As I left the downtown Montgomery library parking lot, I felt the pull again. So, I glanced at the clock in my trusty Honda and eased into the right turning lane. Then, as I waited for the green light on Lawrence and High Street, I chastened myself for this indulgence. Why did I feel this sudden desire to push a memory button rather than a radio station or music download?
Someone tooted their horn. Whoops! I’d forgotten one can make a right turn on red. I complied and hoped the driver wouldn’t give me a dirty look. He didn’t, but he followed closely; annoyed I’m sure. One block more and we were approaching Court Street. Thankfully, he took the center lane and I made my right turn on Mildred. Now, out of sight, the driver was forgotten and I began to reminisce. What luxury!
It’s amazing how many landmarks remain the same here on Mildred Street. An old school turned into a florist shop, or so the sign states. Houses built in the 20’s and 30’s. Then, where Holcombe crosses Mildred, stands the proud Old Ship AME Zion Church. I’ve been told there is a lot of history here.
I continued west on Mildred and eyed the grand old Tara on my left, As I child, I envisioned Scarlet waving to me from the balcony. However, on the right, only the ghosts of grand homes remain, leaving behind a couple of broken stair steps, leading nowhere.
Suddenly, the landscaped changed; almost like Tara after the war, and I was reminded again: This is the area where many of your roots cling. Folks may call it the Cottage Hill Historic District, but the approaching neighborhood is simply the place where a child’s heart met her grandmother and walked hand in hand to the corner grocery store.
In my mind, I’m there again today. The store on the corner of Mildred and Hamner is boarded up but, on the screen door, I can still see the girl with her golden hair. The Sunbeam girl is smiling at me. I smile back because now my mind takes the sidewalk down Hamner. Is this the same sidewalk grandmother and I took so long ago? The many cracks and dips say yes. Anyway, I somehow hear grandmother’s voice as she says, “After lunch I’ll take you to the park.”
“Really?” I release her hand and start to skip. She offers a weary smile, yet in my mind it competes with the Sunbeam child.
“Grandmother is too old to skip,” she calls. “You go ahead. I’ll catch up.”
I know it sounds crazy but, as I take this slow drive down Hamner, I still remember my thought that day. I told myself, I’ll never be too old to skip.
And so today, I’m still skipping in my mind. I’m skipping to her white-framed house on the Corner of Hamner and Clayton Street. I’m skipping to the Clayton Street Methodist Church just across the street. I’m eating lunch with grandmother and then, just as she promised, skipping to the Clayton Street Park. Only today, the park is gone. In its place stands the Montgomery Police Academy. Is it any wonder that part of this new novel is set right here in the Police Academy? When Uncharted Waters is released next month, I hope many of you will skip there with me!