RAVEN MACK is a mystic poet-philosopher-artist of the Greater Appalachian unorthodox tradition. He does have an amazing PATREON, but also *normal* ARTIST WEBSITE too.

Saturday, October 7

SONG OF THE DAY: Creeping Away (kudzu'd)

My mother passed away this past week, and our relationship had been strained, but there was always love between us nonetheless. Family is always more complicated and nuanced than a simple read would tell you. I drove between her house and Keysville a couple times this week while down there, and one of my favorite memories was from there, when I went away on a trip to Oklahoma and Colorado years ago. I left in Farmville, with my dad taking me to where the bus station used to be at a gas station that's not there anymore near the hospital heading out of town south on 15. But I came back to Keysville for some reason. I remember some old lady got on the bus in Richmond and sat beside me, and when we passed the truck stop in Amelia, I remembered my grandma had lived down a road to the left there (which my uncle just told me last night around the fire exactly where that was down that road). And then riding 360 past where you turn off in Amelia to where my grandfather is buried, on through the outer edge of Crewe where my mom worked at Piedmont Geriatric Hospital back in the day, on through Meherrin to Keysville, where the bus dumped me off at the old commercial building by Sheldon's Motel that used to be a convenience store and ice cream parlor, and was an arcade at one point in there, and also a video store. I think at the time it still had the remnants of a country store, and now I don't know, it's an insurance office or something. But there was no pay phone there, so I had to walk up the road to the abandoned gas station, because that's where the closest pay phone was. (It's funny, somebody renovated the gas station and now it's open again, but there's no more pay phones anywhere.) I did the old collect call trick saying my name was "Raven just got home I'm at the old gas station before Keysville" to collect call my mom. I waited to hear her answer and hear who the call was from, then hung up before she could accept charges, although she knew better anyways. Then I sat down on my backpack there under a tree and waited 20 minutes for her to show up.
When I'd gotten past that spot in Amelia, I was telling the old lady how I'd ridden all the way from Denver, through the flatlands of the midwest once coming down off the Rocky Mountains, and then the ripples of Appalachia after all that midwestern flatland, and now these hills of Piedmont felt like I'd gotten home. I was singing Jim Croce's "Walkin' Back to Georgia" the whole time I walked from where the bus dropped me off in Keysville to the pay phone a mile or so away, and I kept on singing it, over and over, while I waited for my mom to show up. She was glad to see I'd made it back, and we went to the house I grew up in, and I might've lived there a couple days or a couple months, not sure. I came and went a couple times over the years, as did others throughout the family. But I remember that day, getting off the Greyhound in Keysville, the only person getting off or on at that stop, and walking my slow way to the pay phone, knowing she knew I was getting back that day and was gonna pick me up if she was home (or I'd keep walking towards her house another ten miles if she wasn't home), and just sitting there under that tree, waiting to see her car pull up.
It could be chaotic, our family, with all the things that went on, both accepted and ignored. But there was always a lot of love too. The past few years, because of some of the things she never improved on for me, which affected my kids, I didn't talk to her. That didn't mean she didn't do a lot that I'm grateful for; it just meant I hoped for more with some things, and expect more from myself, too. One of the folks we had to let know was my parents' old friend Wolf, and we couldn't get ahold of him, but one of my mom's friends drew me a map at the kitchen table, explaining the map, and me and my sister went to go find Wolf and let him know. The map was good, but misleading, because you need the story my mom's friend Sue told me as she drew it, to go with the map. One without the other didn't work. So my sister looked at it and it didn't make any sense, so I explained it to her, and she had lived back here once years ago for a little while, and we took one wrong turn but knew enough to know it was a wrong turn pretty quickly, so made our way back to the right path.
Sue had said about where Wolf lived, "He's got a trailer, and then there's a second trailer, and he's got a third trailer there, too." And at the time, I thought, "Why didn't she just say it was three trailers?" but when we got there it wasn't three trailers at all, but a trailer Wolf lived in, but he had another trailer beside it, and there was a third trailer. She had actually described it perfectly, so that if she said he had three trailers, I would've missed it, but saying it the way she did, I knew it as soon as I saw it. We went in, me hollering, "Hey!" like my daddy had always showed me growing up, announcing your presence in a loud but friendly way, making sure folks knew you were there in a good way, but making sure they knew. Neither me or my sister had seen Wolfie in years, and he looked older but he looked good to be honest, and his home seemed perfect to his ways. We told him, and he was of course said, saying, "That's my oldest confidant." As we were standing around, talking, he shared a memory of me being a toddler, and my folks and him doing acid with somebody else in a VW bus that had a woodstove in the back, and while they were riding around, I touched the stove and burned myself. Wolf laughed, "It didn't burn you bad, but you didn't touch it again."
I think sometimes coming from environments that aren't what folks consider normal, the chaotic parts get focused on too much. But it was always full of love, lots of lots of love. I think you need all that love to survive some of these more chaotic environments folks are born into. I didn't forget all that love, but I know I was angry about the other parts of it sometimes. It's been good to go back home and remember all the love that's there, too, even if it was chaotic at times. Without all that love, I wouldn't be the chaotic good person I am today.
I know my mom still read these things for years, even after we didn't talk so much, then didn't talk at all. She'd leave comments sometimes. My sister does that too. These are stories that don't get told, for whatever reason. The "normal" world only likes them packaged a certain way, for their own gawkish enjoyment. And our world only tells these stories around bonfires or truck beds, and even then we leave out some of the stuff that nobody wants to say out loud. I need to be better about sharing these stories, in a way that's true to where I'm from, but in a way that also tells the whole story, in a respectful and loving way. Anything else starts creeping away from the truth of it all. And that truth is never simple, and it never will be, because life isn't either, if you're truly living it.

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