That’s it!! Last night I dreamed of my childhood home and it was beautiful. No, it wasn’t an exotic faraway place with streets named after rare birds. Nor has it ever been listed on Forbes “Best places to live”. As a matter of fact, I can say with a certainty that most of you have probably never heard of it. I have lived in at least 10 of the most desired cities in America, places that were rumored to guarantee the highest lifestyle achievement. Hilton Head Island, South Carolina was one of them. I loved it there because it was the most reminiscent of Africa to me. Home to many of the descendants of the enslaved people from West Africa mostly Sierra Leone, now known as the Gullah-Gechee Nation. I was fascinated by the culture, food, and people yet saddened by the bittersweet reminders of the dark times of life in slavery after the middle passage; they are all there. Yet even on Hilton Head, it was like watching daily through a glass window as a spectator would. I came to learn that sharing the same experiences provided a certain bond between people, but it’s like a distant cousin who you have never met coming to live in your house. Although it isn’t deliberate, there is slight unavoidable disconnect in the relationship.
The beautiful place I dreamed of is Malvern, Arkansas, a tiny town in Hot Springs County that Wikipedia describes at the “Brick Capital of the World”. Now hold on, before you start calling your travel agent booking flights to Malvern. Let me tell you why I am going back. There is a certain point in your life when you realize the years ahead of you are much fewer than those behind. A memo from heaven in the form of failing memory, eyesight and aches in places you didn’t even know had sensors, but nevertheless, the message is still a wake-up call. “Take time to smell the roses”.
I am not sure if I have ever noticed one brick when I was growing up in Malvern. Brick and mortar had nothing to do with my love for this special location. Let me tell you what did; Louise & Hartsell Smith in my opinion, were the epicenter of the world. Out from the two most wonderful grandparents on the face of the earth flowed streams of love, acceptance and memories that have sustained me to this day of how it feels to be really, truly loved without requirements. So, armed with determination, the spirit of Christopher Columbus and the heart of a child longing for home I am leaving good ole Atlanta, the most current locale of unfulfillment. Oh I am not blaming the ATL, neither am I pointing the finger at anyone. I am yearning for my oyster shell, where the sand in my life can become a pearl.
Sure there are things I hope aren’t waiting for me; the segregated movie theater where the African Americans could only sit in the balcony. Hopefully, the colored and white drinking fountain has found itself in a civil rights museum up north and I am already aware that, Wilson, Malvern’s colored high school is no longer in use. Sadly, my grandparent’s home is now a church parking lot. I think Joni Mitchell must have had that in mind when she wrote the song, “Big Yellow Taxi”. For their home was truly “paradise” to me. There are many loved ones that I won’t see who immediately come to mind; Louise & Hartsell Smith, Danny Morgan, Ronnie Morgan, Patricia Bragg, little Toni Morgan, my dear Uncle Gus Greene, great grandmother, Elsie Gloster, Uncle Reuben, my cousin Melba Beard and my first boyfriend when I was 14 years old, J.R.S. There will be a tender nostalgic comfort that their final place of rest is in Arkansas soil.
I have lived or visited many places in the world, Tokyo, West Africa, South Africa, the Bahamas, Paris, France, Toronto and whatever place I was flying over to arrive at these locations. I think I am ready for Malvern now.