By JoAnna Swanson • Guest Columnist
There are all kinds of signs — signs of the times; signs of the future (omens); traffic signs; stop signs and, of course, the ubiquitous election signs!
During the 1970s, my dad spent some time in prison. For over three years, he taught GED prep classes at the old Craggy Prison that still stands barricaded on Riverside Drive in Asheville. I’ve always known he taught inmates, but only recently have I become intrigued about this time in his life.
Something about losing my mom at a relatively young age has made me latch onto everything my dad says. Both my mom and dad lived tragically enchanting lives worthy of movie plots. I know bits and pieces of their many stories, but not enough.
“The past is never dead. It’s not even past.” — Nobel prize winning author William Faulkner
This oft-trotted out line from William Faulkner’s novel Requiem for a Nun has perhaps never in recent decades seemed more apropos than at this very moment in our history.
The Civil War, slavery, the Jim Crow South, the Civil Rights era, racism, bigotry and the First Amendment are suddenly all part of a national conversation. The South — and in fact all of this nation — is struggling to deal with a tortured past that undoubtedly manifests itself in the Civil War statues and emblems that still adorn public places.
I can admit now that by the time the day of the eclipse finally arrived, I was so tired of the hype that I just wanted it to be over. For months and months, the eclipse has been written about, talked about, planned for, and so eagerly anticipated by so many people that I was just weary of hearing about it. I was even mildly and irrationally irritated that classes would be canceled and traffic here in “the path of totality “— a phrase that could have served as the title of one of those dreadful post-Roger Waters Pink Floyd albums — would be miserable.
“Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.”
— Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
In the 1980 cult classic film “The Blues Brothers,” Jake and Elwood are stuck in traffic as a Nazi rally blocks the bridge they need to cross. When they ask a nearby police officer about what’s going on, the officer shrugs, “Ah, those bums won their court case, so they’re marching today.” Jake replies, “What bums?” The officer shoots back, “The f**ckin’ Nazi party.”
I’m entering a new phase of motherhood.
Since becoming a mom in 2009, one or both of my boys have been completely or quasi attached to my apron strings, so to speak. Whether learning the ins and outs of nursing, making homemade baby food, changing diapers, pushing a stroller, fastening a car seat, reading board books, managing colic, bandaging chubby knees, putting on tiny socks and shoes, or creatively potty training, I’ve been in full-blown mommy mode for over eight years.
Prayer as part of government meetings has a long — and often contentious — history in this country, and a recent court ruling on the issue certainly won’t settle this debate.
This case does, however, add one more brick to the legal foundation that’s been built by respected judges since this country’s inception: prayer by those in official capacities is fine, but can’t trumpet your specific sectarian religious beliefs at the expense of those who may have a different faith.
When I was just about the same age my son is now, my dad took me to Atlanta to see the Atlanta Braves take on our favorite team, the Los Angeles Dodgers. I wore my blue plastic Dodgers batting cap and was thrilled not only to see the players I knew from television and newspaper box scores in person, but to be there with my dad to see my first Major League baseball game in person.
My mom loved fresh flowers. It was a fun routine for my dad, sister and I to pick up a bouquet from Ingles or Trader Joe’s or whatever supermarket we happen to be visiting. Her face would light up when we walked in the door holding a rainbow of petals. She would smile to herself while arranging the flowers just the way she liked.
Over the past year in the wake of my mom’s death, I’ve written a lot about her and my grief in this column. As I stumbled along, month by month, trying to remember and forget at the same time, life and work propelled me forward.
Edisto Beach, South Carolina – I will never forget the pictures. The day after Hurricane Matthew plowed through — and plowed up — Edisto Beach last October, I found a series of photographs someone had taken of the devastation along Palmetto Boulevard, which was no longer visible underneath a deep layer of sand and debris. Beachfront decks had been reduced to heaping mounds of kindling, street signs snapped like match sticks slanting this way and that, the twisted and jagged remains of patio furniture and wind-blasted beach umbrellas resembling giant, metallic insects, various and sundry decorations that had once adorned quaintly-appointed residences, now strewn haphazardly across the landscape like toys in a child’s playroom.