American Pickers on History Channel yanked at my memory this week. They were pickin' one of many outbuildings that every true Southern old-timer has sitting behind his house (and beside it, and in front of it, etc.), and they came upon something unique. I don't remember the exact item, but the hosts, Frank and Mike, asked, "Where did you get that?" The man lowered his eyes and his chin and said, with all the seriousness he could muster, "At the gettin' store."
I had forgotten that phrase. My daddy had spoken that many times when he had been questioned by this over-eager youngster who marveled at whatever daddy held in his hands. I had drilled him incessantly for the scoop about a what-cha-ma-callit or a thingy-ma-bob. Where did you get this? Each time his answer remained a carbon copy of the one before. I had never thought to consider that that answer served a single purpose: to shut me up.
My drilling never halted with a single question but continued until I hoped to uncover the location of this utopia. I wanted to see with my own eyes, the treasures, the finds in this gettin' store. Where could it be and why was it hiding? I would continue to interrogate, and by golly, I would wear him down until he would let me climb into the cab of his pea-green Chevy, Doris. We would thunder down to Main Street, and we'd find the parking space dead center of the front door. I would be there. At the gettin' store.
We never took that ride, for usually, something else would grab my attention and I would forget seeing past my own fingertips. It wasn't until we would uncover the next spellbinding trinket that I would become obsessed with that mystical wonderland all over again. My query would echo once more. That store must be great, I thought to myself. I can't wait to go.
On our farm in North Georgia, there was always a chore that had to be done, a machine to fix, a garden to plow, so going didn't always fit into the calendar. Nevertheless, no matter where he went, I would tag along with daddy, always with a curiosity that held endless questions on my lips. Daddy was always patient, never became angry or aggravated with me, and, there would always be an answer.
Answers are a mystery, even to some of life's simple questions. We avoid them, dance around them, skirt them, negate them. But where daddy was concerned, there was always an answer to the eagerness of my life. He made sure of that. And maybe, he wasn't trying to shut me up after all, but rather trying to satisfy an evolving curiosity with an explanation. No matter if his answer included the elusive gettin' store, I always knew I could count on daddy for every answer, every time.
It wasn't the gettin' store, but it was one of the few outings I had with my daddy that wasn't attached to the farm. He was a man of few words, but those words formed the answers to every question I ever raised. I loved my daddy, and he loved me - more than anyone ever has or ever will.
It was your average Saturday afternoon. While the entire red and black world hunkered down a few miles up the road in Sanford Stadium with the Dawgs, my son Ty and I took advantage of the lull in 441 traffic to hit the neighborhood Publix. Cupboards were bare, and the boys trembled at the fact of no homemade cookies.
I'm not sure how the conversation meandered into an emotional realm, but we were remembering. Remembering days that were not so good, struggles that were way too hard, and memories that burned holes way too deeply. And then, as I often do, I skimmed over my role in history, regretted some of my choices and wished I had done things differently - a sentiment most parents share.
Then, from out of the blue, with no warning, he said, "Mom, you are amazing."
It shook me to the core and proof quickly slipped from the corner of my eye. That 23-year-old man driving his papa's Ford F150 would always be that mischievous kid in whitey-tighties covered in red Georgia clay, prancing around in his semi-birthday suit, slinging a garden hose in his front yard, but today, he had managed to reach into his heart to assemble the perfect phrase. And he didn't stop. "You really are. You are amazing. Look at everything you've done. Everything you've achieved, teaching and writing. You are an incredible writer. I can't write like that and you play the piano. I love to hear you play."
Yikes! Did I hear right? For most of my life, I had longed to hear words of praise from the three people that mattered most in the world. Just acknowledge me, please, is all I ask. Let me know you know me. Come to find out, they did.
This was a reflection on who I was as a human, a woman, not simply as a mother or cookie maker. All those day-to-day processes were more than cliche. They watched me make those PB&Js and realized my fingers only worked so fast. They eyed me in my classroom and accepted the fact that, second to them, there was no place that I'd rather be. They listened to my rare tunes plunked out on my daddy's old upright piano and heard my lonely melody. They cried with me as we walked away from dark yesterday into a phantom tomorrow. They understood my desire to be better that day than I was the day before.They didn't judge when I fell short or when life got in the way. Well, maybe for a moment, but as the entire picture unfolded, they recognized that mom was one that never stopped dreaming - for them or for herself. Most of the time, I thought they were too busy being kids, too caught up with Power Rangers or tennis tournaments, too occupied with their place in the universe to realize that my grown-up world ran simultaneously alongside theirs.
I was validated! I like to think Ty cast the ballot for the absentees, and I pray they get me. I guess the more important musing is - I get me. After Ty's disclosure, I started mentally listing my accomplishments and was rather amazed. I recognize and salute these in other people. Why can't I dare to do the same in the mirror? I suppose its a hodgepodge of being Southern, a woman, an only child, a perfectionist, a creative, a dreamer, a romantic - the list is tiring. The list is me. A damn good me.
So I'm taking this amazing, damn good me on the road setting more goals and scaling more rainbows. I'm planning my upcoming itinerary, and I'm excited. Most of all, I'm thankful I have excellent company along the way.
Whether it is exploring this amazing world or being content on my own piece of real estate near Athens, Georgia, I'm spinning stories and fashioning tales from a Southern perspective. As an editor and writer, I get to meet incredible people and share their stories. As a photographer, I get to cement these moments in time. As a wife and mother, I'm always excited to see what's around the next corner, For it's anything but ordinary.