The Cracked Nut: A Progression of Essays and Poems

  1. Childhood -
  2. High School -
  3. Mental Illness – a pit of challenges
  4. Monteverde – life's higher purpose
  5. Activism -
  6. Sisterhood – being able
  7. Berea College – sticking to it
  8. Abrams Creek – revisiting a spot
  9. Loss/grief -
  10. Swimming – the hydrostatic benefit of moving forward
  11. Art -
  12. Now -

ONE Childhood

When I was in high school, I stuck the old cassette in hoping for memories. Anna and Joey had graduated on to college and a career but I missed them. I was troubled by the thought of losing our childhood, so I put in that cassette tape to hear Mom's antique voice reading we children a story. The cassette stuck in that reel jerking way tapes do, the reoccurring glitch snagging her melodic voice.

I was heartbroken and felt lonesome for the days the tape conjured up for me. I felt so lonely. Daddy had moved to DC for a job and Mom was at work. My Calculus homework usually quelled my nerves, but I had run out of homework. I reached for my diary but reverted to thinking about family away. In 1999 email meant something different than what it does today. My friend Audrey was my only high school friend with whom I exchanged emails.

So I opened up a word processor. In the next few months, I wrote a fictional memoir about my childhood. I recorded nearly every memory I had, turning them into beautiful stones my mind can return to even now at age 32. Today, after that computer and hard drive ironically have gone the way of all flesh, those words now are gone.

Last night I dreamed of the calm voice my Mom used with us children and in my sleep she called me a griot. A griot, not the griot, and that article was mattered to me because Anna has always cast a long shadow with especially her recent writing. I even for a year lost sight of my core identity belief that I am a a writer too, like my sister, and a writer is a griot.

When the story gets deleted by time with nobody to read it, it is the griot's duty to tell it again somehow to a wider audience. My stepmother suggested I write it again and because of that suggestion and because Florence Nightengail would allow no excuses, I will begin my story with a sense of love and admiration.

The White Coats are Coming!! The White Coats are Coming!!

Mom would not let us forget. Instead she instilled that feeling into us, riding in the country quite illegally but slowly, carefully, the back of the station wagon high and proud, and our dirt shoes bouncing gently on the gravel ground. We liked watching the berry roads pass by us. I imagined flying. Anna was already deciphering the different names of twigs and branches. Joey said funny things, his face smudged with berries and if we weren't careful, his hand in the cut down milk jug. Jerry would stick out his torso out a window screaming “the white coats are coming!!” It was one of many inside jokes we had, jokes that we made funnier than they might really seem.

We were deep in the Country. We'd made it past several baffled farmers, past Silas and Oney's farm who were our neighbors in older days. We would stop in on the way home because in those days it was rude to pass such a close friend without a visit. Silas waved from the tobacco field and Oney swatted her broom at one of her husband's kittens and lifted her hand high.


I breathed through a stuffed Bambi held under my chin as if it was a tracheal chord and vital organ. The deer had been my totem before any other. Since neighbor Silas offered me raisins and when I ate them he said the raisins were tobacco. He farmed and loved to shoot deer; he hung their heads on his wall. Oney told me to come in, and I'd help myself to the toys of their grown children. I was 3 when Bambi came into my life. I was always absentmindedly misplacing the toy and because I felt a deep connection with it, I still feel an affinity with deer when I come across them on path or road.

Tin Roof

I do not have to look at the picture. I remember reaching out to feel the cold October raindrops fall on my hand. I remember picking out that red sweater thinking I'd look like a young teenage actress from a show I liked. Standing under that tin roofed porch on the old white house in the holler at the farm, the rain reminded me of music and now George Winston's piano recital reminds me of that cold October rain.


Daddy says his one talent is he can wiggle his ears. I add “you can do all sorts of things!” I'm eight and walking through the tobacco field beside Silas's house. “Name one.” He says. “You always stick out your tongue when I twist your ears.” He bends over and lets me. But he insists that is not a talent.

Mom is inside listening to Silas and Oney banter back and forth with each other. Mom never told me her talent but I might make a guess. She spends all her energy helping other people. She cares little for herself. Only a little less than the basic necessities. Mom offers Oney some homemade Daniel Boone Apple Pie. Mom's not a very good cook, so she comes up with names to perk our interest.

Silas is talking about a neighbor who hangs his tobacco before most people cut their tobacco. On the other end of the table, Oney is recanting a tale about the troubled marriage of one of her daughters.

Out in the pasture, near where Daddy and I walk, Anna and Joey are barefoot. Joey jumps the fence followed by rosy cheeked Anna. They grab sticks and poke the watering troughs where frogs have laid their eggs. I over hear their laughter but I am consumed with the exuberant feeling of nature and its effect on me. Mom comes out and hollers “children, it's time to go back home!” Anna abets Joey to hid behind the trough. Anna never wanted to leave our farm, which was next door to this one. I think she hatched from an egg herself, a puddle of slimy water, much like the tadpoles.

Joey was there to calmly convince Anna they could not live there forever hunkered up by the troughs. Joey came along to reassure me all was well. People notice his brain when they first see Joey because it's so great. But after a long time I realized it is his sensitivity that is his talent.