OK, so my trip to see where I was born will be nothing like Alex Haley’s book or the mini-series, but it’s MY journey and as close as I’m going to get.
For years, on my “bucket list” has been to return to the small Ohio college town where I was born and see what it’s like now. See if anything matches what I remember. I wrote about the trip here.
My parents – the two people who know details about me that I don’t remember about myself – are going with me on this trip. None of us have been back to Athens, Ohio since we moved to Memphis in 1980.
For my FB friends, you’ll be glad to know that with the exception of one night, I’ve got my own hotel room. Yes, it’s costing me a LOT more, but can you really put a price on sanity? And given that my dad and I (according to baby sis) are EXACTLY alike and need lots of alone time and that’s why we end up wanting the other dead (not really dead but maybe vanished) after extended periods of time together, another hotel room is a lot cheaper than bail, a private attorney, etc.
But – this trip is what I make it. And I can’t wait to see. I have no real expectations, I’m just eager to return to a place where I felt completely safe, where I was totally innocent and naive of the larger world.
One of my enduring memories is playing “Dukes of Hazard” with neighborhood kids on our dead-end street. There were always more girls than boys, so the daily question was: WHO would get to play Daisy Duke!? And take the middle of the bottom of her T-shirt, put it down the collar and and pull it down, creating a faux bikini top?
Now, the Wendi of today wouldn’t be caught dead playing no daggum Dukes of Hazard, not with all that country crap and the freaking Confederate flag painted on the car’s hood – but what the heck did I know at 7?
That was the beauty of it – I knew nothing, and even though there was, at one point, another black family on the street, race did not really exist. I knew I was black and most everyone else wasn’t, but at 7, the frogs in the creek and the honeysuckle on the fence and the bike races in the street were much more riveting than any external differences we may have had.
Life then was about eating venison my dad’s friend had caught (chewed that meat FOREVER). And holding crayons to the back of our wood-burning stove in the basement to watch them melt (guaranteed spanking if we were caught). My sister and I combed the hair of the dolls our uncle had bought us, then popped off the heads and floated them in the bathtub. And according to my mom, I was so proud of my new sibling that I paraded in the entire neighborhood of kids to see my new baby brother in his crib.
Life was good and simple and safe. If I feel just a little of any of that while I’m there, the trip will be worthwhile. I hope to be able to post updates on the trip as I go, as Athens isn’t our only stop.
Wish me safe travels!