It’s summer in Ashe County. The little girl is up early, her blond hair in a rat’s nest from snuggling up to her mother while soundly sleeping. Mommy is already up and in the kitchen. The little girl hates that she missed helping her mother wind up her brown hair. Her favorite part of the morning is helping with her mother’s hair. Sometimes her mother lets her have the brush and the little girl stands on the bed and gently brushes her mother’s hair. With sleepy eyes, the little girl imagines her mother winding the long tresses of hair up in a loose bun on the back of her head, and fastening it up with bobby pins.
Her thoughts are interrupted by her mommy yelling for her. The little girl slips out of the bed and runs barefooted into the kitchen. Mommy has breakfast ready and Daddy has already gone to the barn. All of her older siblings are already busy in the field, hoeing tobacco. The little girl quickly eats her oatmeal breakfast and then heads outside via the back screen door. The smell of the wild pink roses trailing the garden fence is fresh in the air. She sees her mother, who went out moments earlier to retrieve two half gallon canning jars from the fence prongs where they had aired out overnight. Mommy will put her freshly strained milk into these jars. The little girl runs past her mother. “I’m going to the tobacco field,” the little girl yells to her mother, and her mother replies, “Well don’t be gone long and be careful”.
Skipping along past the yard gate, the little girl picks a white mock-orange bloom from a bush and sticks it in her hair. She pretends she is a fancy lady in a parade ,prancing around and waving to the adoring crowd. The little girl dances around, making up a song as she goes, until she gets to the edge of the hay field. She finds the stomped down trail leading to the tobacco patch.
The little girl avoids the path even though she knows she will get chigger bites from entering any another way. The thought of itchy red spots on her legs doesn’t prevent her from going through the tall grass and weeds. She carefully goes in, making sure she doesn’t step on a snake that could be hiding in the high grass. She loves the tall sweet smelling grass. As she goes, she runs her hands along the tops of the grass, pulling the seeds with her small fingers, then tossing them high in the air above her head. She looks up and through the bright sunlight she watches the seeds fall.
The little girl meanders through the high grass until she reaches the edge of the tobacco patch. All of her brothers and sisters are working there. They are all hoeing the rows of tobacco. Two of her brothers are having a race to see which can finish his row quicker. The little girl wants to show her big sisters her pretty flower in her hair and tell them about her being in the parade. She smiles and runs toward them, but as she gets closer, they slowly fade, out of site. The middle aged woman realizes then that she was dreaming. She rubs a tear from her eye and realizes the sad truth: Sometimes you can’t go home again, even if you haven’t really left.