Twirling throughout the house, I dragged a hot pink boa, littering feathery remnants down the hallway. Wearing Mom’s broken dress slippers, I breathlessly clopped the floor similar to a moose in a tutu, leaving behind a trail of deeply ingrained scratch marks on Mom’s polished wood floors.

I called into the other room as I spun, “Mom, I’m going to be a dancer.”

With hair similar to curling dental floss, I was nicknamed Flossy after Mom’s favorite babysitter for me, who also sported a head of frills, although her hair was much darker than mine. Flossy was a black college student with a smile that opened her arms to the world, along with courage large enough to inspire my future—forever. It all began on a sunny afternoon.

I sat at the top of the sliding board in anticipation of a breezy glide downward, just me and my new doll, Christy, next to me, a birthday gift from my recent four-year-old party. Dressed with a grin, I slid downward. But something was wrong. My doll moved faster, reaching the bottom before I could catch her. The family dog, Blacky, who frightened me, snatched her and fled to the woods. I screamed.

Flossy, with a focused stare, erect shoulders, and reaching arms fled after Blacky, and after catching up to him they demonstrated a frenzied tug-of-war. As Flossy held the doll’s head, Blacky’s teeth penetrated Christy’s foot with enough force to nearly bite it in two pieces. With a grunt and a perspiring forehead, Flossy made one last jerk, and with a loud whoop my doll was free. Unfortunately, my doll was a “has-been”. When I saw her I cried.

Her once shining straight hair was now smelly and mangled with dog saliva, dried crushed leaves, along with dirty grime. I shouldn’t have placed her next to me on the slide. But even more than my guilt was my affection for Flossy. She triumphed as the heroine, plunged into a frightful world I could not navigate. In the end, it didn’t seem to matter that my doll wasn’t the same for it had been replaced with a person far more real than childish play, a life-sized heroine.

Adventures of the Boxcar Children, saved for me by the school librarian, persuaded me of invincibility where imagination transported the reader into a place where dreams became reality. Whether roughing it in the wildness of nature, or dancing from a pinnacle of achievement, we would all be somebody of significance one day, like a dancer or a rescuer of helpless baby dolls.

Someday came, yet, it unfolded more like scratch marks on the floor along with rubber work boots. It fleshed out like a tug-of-war in the raw earth where heroines live. These heroines are not the rich and famous but rather the devoted, loving, and creative creatures God places along our pathway.



I was born in the red clay mud of the south, where it took mounds of manure and fermented discards twirled into the soil to sprout a squash plant in the summer. When the soil was rich with old stuff, my dad grew the best okra mom could fry up along with tomatoes, cucumbers, and corn.

Today we frown at tobacco’s harm to the lungs, but for me as a young girl it meant another season of summer smells—the curing of tobacco at the mud-packed log barn across the street where they strung leaves on wooden sticks and transported them to the barn for a week of curing. Today, those smells can only be found in my imagination.

Among those sappy, tall pines I explored every inch of our woods, dipped my toes in the tiny creek, and inhaled the dampness of leaves long since fallen from the trees. My bicycle traveled all those trails, even to the deserted house at the end of the path containing a rusty fenced graveyard where names on the headstones were barely visible. The presence of that eerie spot chased me home before dark.

Our driveway wasn’t always paved, the clothing lines were full, and the yards bursting with laughter from small children. The sounds of a tractor, barking hounds, and a push mower could be heard every evening around the hours after dinner, as it was early then.

When tired from the day, the neighbors gathered in our yard in a hodgepodge of swings, gliders and rockers nestled under the trees. Once a neighbor off her meds painted the swing red. Mom didn’t know what to say.

Always wanting to perfect our evening meeting place, Dad eventually added a covered shelter and fan. He brought large white stones from a mountain area miles away and cemented in a pathway, steps, and a stone wall to hold the cascading white, red, and pink miniature carnations.

The older I became the more I wanted to be somewhere else. Yet, now the older I become, the more I want only that place. There I gained the meaning of simplicity long since wasted in this hurried world of electronic nonsense: iPhone, iPad, iMac. I have them all. Yet, none of them can offer me the smell, excitement, and saturation of rain pouring off the sides of full gutters.

Today, sitting in the mountains watching the day fall behind the dark, fear slides into this night, wondering what will attempt to replace those hills when the dozers mow them over in preference for a flat place to better accommodate our loaded airwaves.

So this is why I write, to remind us how it feels to walk on grass barefoot.