|What Charleston often looks like|
From Atlanta to Charleston is a mere 5 hours and 300 miles. I’d told myself this many times as I prepped for the last leg of the trip.... 5 hours... a drop in the bucket compared to what had come before.
But 5 measly hours turned into what felt like the longest stretch in all of America. I took the back roads, thinking the more scenic routes of Georgia would provoke some pleasant sense of nostalgia within. Perhaps I would have the energy to stop at the funky roadside diners who promised crawfish and catfish and more fried okra. It could be the perfect end to the long week.
The novelty of the back roads dwindled quickly though, and for most of the drive I couldn't muster the energy to stop and pee, much less stop and taste the flavors of backwoods Georgia.
Keturah’s diary of 1972 had been sitting accessible in the glove compartment the entire trip, set aside from the others who found home in their blue Rubbermaid.
Her life in 1972 had dramatically changed on two fronts... The aforementioned death of her husband Fred. And then her subsequent move from the farm to Schowalter Villa, the town’s Mennonite retirement center. In the days leading up to the move, through the lens of her daily writings, she vacillates.
April 5, 1972: I wanted to see the apartment they want me to go into at the Villa. Phoebe Yoder's apartment. I was really excited over it.
April 6, 1972: But not quite as excited as I was last evening.
April 15, 1972: So busy thinking about moving to the Villa. I do not want to go but feel it would be wise - as Pop had planed so much, for us both to go and now everything is changed. I am glad he could spend his last night here in our own little home on the far. But I think he would have been content in the apartment.
Like Keturah, I was shuffling between two phases of life, trying to sift through the various available emotions.
And in a moment I didn't have the geographical foresight to anticipate I suddenly became a South Carolinian as I passed the big "Welcome!" sign. So far South Carolinian felt like a heavy heart, heavy eyelids and an impatient bladder.
The beautiful city of Charleston did finally appear - exactly 5 long hours from the Atlanta departure and 6 long days from Santa Fe. I drove straight to meet the family at a restaurant downtown. The family includes sister Sarah, brother-in-law Matt, niece Sofia, and nephew Zeke.
Some small piece of the the intricately-designed cobweb in my head cleared away as I had hugged my older sister and watched Sofia jump up and down behind her, a huge grin beaming off her little face, “Aunt Katie! Aunt Katie!”.
In the corner of the patio Sofie and Zeke had found a small niche within which they could create their own little home. I joined them there, their delight feeling contagious. Sofie gave me tour...
“Here is the kitchen (she sweeps her little 4 year old arm over to the left railing of the roof). And here is our garden… This our cherry tree and our peach tree. And this is my favorite - our marshmallow tree. (she points to the 3 small potted bushes lining the railing).”
She is building her own world wherever she please, constructed of anything she pleases. A marshmallow tree… why not? I am building one here too and in the tiny corner of that patio, tucked away in their dreamy play garden, rife with fresh produce and sugar, is where it began.
There is hope in her marshmallow tree, I thought, more than in any car or clock or even a diary. Her marshmallow tree was beautiful, lush with gleaming white fruit and deep, deep roots , and I think… There is hope in marshmallows after all.