for an Arkansas interlude, an intermission if you will, from the raw, soul-scraping day to day of my childhood. There was Grandpa. There was Uncle Jerry. There was Berryville and Oak Grove. Ponies, gardens, morning glories, underground cellars and tree swings. Chicken farms, rolling green hills, Devil’s Hole for swimming, junior rodeos. Concord grapes and raspberries off the vine and fireflies. Headless chickens flopping around the yard, still squawking. A dirt bike and an epic crash complete with a trip to ER. Shepherd of the Hills way before Branson, MO was a thing. Another world.
We went in the summer sometimes, to see family. There was still church, but the rest of the time… freedom. Every kid should have a fun uncle. You know, the one who takes time to hang out with the kids, joke around, take you swimming. Jerry was that guy and my sisters and I adored him. He was AWESOME. Jerry’s two front teeth were a bridge which he could pop out with his tongue to great effect. We howled every time. He taught us how to swim away to pee downstream and swish around to get rid of the warm spot before we swam back. He came from a family of big loud people who all still lived in Berryville, or around. They were hysterical, obese and so warm and kind. I had never met anyone like them; still haven’t, I guess.
Years later, before Jerry died of a brain tumor, I went to see him. I had disassociated from my family, including from him. That’s my loss. Yesterday I found a letter he wrote to me after that visit.
I now realize what the Arkansas experience meant to you three. (Meaning me and my two sisters.) How little did I know of the constraints of trying to live your life in a box. Around us you were able to be what you wanted without worrying if someone was watching or whether your actions would be reported to the judges (and there were many) who sat on their thrones of self-exaltation and reported all infractions of the rules to the political elite. What a sham! If anything I gave you has contributed to the beautiful person that you are, then I am deeply touched and humbled. We never know what our lives are saying to others. That’s why it’s so important to be real and to always reach out to all who cross our paths.
I am grateful for these memories.