by Rebecca Brady
Tears trickled from my half-shut eyes, not quite surrendered to the dawn that pried and pleaded with them to open. I could hear the birds chirping outside, bidding each other good morning, and for a moment I forgot whose pillow had been cradling my head. I pulled the covers to my chin, fingering the familiar polyester squares and blue yarn tassels. Light hung in the air on that angle which casts no shadows, the way it only does after a deep, unbroken sleep. It was a perfect scene, one I had lived on countless blissful mornings, debating with myself over how long I should wait before tip-toeing into the family room. There I would find Grandma and Grandpa sipping coffee, holding clear mugs and silent conversation while they watched the sun climb the way it had the day before, and every day since before they planted the magnolia tree.
I wanted so badly to be in the back room, for my cousins to be asleep on the other side of the jack-and-jill bathroom, to be lying in the bed that used to be my father’s before he met my mother. I wanted to be catching a few more minutes of solitude before I was offered a slice of cheese toast with extra-sharp cheddar. I wanted to be in the last house on a clay road, where nothing ever changed, not even the yellow shag carpet. For a moment, when I first heard the birds chirping, I was there. I looked across the room expecting to see a plush rocking chair in the corner, but instead found a pile of dirty laundry. I wiped my eyes with my pajama sleeve and looked again. I held the old quilt, reciting its history to myself just to make sure I remembered that her mother made it for her aunt, or was it her sister? I tugged at one of the tassels, just like I always did before, to prove how strong it hung on.
I squeezed my eyes shut and tried again, and again, and again. I listened with the same ears I’d used as a little girl and let the old light wash over me. Oh, how many times I had cursed that naked window, and how much I would have given to be waking beneath it again. Still, with my eyes closed, I could feel it – the birds, the light, my pink teddy bear beside me, all transporting me to the sanctuaries of my childhood. Without a single step I made a pilgrimage back to sacred innocence, and I cherished the sensation of being almost whole again.
Every once in awhile I go there, like when I step on something and feel it crack under my shoe like a pecan. One afternoon I rolled my window down on the highway, and for a second I thought I felt the dust from the peanut harvest sticking to my lips. Sometimes I just have to fry up some okra so my whole apartment smells like vegetable oil and salt, or button a shirt my Mama ironed for me with her heavy starch when she came to visit. It catches my breath so I want to stand still for a minute and let it settle in my lungs. Then the moment passes and I realize it was only a taste, a glimpse, a faint aroma that came and went as fast as the Georgia breeze in July. But in the time it takes to breathe in and out, I feel weightless and clean, and I thank my senses for remembering home.
Rebecca Brady holds a bachelor’s in English from Brewton-Parker College and is currently working toward an M.A.T. in English as a Second Language at Carson-Newman College in Jefferson City, Tennessee. Despite her fascination with foreign cultures, Brady most often writes about growing up in a South Georgia farming community. Her work has appeared in Oracle and Ampersand, the literary journals of her respective colleges. “Home” has not previously been published.