The Road

A Brief Personal Essay by Pamela Eason

Adventure and camaraderie could be found along the road. No one thought about the danger.

If you took a right from Granny’s house, the two-lane road ended at the lake where summer huckleberries grew in groves. You could park there for free and wade in, if you didn’t mind mud, made from sand and rotting pine straw, squishing between your toes.

From the edge, Mama would yell, “Don’t go too far! I can’t swim.”

I don’t know where the road began.

On summer afternoons, we’d go visiting along the road – Granny, flour-splotched apron tied around her waist, and me in homemade clothes.

She said, “Walk facing the traffic. That way you can see what’s coming.”

Cars blowing by stirred the wind enough to cool the sweat dripping down our necks and leave our noses full of fumes and burning oil. We always took something – crisp cleaned collards, warm fried apple pies, stringed green beans, or a few fat tomatoes. In exchange, I heard war stories and family anecdotes, looked at old pictures, and learned how to spit into a can from a porch swing, teach a parrot to talk, get honey from a hive, order from the Sears and Roebuck catalogue, and quilt.

On Sunday afternoons, from the hill across the road, my cousins – one, three, sometimes all five, would call, “Can you walk to church?”

Cars flying fast around curves on the road flared our skirts and flung our hair around our faces. Occasionally, we’d detour from the road and peek in boarded windows of the old schoolhouse, white and peeling, where our parents used to go and wonder who might be hiding there. Once we pushed the basement door open, cleared the webs and stepped beneath a planked ceiling painted light blue. Tingles, cold and prickly, spread to shoulders, arms, neck. In a classroom, we found an old piece of chalk and scrawled across the green board, We were here! Something fell. We ran, terrified and laughing, back into the afternoon sun. 

Sometimes we found coins laying desolate in the ditches on the side of the road – pennies, nickels, dimes, sometimes a quarter. I don’t know how they got there.

Mrs. Murt’s husband sat, tall and gruff, behind the candy counter at the Gas and Grocery just off the road, next to church. He didn’t go. Neither did the men standing around, suddenly silent and staring. I don’t know why.

Almond Joys were ten cents. They came in two halves. Rainbow Coconut Bars, pink, white, and brown, like a stripped flag, were ten cents too – one strip for each, shared with unwashed hands, if there were three. Fireballs were a penny. They made our lips red and hot. I always chomped mine to pieces. My teeth never chipped.

The piano and cool air flowing from the window unit into the choir loft settled us. On cue, we stood and sang: 

Jesus, Jesus, how I trust him!
How I’ve proved him o’er and o’er!

Image by :Jonathan Billinger,