Excerpts from My Southern Childhood
Mother had a special colorized and framed photograph made of me at age four in Charlotte, common in middle class southern families. My lazy eye was first discovered in that shot. Life with glasses led into my pirate year when my good eye was covered by a patch, causing me to bump into walls or, occasionally, walk off the edge of the side porch into the thick, prickly bushes. Without two good eyes I had no way to know how close a ball was, so was always chosen last for a side in softball games and never made the high school basketball team, though this wasn’t explained to me until years later when my view of myself as a sports klutz had already been long embedded into my ego.
In that scientific phase of my childhood, Carl, my younger neighbor, and I stuck odd shaped rocks into our shorts, bare feet filthy from the sandbox, and played ‘I’ll show you mine if you show me yours’ with the not so bright little girl living nearby since we really wanted to see if she was different from us in that way, too, but when she saw our rocks and cried, my church induced guilt hit. I wondered if she would ever marry after our little adventure, too terrified to see what might one day peek out from her own husband’s trousers.
I was almost five when my cousin Dolph returned from war, hit in the head by shrapnel and changed in ways none of us really understood, since ‘shell shock’ was the only word I heard my aunt and mother use to describe his fits of anger and bad moods. He was so very handsome, walking me down to the corner during Columbia visits for a fountain soda to flirt with the cute, flustered gal behind the counter. I planned to marry him when I grew up, assuming in my young mind that he wouldn’t grow older until I caught up with him. Those plans were dashed when he married a woman my aunt referred to as a hussy and the car he was riding in, drunk brother in law at the wheel, crashed, killing him. That crash finished what the war had already tried to do, leaving us all broken hearted for losing him not once but for good the second time.
Before the bypass around town was built, we sat in Kohler’s drugstore drinking cherry coke and listening to the juke play the top hits, when the summer yankees stopped in on their way to Myrtle Beach for a cool drink or snacks. Seeing the women dressed in baggy bermuda shorts and clip-on sunglasses flipped up under wide visors over frumpy hair, caused us to wonder if women from Sherman’s homeland were taught any sense of style as we southerners had been almost from birth.
Copyright © 2017 Pris Campbell
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