Saturday, October 13, 2012

Out Of Place

I've just joined a writing community called "The Write Practice."  Following is what I came up with for a writing prompt called: Out Of Place. 
This is based on a true story—embellished—just a bit.*
     The air stifles. Trees flourish full in summer green. No doubt it is a beautiful place. Mountains roll unfamiliar. I’m a flat-lander—so flat—I was raised below sea level near the Everglades. I thought we’d eventually make it back.

     Having moved away from Florida to Virginia as newlyweds, we discover change and relief of seasons, Fall and Winter. The body can handle extreme temperatures for only so long. Northerners take up drinking to warm up. South Floridians just go nuts—blown to bits in strip mall furnaces.

     Moving again, we descend into a Smokey mountainous valley which proves to be a whole other still.
     My stomach waves queasy in time with the steering wheel. My car loops and curves, undulating through the Appalachian community. I pass a steep winding gravel road and wonder how anyone could make it without 4-wheel drive. The whole experience of my transplantation in two words: motion sickness.

     I turn right onto Elementary School Drive. The first and last time I read the sign. A flag pole stands empty within a circular driveway. Only a tether cord clangs in the hot breeze. Red petunias border a brick wall.

     My stomach lurches. I walk up steps towards a playground. I notice a woman who has just stepped out of the 60’s. She wears a jean jumper with appliques of school supplies stitched to it—an apple, a ruler, a book. Hair cropped plain, she glances at her trim Timex band. Walking beside is a lanky cowboy. He saunters bow-legged in camouflage – head to toe.  The brim of his cap shadows southern eyes. A wad of chew stuck like a gumball in his cheek—his thumbs straddle a rebel flag belt buckle. My pulse quickens. I start to sweat. “What are we doing here?” I think. I remind myself of folks I knew in Okeechobee. I recall airboat rides in the swamp and coon hunts at camp. Just people—give it time.

     I smile and ask teacher lady, “Can you point me towards the office?” I need to register my children as new pupils. Her eyes, recluse and guarded—she points me in the opposite direction. I never run into her again in this town of 800. She must belong to the high school. I have five kids aged ten and under.

     An article is printed about our family business. We purchase a 40,000 square foot building that the bank rids from its’ books. Everyone knows who we were. We don’t know a soul. We are the Floridians. We are Catholic. We bring our jobs with us.

       On the way home, the trees all look the same—defining a country mile. Walking up to my door cicadas buzz menacing in the hot afternoon. Another wave of nausea rises. Thoughts race. My chest catches fire blazing upwards—sweat glazes my neck and upper lip.
     Kids in tow, boxes yet unpacked, we walk in through the garage. The next week, we’ll have a garage door installed. The previous owners never saw the need. I click on the AC. I settle kids to various stations, and head to the bathroom. I’d stopped by the drug store to buy a pregnancy test including other toiletries to diffuse my wonder and curious small town eyes.
     Hasty I wait… barely minutes. A little pink cross glows vivid in the meter window. Baby number six is on her way.  In one day, culture shocks from within and without. 
Have you felt this way before? Out of place? Tell me about it...


  1. This is great Susan! I felt as though you were describing my first days as i went to register my five little ones. And although we did not move from the everglades we were from Florida. We felt like we had stepped back in time. Now i live near the everglades and just experienced my first air boat ride and held my first alligator! I have even met some of the locals. After living up in the Mountains for as long as we did i now sometimes ask myself what i am i doing here? :)

  2. Yes, Eileen. I miss the beach, the most. We are pretty rooted here and I wonder if I'd feel like you, if I ever returned to Florida. I have to say, I love the fall. I even like the winter. Thanks for your comment. So glad you are doing well.

  3. Welcome to the Catholic Blog Directory. I'd like to invite you to join Sunday Snippets--A Catholic Carnival. We are a group of Catholic bloggers who gather weekly to share posts with each other. This week's host post is at

  4. Thank you, RAnn for the invite and including the link. I will certainly join you tomorrow. Oh my gosh, it is almost tomorrow, lol. Blessings!

  5. This reminds of moving with my family in 1965 when I was 8 years old, from the black-soil Catholic universe of South Louisiana to the orange-clay Fundamentalist stronghold of Greenville, SC. We were stranger than Martians.

  6. I should add that the move was good for my Catholic faith.

  7. Well, kkollwitz, Yes, I now know that it has been good for us to be here and the place has grown on us, like a Kudzu vine. My children are able to explain why Mary is venerated and not worshipped, and yes we are Christians. We've made friends through our children's activities. I think we've grown on folks around here too. There is now love and familiarity where before, it was all strange and unknown. I like your black soil vs. orange clay comparison.

  8. You have some really grreat descriptions in here, Susan. Though, I'm not feeling so great today and I think the descriptions of nausea were a little too spot on!
    I wanted to stop by and thank you for leaving encouraging words on my blog. It is beautiful to see how the hard stuff in life can draw us together, even when it is different hard stuff. Blessings to you and yours!

    1. Sorry about that Stacie. The nausea was definately intensified by the pregnancy or by the move? Which?! Ha, ha. I also can't remember where my kids were when I went to the office. I was rarely without them. I guess that's how lonely I felt. Blessings back to you.

  9. This is a great story, Susan. You did a fantastic job describing nausea. It almost made me feel sick to read your experiences driving on our winding roads. I'm glad you moved here with your family.

  10. Brenda Kay,

    I can look back and smile. Sorry to upset your stomach. Ha, ha. Thanks for your compliments and good will.

  11. dropping in from Ann’s...I love the quote and I have always found such comfort in the way of a pearl. Well I think you actually landed in God’s country...I love the Smokey Mts. Oh and nothing is a better combination than hairpin turns and pregnancy. Blessings to you~

  12. Hi Ro,

    Thanks for dropping by. Yes, we love it here, now. Yes, I guess you could say that the disorientation packed a WHAMMY! Blessings back to you.