My parents were born and raised in Atmore, Alabama as obsure as that locality may be to most people who read this weblog, it is as equally difficult to convey to you what the name means to me. Atmore. As a child I would visit this place once, twice, perhaps three times a year to visit my Grandmother, (Mommie Essie), my Grandfather, and my other family. Being a military brat afforded me the opportunity to travel across the country and throughout Europe as a child. But, it kept me from having constant contact with any relatives outside of my immediate family. For me, visiting Atmore was the bridge that connected me to a sense of self. I had access to cousins, Aunts, Uncles, and Grandparents. But, as I grew older Atmore came to have a new meaning for me. Atmore was no longer the place where I went to visit those special people who knew everything about me. Atmore was the place where I came to attend their funerals.
Last Thanksgiving I went to Atmore to visit my grandmother, and at the end of the trip I felt a pain like I never felt before. When it came time to leave, she said, "I'm not gonna cry", even though she did anyway. She cried, and I cried as well. It was the first time I ever did that. In years past as a child I never wanted to leave, but I can remember telling her that I loved her and I would see her soon. But.... as I loaded my family into the car and backed out of her driveway I can't help but recall seeing her wiping her eyes. I knew...and somehow I think that she knew, that it would be the last time that we ever saw one another. I can still recall stooping down and hugging her as she sat in her wheel chair. The feeling of her cheek against mine as I hugged her. The sound of her saying, "Mommie Essie loves you, baby." I play that over and over in my mind.
When I went down for her funeral, I thought something was wrong with Atmore. The town was still in ruins from Hurricane Ivan. The town was in ruins.
What was worse than that, was the fact that Mommie Essie's house was in bad shape. When I pulled into the driveway something seemed oddly out of place.
Mommie Essie's carport had been ripped off of the right-hand side of the house, and had been lifted into the air, and slammed down onto the fence on the left-hand side of the house.
But, as time went on, the thing that was most wrong about Alabama was the fact that Mommie Essie was no longer there. That is what I will never forget.