Thursday, May 15, 2008

What Questions Do You Have for My Answers? Part One

The questions y'all have asked me have been so completely surprising, and inspirational, really. It's going to take some time to get through them, but I'm gonna love the process, and I hope y'all will too. I'm just poking through right now, picking the ones that really speak to me, call me to address them in that moment. Bear with me, I'll get to all of 'em, eventually.

Mari, from My Little Corner, and one of the sweetest people I've met in Bloggityville so far, asked me about what I was like as a kid. Her question really pulled hard at me, as I have a tendency toward nostalgia, you know, and I am just in such a reflective place right now, in general.

I think I know quite a bit about you, but I am wondering what you were like as a kid. Did you drive your Mom and the teachers crazy, where you angelic or maybe a bit of a mix? I'm betting on the mix. I think you were a class clown, but a sweet one!

Well Mari, I s'pose it'd all really depend on who you asked and when you asked 'em. My Mom currently says she THANKS HER LUCKY STARS that my sister and I were both very good, obedient children who never gave her a moment's trouble. Well. That is not perzackly the way I recall it. I remember that my Mom referred to me as a "stubborn, strong-willed child," and what's more, I believe that she was pretty much dead on. I am still right stubborn and strong-willed, which you may have guessed already.

Here's another little secret. No, I was not a particularly funny kid. I was painfully, achingly shy, for the most part, unless someone really took the time and put in the effort to push, pull and drag me out of my little shell. I was one of those kids who probably seemed scared of my own voice around strangers, and my poor mother spent the first 16 or so years of my life saying, "Speak up Megan, he/she can't hear you." Ironically, though, at home, my gums flapped constantly, and I recall many times when she would sigh in exasperation and say, "Child, do you EVER stop talking?"

Me, I was a walkin' contradiction.

I have loved writing since I was a very little girl, too. I wrote volumes of poetry and short stories and notes. Mom encouraged that part of me, and had me keep a journal starting BEFORE I could even write. I'd draw a picture and tell Mom what it was about and she'd write down what I said - I still have that journal somewhere, I think.

One of my first poems, written in pink marker on a piece of tiny loose leaf paper from a little black three-ring binder I got in my stocking from Santa one year, I wrote about a beautiful solitary oak tree that stood on a little hill in the median of I-85 just across the Georgia/South Carolina border. We drove past The Tree about a hundred times a year, headed from Atlanta, where my family lived, to Clemson, South Carolina, where my Grandmama and Grandaddy FriedOkra lived. Went up there for every home Clemson game, for family birthdays, holidays and summer weekends on the Lake Hartwell, to be with my Aunt, Uncle and my two cousins who were as close as sisters to my sister and me.

The Tree, to my sister and me, was the first sign we were "almost there." When that Tree came into view, after what'd seem like forever and a day in the car (it's barely a 2 hour trip), I'd get butterflies in my tummy and start putting on my shoes and packing up all my car-travel paraphenalia and sit up TALL in my seat so I could watch the road carefully for the rest of the trip - watch as we passed each subsequent landmark, watch as we passed the South Carolina Welcome Center, watch as we crossed over the beautiful and winding expanse of Lake Hartwell, one, two, maybe three times, watch as we pulled off 85 onto the Clemson exit, watch as we roared out across the countryside and then right up and through the Clemson campus, past Death Valley (the Tigers' football stadium), past the old Esso Club where we'd buy candy the next morning with the dollars Grandmama would shell out to us, fresh and clean and full of promise, and on up to my Grandaddy's house, perched high above the sweetest part of the lake. Oh, and when our tires scrunched to a stop in the gravel on the road above Grandaddy's front yard, I'd be overcome with excitement to see my Aunt and Uncle's car there too, and to know that my cousin, only two weeks younger than me, was already waiting inside -- my best pal, my confidante, my very first little soul-mate.

And it all started with The Tree, which, in itself, regardless of what it symbolized to my little mind, also already triggered in me a distinct feeling of loneliness and isolation that was painfully familiar to this shy, quiet child - this stubborn, introverted pixie of a girl:

The Tree

The tree stands so lonely
in its place
It makes tears
come to my face.

-- FriedOkra, circa 1972

That's who I was, Mari. It's who I still am, deep inside, too, I suppose. Time and experience have coaxed me out of my shell and I've even found I can be happy and comfortable (sometimes a bit too comfortable) and even loud, in a spotlight. But I don't think that lone oak and I have ever completely parted company in our deepest souls.

The Tree still stands in the same place, too. I've pointed it out to Al and Bean as we've made that same drive, from Atlanta up I-85 and into the easy, rolling foothills, through somewhat misty eyes. It's not so alone anymore, either, as a growth of brush, saplings and smaller oaks now encircle its base.

Sigh. Talk about poetic.


  1. Thanks for answering! I have to say that I am really quite impressed with your poem. I think it's good now and if my figerin' is right - you were about 5! I do love your writing - I could picture the whole thing, the drive, you in the car and the tree by itself. You may have been quiet, but you express yourself with the written word really well and I still think there was a little clown in there!

  2. oh was a delight to read about you as a child. I love the journal idea. I think I may start that for Sugar.

  3. I know exactly the Tree you speak of. I have a picture of myself in front of that Tree. It's still there and it still marks its place. Clemson is part of our stomping ground as well. Good to know a bit of you from this post.

  4. Oh, Megan, that IS poetic. I have a little girl much like your description of your childhood self. You give me hope and encouragement for her future.

  5. What great insight into your childhood! I love the poem you wrote about the tree and that it's still there today. I remember that feeling, too, of getting close to my grandparents house when we passed certain landmarks. Fun memories!

  6. I also wrote poetry throughout my childhood.

    One of my first brilliant essays was:
    Love people.
    Love them.
    Don't be like a storm.
    Love people.
    Love them.
    Make them feel warm.

    I'm surprised one of us hasn't won the Pulitzer by now.

  7. I can't even imagine you being loud. When we met in real life, I was surprised by how quiet and shy you seemed.

    And I can so relate to the tree. I had one of those "road marks" myself. Thanks for bringing back the memories. I hadn't really thought of that place in YEARS!

  8. Have you ever taken a photo of it?

  9. Beautiful!! Amazing insight. Love the little poem and what that tree has come to represent for you.

    Dacey, so far, is proving to show the same dichotomy - painfully shy around strangers, but ablaze with personality and discussion at home. Makes me wonder what kind of poems she'll someday pen.

    This is a lovely way to start my day. Thank you! Can't wait to read more, friend.

  10. The tree ALMOST always still has a yellow ribbon around it, too. We still southern branch of the Okra clan still mention it everytime we pass! Have you ever mentioned that your mom and your aunt married brothers, so you were almost sisters to your cousins. That reminds me of a song sung by the barbershop quartet at a function that Uncle Butch and I went to last night. I'm My Own Grandpa.

  11. I talked a lot too! (No surprise there.) And I wrote all the time. I used to write books in high school, and I'd pass them around the class and the kids would read them. What a dork!

  12. how fun to see this side of you. I would have never guessed these things about you.

    Just like an onion, you are, my friend.

    xo ~K