I was trying to race from Lenawee County before the eyes of repressed childhood memories began to flutter, but of course, no one can race out of this godforsaken County because everyone seemingly drives way below the posted speed limits on these tired two-lane country roads. I had just attended the memorial service for one of my beloved English teachers and after paying a public tribute in front of his family, friends, colleagues, and former students, I was overcome with emotion as I had been since first learning of his passing on Facebook four days earlier. Yet, as repressed as my childhood memories are when I am far, far away from the hometown of my youth the fear of being back here hit me hard.
“I never want to come back here again,” I said to myself out loud.
Angry at allowing myself for listening to the broken record of my father’s condescending and alcoholic voice in my head for so many years and all the memories associated with it, I still didn’t want to be reminded for the umpteenth time why I hate Lenawee County.
“I coulda been somebody!” Borrowing a line from Rocky Balboa.
The truth is – I am somebody. Mother, Wife, Blogger as a dear friend reminded me last week – great ones at that, he said.
But, I’m not who I had hoped to be – a full-time, employed writer earning a living doing what I love. (Mind you, it’s my fault that I am not. I just don’t like being reminded of it.) Looking out over the fields of hay and corn stalks I could see in my waking memory, my father driving a tractor pulling a manure spreader spreading the vile of animal waste – pig shit. No other odor is worse than pig shit. I can smell it even now, though there aren’t any hog farms along my current route of M-52.
My English and band classes had kept me alive in high school. Teachers, whether they knew it or not, literally saved me – not only then, but throughout the years when the memory of my father’s toxic words and shitty behavior that would want to choke my perseverance over the years trying to change the outcome of my childhood. I wrote my way through it in my personal journals just as Mr. Roberts coaxed me to do in high school.
“Sheri, just keep writing. Just keep writing your way through it.”
Sitting in that small funeral home trying to reminisce with former high school students, I honestly couldn’t remember anything. Their memories of specific class assignments and projects were both heartwarming and disturbing. Disturbing because even as president of my graduating class, I could not remember one iota of my high school graduation nor much of anything else for that matter. What I will always remember is the personal interaction of my favorite teachers who were encouraging, who supported my dreams, and who were simply – kind.
A kindness I did not know at home.
My therapist, if she were sitting in the seat next to me would remind me that in those years, particularly before I was 21 years old, I was in survival mode. She would say, “Sheri, some books are meant to be put on a shelf and kept there.” But it is never too late to write new endings, I remind myself as I continued to gaze out over vast farm fields. Still thinking about “endings”, I reflected on another student’s eulogy who spoke of some teachers not being as kind as Mr. Roberts.
Then I thought, “Each one of us is fertilizer. A fertilizer that is either food to help tender plants grow or poison if not handled correctly. It all depends on how we treat one another.”
So I asked myself when Lenawee County was finally and fully in my rearview mirror, what kind of fertilizer am I?
Food or poison?
Writer or not, I hope to be the food of kindness towards others because I may never know whose life I might just be saving.