Southern Scribe
    our culture of storytelling

 

  Porch Tale    

 

Mountains, Memory and Marguerite

by Dorothy K. Fletcher

 
 

All summer memories are special in my mind, but I have a series of memories that take me back to one very special summer.  It was the summer when Marguerite Dovi and I were just ten years old.  We were spindly-legged, flat-chested, and the very best of friends.  One special moment has us making blackberry jam from the blackberries we picked in a pasture on top of a mountain in Boone, North Carolina.  The second is of us playing in an icy mountain stream, and the last is of a night spent under the stars on top of a mountain.

In the first memory I can see Marguerite, my mother, and myself in the pine-paneled kitchen of our cabin as blackberries begin a rolling boil in a large pot on top of an efficiency stove.  A heavenly aroma swirled about us in the heat our cooking produced.  Lush mountain scenery beckoned from the window near the sink as cleaned and boiled jars lined the counter, ready for us to preserve our wonderful summer day for winter breakfasts.    Since that moment, I have never looked at a blackberry in the same way.  Not only is it a fruit to be savored, but it has also become a symbol to me of a mythical time and place.

In a second flash of memory, I can see Marguerite and me straddling a little brook in the valley beneath the cabin we rented.  The cheerful sounding water cut through the forest greenery of magnificent and towering trees as shafts of sunlight cut through the canopy formed by the leaves.  The water we played in was crystal clear and colder than the water stored in refrigerators.  We built little dams with the rounded, smooth stones that had lined the banks.  For hours we pretended that we were both Joan of Arcs holding back the armies of the Burgundians with our flights of fancy.

I recall the magic of all our nights spent in North Carolina, where it was cool in the summer and blankets had to be dug out of the cedar chest even in July and August; but the night Marguerite and I spent on top of the mountain was truly the highlight of the whole trip and the memory I most treasure. 

Marguerite and I lugged up the mountain our Girl Scout regulation bedrolls made out of sheets and numerous quilts.  We then carefully spread them out in the same green pasture where we had collected our blackberries.  Here we snuggled up against the cool darkness under the stars.  We were from the big metropolis of Jacksonville, Florida, a city that was in the process of lining all the streets with street lamps in the late Fifties.  We were awestruck by the number and the brilliance of stars that could be seen when you weren’t near a city.  We could actually see that there was a Milky Way--a ghostly, cloud-like wisp that traversed the sky, looking like a great path for Orion to walk.  We also caught glimpse of at least a dozen shooting stars that whizzed past us as the night crept toward morning.

I also recall that there was a group of local hunters nearby with a campfire blazing.  We could hear them telling stories as we all listened to the baying of their hounds on the trail of raccoon or opossum.  Marguerite and I talked late into the night, too.  We confided all our secrets about boyfriends and imagined what our husbands would be like.  The night passed too quickly. 

Before we knew it, we were facing the golden dawn with its incredible brightness and the incredibly damp covers that our bedrolls had become as the dew had settled in the night.  Adolescence also loomed on our horizon, and soon we would be too “mature” for such magical times.  This would be our last summer together.

Soon we were all packed up and crammed into the family Ford heading home to Florida, the mundane, and the process of growing up and older.  However, the glory of that summer comes to life for me every time blackberries are in season, every time I cross a stream in my travels, or any time I look into a magnificent night sky.


Dorothy K. Fletcher( doitef@comcast.new ) is a poet, a freelance writer, and a devoted language arts teacher at Wolfson Senior High School in Jacksonville, Florida.  Many of her articles have appeared in The Florida Times Union, and her poetry has appeared in over 70 literary magazines and anthologies.  Her first novel The Cruelest Months ( ISBN 1-4010-6124-9) was released in October by Xlibris Press, and it tells of the experiences of a white first-year teacher trying to survive in a predominately black, inner-city school.  The book draws heavily from Fletcher’s 30 years of real-life teaching experience in the Duval County School System, and it often shows that gunshots, fistfights and poetry are often all-in-a-day’s-work for today’s public school teacher.  The book is also available in either soft or hard cover at www.amazon.comwww.barnes&noble.com and www.xlibris.com. Her current project is entitled Zen Fishing and Other Southern Reflections.

 

© 2003, Dorothy K. Fletcher, All Rights Reserved