Growing up in a small town in a working family left an indelible mark on me. Daddy worked at the factory and came home for dinner everyday at 12:00 sharp. Mama made certain that his plate was on the table when he walked in the door. The plate usually held peas and corn or other vegetables that we’d gathered ourselves during the summer. In the fall she’d gather greens from our patch out back beside the chicken yard and cook them to accompany the frozen or home-canned vegetables. Sometimes she fried fatback or chicken or pork chops. Mama fried most of our meats back then, and that unhealthy cooking was probably the reason Daddy only lived to be 90 years old. His particular favorite was her fried fish.
Occasionally on rare Sunday afternoons when we weren’t visiting relatives, we’d leave the car at home and walk downtown to window shop—even Daddy. He’d lay his book aside long enough to accompany us on the family outing. Of course all the stores were closed. Good Christian people didn’t do business on Sunday, but it was perfectly all right to look in the store windows and dream. Sarah Nell and I admired the bicycles at Western Auto and the dolls at the dime store. We could see the candy counter, too, loaded with chocolate-covered peanuts, chocolate-covered raisins, and chocolate fudge dotted with pecans. We’d gaze and make careful plans about our purchases on our next visit there.
I guess my discontentment with small town life came during my teen years. Everybody knew everybody’s business, and I didn’t like it. On those rare occasions when I was allowed to leave the house, someone invariably called Mama to report that she’d seen me at the drug store or at Cohen’s or at the cleaners. I saw myself as the victim of a well-organized spy ring. I hated Hazlehurst and couldn’t wait to grow up and escape. Atlanta sounded so glamorous and exotic. Finally after 18 long years, I escaped to the big city of Athens and the University of Georgia. I’d be lying if I said I was never homesick. Was I ever! Nonetheless, I survived. Dreams of the big city still filled my head.
To do my student teaching, I moved to Augusta and became pretty well acquainted with one of Georgia’s big cities. I didn’t like it though—at least for the most part. I didn’t like all the bomb threats at Richmond Academy that semester. I didn’t like the traffic jams on the way to work in the mornings. And I absolutely hated all the noise, noise, noise. It didn’t take me long to recognize some of the bad sides of city life. Still I longed for Atlanta and applied for a job there. However, Fate intervened and sent me off to Dawsonville, a town even smaller than Hazlehurst, but by then I had a child and my attitude had changed just a bit. Funny how having a child changes us. I spent 2 wonderful years in that little town and loved it. I visited friends in Atlanta several times, enjoyed the shopping and museums, and relished all the sights, but Dawsonville was home.
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