She grew up in the south! Not the south you think of as pretty like Georgia, or Florida, or Louisianna, or even Texas with its rolling tumbleweeds and stetson hats and Armadilloes. No, she grew up in Arkansas! When she got older and left home the mere mention of Arkansas caused a cacophony of remarks such as “Oh do I hear Banjo music!” or some other disparaging remark about incest! She hated it and she often wondered how the hell Arkansas ever got this reputation. There were parts of Arkansas that were supposedly beautiful yet, she never saw it. She grew up near the Mississippi River just this side of Memphis TN the home of the late great king of rock and roll Elvis! Yet, she rarely saw the city that put bluesy jazz music on the map with its Beale Street and Bar-B-Que!
Where she lived was something straight out of a storybook not a very good one either. She lived in a small town no one had ever heard of. You couldn’t even find it on any maps and it lay in the heart of cotton country! The town held about 2,000 people which were a far cry more than some of the surrounding towns that just held a Welcome sign and nothing more. However, this town was still too small for her. She had big dreams and even bigger goals in life. She was suffocating in this town and she ached to explore her horizons and she was filled with a sense of wonder over where it might lead her. She just hoped this town wouldn’t kill her first. This town with its never-ending cliches the run down buildings that have stood around rotting for the better part of 50 years a ghostly reminder of a time forgotten. The drugs that began to sweep through as if it were some sort of big city. Or the teen pregnancy rate that shot up her senior year. She was not one of those statistics. Or how about the ever popular car up on blocks for months at a time hidden by the tall uncut grass of someone’s lawn. Or the trailer’s so many lived in her included.
This was not some little southern town like you see in the movies. Steeped in tradition and its southern belles. This was one of those towns you passed through on your way to the big city, quickly forgotten. This was one of those towns that you had to leave immediately upon graduating or you would be forever stuck there like a fly on a stick trap. She never told anyone that she felt hell was, in fact, real and this tiny little town seemed to be its gateway. She could almost visualize the steam rising from the ground from some undiscovered crack in the ground allowing hell to leak out. As her senior year wore on. One thing became clearer and clearer she had to get out or die trying.
Maybe she was biased, maybe she couldn’t see all the beauty this town could possess. She was always under a dark cloud of despair. Living yet, another cliche her home wasn’t filled with the life and laughter that you would think one would have in a small southern town. It was filled with fear and pain daily. Too terrified of the consequences to tell anyone what was happening in her home she dealt with it. By the time she was seventeen she had grown accustomed to the daily beatings by her mother, the sexual advances of her stepfather and she worried daily that it might just take a toll on her sanity. She had grown a thick skin so to speak and prayed to God for her continued survival long enough to make it out of this God forsaken town. She lived with Monsters that were very good at pretending, stealing the faces of the people that were supposed to protect her from such atrocities.
She spent eighteen years vying for affection that would never come, begging for just a glimmer of something called love. Waiting for the day she could be free of her captors, either death by their hands or by way of escape. It was like she lived in a mental institution where all doctors are really the patients and they were trying to get her on their side. Her being the only sane one, it was a strain on her sanity. Yet, through it all, they couldn’t break her. Between all the beatings and being told she would never be anything she would always be nothing she became proud of the fact that deep down they didn’t break her spirit her drive her dreams. It wouldn’t be long before someone came along and reminded her that she was somebody worth caring about, loving even. yet, it would take her many years to discover she had, in fact, survived even if she still carried a demon or two along the way.
Who doesn’t carry some baggage? If they say they don’t they are lying. Even after she was grown with kids of her own. Those old demons still haunted her, torture her even to the point that she repeatedly tried to give up and yet her fighting spirit wouldn’t let her quit. She may not be a true Souther Belle but she is a fighter. One who climbed out of the sewer of her past and made it better. Someone who stands up for others even when she doesn’t have to. Someone who fights for injustice no matter the consequences. Someone who loves unconditionally and without bias. That to me screams Southern Belle!
Let’s go back though back to where it all changed for her. The day her life was changed forever. After the hell of her childhood but before she found herself and her place in the world. The day that made her realize there was some good in the world after all. That girl was me and this, is where my story begins…