I was recently able to share a bit of history with my new husband. The trip to rural Virginia was a momentous emotional journey. Here, I thought to share a bit of the story, the peace it brought, and the joy experiencing it revealed. I appreciate the safety this forum offers for sharing meditations like this one which really speaks to the importance of retaining and sharing across generations.
My grandmother grew up in the South—among waving confederate flags, sprawling plantations, mutterings of Yankees and legends of Confederate soldiers. She grew up in a one-bedroom house with two brothers and the ghosts of nine siblings and her mother. She played on hundreds of acres that whispered 200 years of stories from the underbellies of water moccasins and copperheads. The land promised food and wealth in its fertility, towering tobacco leaves which gave way to cotton, then soybeans, and held sacred the remains of slaves, freedmen and Indians. It carried the memories of beating feet and drums, provided life and shielded in death. These brown bodies shared more than heartbeats and dreams of freedom– belonging; they shared love, and blood. My blood. This land hid them when their existence was forbidden, their talents trodden and their beings resilient.
This land held the one-room schoolhouse that educated the little brown boys and girls before shuttering at the whisper of integration. My grandmother had warmed her favorite seat—third from the left in the second row—until she reached the 6th grade before she was told that reading for colored children had no place to grow.
This land is home to the old white clapboard church with the family bible encased in the pulpit. This was the church that knew the family history through chains and removal, that counted the brown bodies—colored and negro and Indian—and their babes. It recorded the brooms they jumped and the union ceremonies, wedding blankets, healings, and prayers.
Making my way to this place was incredibly emotional. I grew up away from my family, born a Yankee by definition in New England. Instead of hardwoods, I was familiar with skyscrapers, community gardens, and institutions. I grew up away from this 96-year-old, grey-eyed woman whose round face and deep brown skin mirrored my own existence. Seven strokes later, she is no longer able to share with me her stories or her recipes, her language, or deliver wisdom whispered into her once-young ears.
Still, standing barefoot on that earth brought me closer to our ancestors. To her. The best way I can explain it is to say that the earth connected through my rooted places, sharing with me its power in full, open flow, allowing me to share in the stories and laughter. I left a bit of me in this place, running my toed through its blades of grass, eating its fruit and drinking from its springs. My tears falling in with the bubbling nectar, finding home.
No. We can’t sell it.
It isn’t ours to sell’ we are merely its keepers. That duty, to protect and learn from the land, was such a sacred obligation that to abandon the station would do more than anger the ancestors: it would displace our own existence.
No. This place deserves to be a monument.
This was home.