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Campbellsburg

March 14, 2012
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Part of the reason we bought a new-to-us vehicle last week (a Ford Escape, which I think I chose at least partly for the name) is so I could drive to southern Missouri and visit my mother during the first of three spring breaks (first the college where Ron and I work, then Eleanor’s college, and then Walker’s high school).

My mother was amusingly torn between pique that I was only staying one day and pleasure that I drove two long days just to spend one with her. The drive was a pleasure, too, though. I like it that I can get down to see her on my own, and when there’s no emergency.  I liked stopping to have lunch with Lemming and Permanent Qui Vive and their kids and their dog.  And I love driving south in spring, when nothing is blooming in the place I live now but almost everything is in the place I grew up.

I had a thing about peacocks when I lived in Cape. I wrote about peacocks and organized a kind of club and gave half the people in my high school long and bizarre questionnaires to fill out, and some of those people still bring me things with peacock designs when they come across them. A few of my friends used to take me to a cemetery outside of town where they keep live peacocks. We’d go and “talk” to them, making our best imitations of the horrid screeching sounds they make (a-raar-aah”). That turns out to be where my father’s ashes are, in a marble wall right above our former travel agent. Out there with the peacocks.

My father used to have an increasingly comic routine about visiting houses where he used to live. I think it started with Chattanooga, where he drove us by his old neighborhood one evening, only to discover that where he lived is now a parking lot. After that, he’d take us to neighborhoods all across the southern U.S. and bet that this old house or that would now be the site of another empty parking lot. I was thinking of that, and of this poem by Reid Bush, during my trip:

Campbellsburg

Driving State Road 60 northwest out of Salem,

10 miles out—
and 10 before you come to Spring Mill Park—

off to your right—for just a blacktop minute—
is Campbellsburg,

which was a town
when the man you were named for had his store there,

but a glance through your window reveals it’s now gray abandonment—
ugly sag and fall.

And you wonder who lives there now
and how anyone
even to have a brick store all his own
ever could.

But nothing about it matters to you half so much as that your dad
came in from that hill farm to the north
to go to high school there.

And that’s what you always point out to whoever’s with you in the car.

And through the years what all your passengers have had in common is
no matter how you point it out
they can’t care enough.

I think that’s what life is like for my mother now, most of the time. She has me to get some of the things other people don’t get, and my brother for others, and she has old friends to get some of the things a child could never get about a parent, but she doesn’t have that one other person who will care enough.

There are a few people in the world who will appreciate how strange it was for me to visit the cemetery with the peacocks. For the rest of you, I’ve pointed it out, along with the view of the tulip trees, and the strange stone tower that’s been there all my life.

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6 Comments leave one →
  1. March 14, 2012 1:35 pm

    Your writing reads like a poem. Lovely.

  2. March 14, 2012 5:08 pm

    Glad you saw some sunshine and the tulip trees in flower (mine has dropped almost all its petals now.) Your dad sounds like such a great (and v. funny) guy.

    • March 16, 2012 10:17 am

      It was wonderful to see things begin to bloom as I drove south. By the time I got as far south as I was going and turned west for the last 45 minutes, there were lots of yellow and pink and white blooms glowing in the dusk. Now that I’m back, even Ohio is having an early spring. All my jonquils are open, two weeks early, and the forsythia is starting to show yellow.

  3. March 14, 2012 7:18 pm

    “I think that’s what life is like for my mother now, most of the time. She has me to get some of the things other people don’t get, and my brother for others, and she has old friends to get some of the things a child could never get about a parent, but she doesn’t have that one other person who will care enough.”

    I think that’s it — that’s the thing.

    You know we have tulip trees in Connecticut, too, and there is even one here on campus, seeming strangely out of place. I’m sure it misses a place where ti rains in summer. As do I, I feel bound to add.

    • March 16, 2012 10:18 am

      I think we always expect the kind of seasons we grew up with; that’s one reason I get so restive in February in the north.

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