This past weekend I felt inclined to visit my family’s old neighborhood and old farm. As I drove down old Skillet Road, it was as if I was being guided to go back, to understand who they were, to stand on the earth they had farmed, to reconnect with the past.
Initially, I visited my great-grandmother’s old house that also stands right beside the house I grew up in. A dilapidated shack now, but still the remnants of the house that once held so much joy very much visible. I remember sitting on the porch in the summer, shelling peas with my great-grandmother and Grandma Lillie, listening to them talk, feeling the heat of the Southern heat. I remember sitting on her porch, my barefeet touching the stone steps, feeling the coolness of the concrete on my skin in the evenings.
On the other side of our old lot , there used to stand another house that I literally grew up in. My godmother lived there with her daughter and her grandparents. How many days did I spend swinging on the swing, sipping “red” Kool-aid, imagining life far away?
I left Henry Street and drove down to the Skillet. I see so much has changed in town but, not much out in what we call the “country”. I drove and turned onto Skillet Road. I see the old burnt farmhouse is still there but, now there is land for sale. I parked and stood on the land, listened for the elders to tell me what I already know and felt. This land belonged to us and we must reclaim it.
I stood in reverence for once. My people farmed this land, raised livestock, lived a life. Children were born and reared here, traditions were created here, our ways were cultivated here. I left the Skillet and still seemed to hunger for more. These past months as I have continued to research of our family, I have discovered that we moved quite a bit- from Minturn, Clio, other parts of Marlboro County and Dillon county as well, so I drove. And I felt myself churn inside because of my neglect of my own rich history.
I would not exist without these farmers, seamstresses, maids, ex slaves, and such. Would I be as driven, as resilient, as proud, as intelligent, as kind – without these folks? This journey of self-discovery continually drives me back to the ancestors- the ones that I have not properly paid homage to. I will do better. I promise.