My windows are rolled partway down while I drive home this evening. The warm, humid air ruffling my bangs hasn’t really affected the heavy aroma of slow-boiled cabbage permeating every inch of air space in my car; I just can’t shake the smell.
I’m on the way home after work. It’s a 45 mile drive. Some people tell me they couldn’t commute so far day in and day out, but I love my time on the road with my favorite bands cranked up to speaking-blowing volumes. Today with the breeze forcefully caressing my skin and the beauty of the sunset before me, I couldn’t ask for a better time. This must be why the song “These Days” by the Black Keys sucker punches me straight on, no holds barred.
Dan Auerbach’s soulful croon makes me smirk with the line “Men come in different shades. That’s how we’re made” and its universal truth. But in the next moment, his sorrow surrounds me like a blanket. “that little house on Ellis drive is where I felt most alive. The oak tree covered that old Ford. I miss it, Lord. I miss it, Lord.” All his emotion spills through my speakers and threatens to spill from my eyes. I am completely overtaken.
And in that same moment I realize how much I love everything I have and everything I am.
I have that small house. That simple life. My existence is surrounded by the beauty of Spanish Moss covered trees and punctuated by pink sunsets not "violent colors so obscene." The minutes spent hand turning the earth for the garden in my front yard or sitting around the room laughing with friends will never be seen as wasted time. Even as Auerbach fills my ears with his melancholy regrets, I realize more than ever that my choice to live this life instead of making the choice for something more glitzy has made me a better person.
Georgia, despite popular opinion, has not and will not ruin me. And, here is Dan Auerbach to attest to this truth.
My car is filled with the scent of cabbage because the woman who delivers medicines at the pharmacy where I work cooked a meal today. She woke up early. 5 a.m. early. She labored in her kitchen, this 65 year old fairy godmother of mine who can tell the dirtiest of jokes. The ham baked to tender, juicy deliciousness in the oven while she cut cabbage and let it boil then simmer its way to perfection. She cooked rice with neck bones added for flavor and whipped up a batch of Jiffy cornbread muffins. And she did all this before coming to work at a place where she is often taken for granted. We enjoyed the meal at lunch cracking jokes and complaining about the natives, and when the day was done, she offered the entire batch of leftovers to me to take home for myself and my roommates. Her giving nature never ceases.
I had to leave a kidney as collateral that I’d actually bring her dishes back this time.
The Southern Sunday dinner smells only add to my appreciation of these days. My days. And it makes me embrace the woeful nature of this song even more intensely. I realize how many regrets I would have if I left my life behind to chase after greener grass; that realization makes me understand the sadness in this song all the more. And a tear rolls down one cheek.
I may look back at this time one day and miss it, but for now, there is nothing wrong with living in my little corner of the world.
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