She is on a road trip right now. She has covered a lot of miles in the family minivan. She wears a scarf over her bald head. And she’s excited.
She’s moving back home.
“I’ve been away for thirty years,” she says. “I don’t call it ‘home’ anymore, and I’ve even lost my Alabama accent.”
She drives the van with her two teenage girls in back. Ahead of them, her husband drives a moving truck. They crossed the Alabama state line a few minutes ago.
Her husband called her cellphone just to say, “Welcome home, darlin’.”
In the last week, they’ve passed the whole world at eye-level. The plains of Texas, the hills of Oklahoma, the greenery of Arkansas, the Mississippi Delta. They’re ending with the Yellowhammer State.
They’ve taken their time, hitting all stops along the way, doing roadside tourist things. They had family pictures beside a sixty-six-foot tall neon soda bottle.
They visited the Arkansas birthplace of Walmart.
They met an Ozark couple who dresses possums in Biblical costumes for riveting reenactments of the Last Supper.
They took kayak
rides on the Pascagoula. They ate ice cream in hotel rooms. They splashed in hotel pools.
She’s still recovering from chemo, but she is all smiles.
After a three-decade absence, she stepped foot in this state for the first time a few months ago. That’s what started it all.
“We came to Alabama on our way to Florida,” she said. “I wasn’t gonna do it, I was scared, but my kids were like, ‘Come on, Mom, we wanna see where you grew up.’”
Growing up. Yeah, about that. She had a bad childhood. Her mother and father died in a car accident when she was a teenager. She fell into small-town oblivion, and after that and never found her rhythm.
It’s the same old story. Another high-school grad from a small town shakes the dust off her boots and…