Weren’t they supposed to be easy? Like little ethereal wisps of clouds that effortlessly floated through the soft, cerulean Summer sky once in awhile, & which garnered one’s fleeting thoughts, without capturing one’s full attention? At least that is what she thought that they should be like, these flashbacks to snapshots of a fairytale romance which was a part of her history that she did not want to remember, but yet did not want to forget.
Instead, they were like bandits that hijacked her day, arresting her full attention & wrestling it away from the tasks at hand. They sat heavily down upon her, settling in with full force & unbearable intensity, as if they intended to spend the entire day with her, & the weight was so heavy it threatened to crush her very spirit.
At times like that she had no choice but to pause a moment, & remind herself to breathe. Like the suffocating heat of an airless, sultry summer afternoon in the Deep South, they threatened to vacuum out her life force, making breathing cumbersome. So she stopped what she was doing, & allowed that single tear to slip down her cheek, & she reminisced about the times he had kissed away the tears that had wantonly slipped unbidden down her cheeks.
Those memories were heavy, decadent, & bittersweet, like an enormous piece of dark chocolate cake that no one could ever possibly entirely devour, & which, though they tasted good, left one totally unsatisfied, for it really was unhealthy to partake of such indulgences. And so it was with these memories of a love that no longer existed, except in her Memory Bank. It was unhealthy to give in & give way to them.
On that particular morning, there was not a soul around to kiss away, or even to wipe away, her own tears, so she looked upward & silently prayed for relief. In the next moment the softest, gentlest breeze appeared from out of nowhere, & her tear disappeared without a trace. Oh, how she wished that those memories would do the same thing!
But she knew they would return, for they always did. There was not a love song written that ever played on the radio that could equate to the emotions that those memories evoked. Yet there was neither one that expressed the void, the sorrow, or the disappointment of watching the love of one’s life set fire to that bridge over troubled waters, either.
It was not yet noon, & it was already a scorching ninety degrees in the shade. On days such as this, there were no shade trees big enough to shield a body from the oppressive heat, just as there were no sources of refuge to shield her heart from feeling the heat of the Flames which burned up her hope.
But she was a Southern girl, through & through. As she buried her face in her hands, she thought about her ancestors, who had been hardy & hearty pioneers, & who had claimed uncharted territory amidst Suns as severe as these. They had left their comfortable plantations quite some distance away to make an arduous trek over mountains, across deep valleys, & yes, through deep waters, to a place no know had ever heard of before that time. They went to a place that did not even have an official name yet. They had withstood extreme temperatures. Battled bears & mountain lions. Survived extreme storms. Negotiated with strangers in a foreign land. And they had done all of these things with only temporary shelter, while they fashioned new homes with whatever they found at hand around them.
They had fought for freedom. And they had won a hope & a peace with each of their victories. Eventually, they had, by their perspiration & inspiration, built for themselves fine new houses, which were even better than the ones that they had left behind hundreds of miles & hundreds of days in the past.
So she knew she must battle on. It was in her genes, something buried down deep in her soul: no matter how hard she was pulled towards the dark side, she would not acquiesce – she would not quit!
She lifted her head, & turned her eyes heavenward, only to see that those cloudy memories had dissipated completely. She knew they would come again. But for now, she was going to forge ahead, & build herself a shelter with the things that were at hand: her family, her career, her puppy, & her friends. She had withstood the storms, survived the wilderness, & escaped attacks by wild emotions she never knew existed. She had negotiated a new life with strangers who were now friends.
Her ancestors had taken temporary shelter while they built new memories in sturdy new houses where they built reputations for being honorable, brave, & steadfast. And she would do the same. She resolved that the next time the cloudy memories came floating onto her horizon, she would put on her blinders, because she was determined not to allow a place she had left behind to hijack precious moments out of her life anymore. She stood up, and she remembered who she was – like her ancestors before her, she was a pioneer. The thing about pioneers is that they don’t look back, they focus on survival, & they succeed, despite adversity. She would do the same. She had no choice, really. It was an intrinsic part of her that she could not repress, constrain, or deny.
She had not watched “Gone With The Wind” half a dozen times, & read the book by the same name at least that same number of times for no good reason. She was, she knew, a mixture of the passive, sturdy, genteel Melanie & the tough, temperamental, high strung Scarlett, which meant that though she believed in being kind, even to those who had caused her the deepest of hurts, she also knew that she would shoot an intruder without hesitation, plant crops until her side was about to split, or set her jaw resolutely to work hard to save a family when everyone else was too dazed & confused to know which way to turn. After all, like the immortal but fictitious Scarlett O’Hara, she knew that “tomorrow was another day”, & if the others were unable or unwilling to step up, she would do so in their stead. But unlike that fictional heroine/villainess, she wished no one any harm, & she was not willing to sacrifice her integrity for anyone or anything. But when push came to shove, she would grasp that ball of Alabama – not Georgia – clay, & vow that she would “never go hungry again.”
She would make her own way. Regardless of the lack love of a good man, the lack of an inheritance of an antebellum plantation & the lack of devoted servants, she would survive.
She stood up from her seat beneath her little shade tree, straightened her shoulders, & smiled a big broad smile as she heard the beautiful little bluebird singing to her a few feet away. He was loudly proclaiming happiness, & with a joyful heart she opened her arms, & prayed thanksgiving for all of the blessings that she knew she was about to find along the way. It was time to leave the temporary shelter of that little shade tree. She had work to do. And with that, she set out to build herself a real home, one that would be better than any she had before. She knew that, like the new houses her pioneering family had built, that with the right foundation, this new place she would find herself in would be a place to grow & prosper & build new memories – the right kind that would not singe her soul if they happenstance & haphazardly drifted into her future days. They would be the kind that would make her proud of her survival skills, glad that she had not turned back to the place from whence she had grudgingly left.
She looked forward to one day sitting beneath the broad tree of her life, whose expansive branches would be far reaching enough to protect her from the hurtful things of the past. Really, she had no choice – it was who she was, & she liked it. She did not need him & his false promises, for a false promise is worth nothing at all. And she was a treasure, a pearl of great price, a woman of high & great value, & she would settle for nothing less than the respect, courtesy & consideration which she deserved. She breathed in a deep breath of sweet, Southern air, & she decided that being a pioneer was really not so bad, after all.
– Lou Lehman Sams