February 12, 1983. 9 lbs, 3 oz. Abraham Lincoln's birthday (and how I have come to appreciate the emancipator he was, and even see that that is who I am). Shana Leigh Ivey. Shana: decided upon because that was my dad's first girlfriends name. I don't even know and I've had to explain that zillions of times. Leigh: because my daddy was Lee. And Ivey: from my dad and my Papaw and his 18 brothers and sisters, and his parents with the Cherokee blue eyes and dark hair. I came. God made.
My earliest memories are happy: tromping through the woods behind our house out in the country with my daddy. Looking for rabbits and deer. Avoiding briers and snakes. Riding the lawn mower with him. I remember the Christmas he stayed up all night putting together a green and white Sesame Street swing set for me, and my crazy excitement when I saw it the next morning. I remember the dark Christmas morning where Mama led me to a box in the living room. Inside was a tiny black and white Boston Terrier puppy. We named her Prissy Princess because she had a black crown in the middle of her white head and when she walked she shook her butt and her little stub tail. I remember my Cabbage Patch dolls and my 80 million stuffed animals.
But my most early and vivid memories involve my Mima (Meh-maw. Don't ask me why we spelled it that way and pronounced it that way.)
I spent my early days here while Mama worked. I remember her little brown house with the garden that took up the entire back yard and wrapped all the way around the side of the house. Tall tomatoes, and every other kind of vegetable imaginable. Okra was my favorite and always has been. I remember rummaging through the inside of her refrigerator and how everything looked at that height. Eye level or above. I remember the carton of "pink milk" that I loved to drink and eat in my cereal, only coming to understand later that it was half & half. I never really liked milk much, but apparently the richness of that half & half did it for me.
I remember sitting on the tiny wooden island in the middle of her kitchen. Heat permeating the air because the oven was on. We cooked away our days. I would have a pile of flour in front of me and I would help make fried pies. I would watch her roll out the dough and fill it with good things like chocolate or peaches, then fold it in half and crimp the dough with a fork. OH she could cook. Maybe my foodieness began right in that kitchen? Epiphany. I remember fresh green beans and tomatoes with salt and pepper. Pork chops and her soup that I still make today and serve with Mexican cornbread. I remember watching Sesame Street in the morning and then The Young and the Restless at 11am Yes I did, girl. Yes I did. Those soap operas must have been a genetic thing because my Mima watched, and my Mama, and then me, although I got bored of it a long time ago.
That reminds me, of the generation gap. See Mima was my great-grandma, my Mom's grandma. My Mom's mom died when Mom was a senior in high school, in a terrible head on collision. Mom also lost her 12 year old sister that day. That all happened only two years before I was born. That grief, I believe, has permeated every part of how Mom raised me. But that's a story for a different day.
I remember Mima making my tender hair into pigails and me crying and feeling like I was being pulled bald. I remember her white quilt with this raised texture on it. I know it was homemade but I still have no idea what that material was. She would lay down and nap with me every day. And she would sit me in her lap in the rocker and ask me where I wanted to go and we would rock away to some foreign town or country. I loved every bit of her soft wrinkled skin. Her white curly hair. She invested in me. And she loved Jesus. The Bible was always beside her chair and she was constantly singing hymns. Some of her favorites are still some of mine.
And there was also this lady:
There are other memories, ones I wish I didn't have, but who really has a perfect childhood? I remember nights of grown ups partying around our red felted pool table. A cloud of smoke hanging in the air and amber bottles in every hand. I remember the box with the fold up lid, a cigar box, that Mom kept the pot in. I remember that I didn't like how the grown ups acted when they did those things. I remember the night Mom and Dad rented the movie Dirty Dancing and let me stay up and watch. I can still feel the inappropriateness that my small child body felt while watching that movie. It awakened things in me that were not due to be awakened yet. And the irony that that became my "favorite" movie and suddenly every time I went to Mani's house, that was what we watched. I remember nightmares and lots of fear. I was terrified of the dark and of noises I heard at night and during the day.
I'm guessing I was around 4 here
But mostly, my childhood was good. The early memories I have are fond ones and I remember them with all my senses: splashing in the cold creek, the wind through my hair as I swung in my swing set, the feel of the short, fine fur on my Prissy dog, yelling out for my best friend next door: Carrie Ann, listening to my voice echo for miles as I yelled, picking yellow daffodils that grew beside the house, the smells of the seasons, and the layout and colors of the walls, furniture, interior and exterior of our house. Pictures forever imprinted in my mind.
This was my beginning.
This was my beginning.