Saturday, February 21, 2009

Of Tulips

As the evening has worn on, the wind outside my window is howling the way it did a month or so ago, when the temperatures had plummeted below zero without wind. It is cold again here, and snowing, and we're all growing more tired of it every minute.

But just now as I looked up, I saw on my TV screen a scene with tulips. Tulips. I remember tulips, and daffodils, and forsythia. I remember green grass that is thick and shiny. And green leaves on the trees, and some trees filled with blossoms so thick they look like clouds on sticks.

The weather here only compounds the generally cranky nature of Northeast Ohio, almost as if the long cold dark winters and the attitude of Clevelanders feed on each other in a symphony of codependency. As the week wore on and I watched the news and spoke with my dear sister who has been enduring a number of burdens where she works, something became gradually more clear to me.

The icing on the cake was the news that a number of Governors -- South Carolina, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Texas, to name a few -- were thinking about turning down the stimulus money. Never mind that these are not states that typically turn down a Federal handout. But they don't want the money largely because they can't do whatever they want with it. News to you, boys: we did that already, with the banks, and it failed gloriously, so unless you want a full-scale revolution, don't go there. If you don't want the money, and your citizens don't hang you for turning it back, Ohio will gladly take the extra bucks.

The South really is a stuck place. How I wish that were not true, but just as I think each winter I will never make it through another, one election season in the Carolinas and I might actually feel like hanging myself. My poor sister, who has lived there most of her adult life, has confided in me enough that I realize that the South is chock-full of equally-angry people who still want to be their own country, full of leaders who are suddenly more concerned for their power relationships than playing by the rules to get a few billion dollars in hand to help the people they were elected to govern and protect.

Look, nobody knows where this thing is going. There's no guarantee that the Stimulus bill will do half of what it sets out to accomplish. At this point, will I take half? Probably. That $13 a week doesn't sound like much, but at the end of the day it just covers school lunches for my two kids every other week. Is it going to keep me in my house which I financed with a conventional 30 year mortgage? Not by itself if I lose one of the two part-time jobs I am holding down. But otherwise, sure, it helps some. Over 52 weeks, that $13 adds up to $676, enough for someone else to buy a new washing machine or range (or dishwasher!).

I still want the South that I dream about, the lovely June nights in Virginia, the hills and mountains and woods, the energy of Nashville's music scene, early spring, the aroma of boxwood in the heat of August, the footprints of Washington and Jefferson. And that place still exists. But so does the other South, the one as my sister says is still trapped in the failure known as the Reconstruction.

I plucked these tunes out of my past playlists this week as I slopped to and from work in the endless snow. They were like the salve on the sting of the reality I was facing. My time for daydreaming, for pretending things are different than they really are, have long passed. But I still have tunes like this one that call me back to a place I felt sure I belonged, where some part of me will always be turning toward no matter where I find myself, no matter how illogical or inconsistent the notion. Ancestors on both sides came up through Virginia and so, I will always wonder whether my longing doesn't mark some unanswered question about where I really came from, and from whom. Maybe what I really fear is finding out.



Sung by Tim O'Brien; from the 1996 recording, "If I Go Ten Thousand Miles" by Dirk Powell

2 Comments:

At February 22, 2009 4:41 PM, Blogger Earl from Ohio said...

My mom was born and raised on the Gulf coast of Fla. Even as a youngster, I loved the south, but knew that something wasn't right about how the white people felt about everybody else.

 
At February 22, 2009 6:44 PM, Blogger Mando Mama said...

Wow, yeah, it's like that and more. Kind of like the tobacco gentility is still hanging around. Hell, even Jefferson wasn't perfect. Part of what I love about the South is that it is so complicated and always has been, but more complicated is the last thing I really need. Even up in the hills, the old ways hold fast. Maybe music isn't everything after all. :-(

 

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