Into the Unknown

I have one dear memory of Mama that I have never been able to satisfactorily articulate, or to fully record in writing. It is the memory of the morning I left my home, on January 13, 1940, to attend a college that was located 400 miles away. Due to the fact that I was scheduled to catch an early-morning bus in Itasca, Mama and I arose at 4:00 a.m. to complete the final preparation for my departure. She cooked biscuits and eggs and bacon and gravy for my breakfast. The final moment of departure arrived.

With my cardboard-fabricated suitcase in my hand, and with surging and inexpressible emotions in my heart, I stood in the three or four inches of snow that had fallen on the porch step during the night. Mama stood on the porch, one step above me, put her hands on each of my cheeks, kissed me on the forehead, and whispered words to me that I have never tried to audibly repeat to myself, or to any other person. I walked up the narrow lane that led to the main road into Itasca, paused at the old hedge-apple tree, looked back at the glimmering light in the window of the home in which I had passed from childhood into maturity, got down on my knees in the snow, and whispered words into God’s ear that I have never tried to repeat to myself, or to anyone else.

I walked the three miles to the bus station, presented my ticket, checked my cardboard suitcase, went into the restroom, looked into the mirror, and saw a sight that today is still as clear as it was on that snowy morning of January 13, 1940: There were floury prints of Mama’s hands on each of my cheeks! I again whispered emotional words into God’s ear. I have never again, not since that long-ago morning to this hour in which I write, seen flour on a woman’s hands without remembering the floury prints of my mother’s hands on my cheeks on that faraway snowy morning.

Hal Upchurch, 1995

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