The Songs Of My People

Last night I dreamed of Rosannah, my great great grandmother. The things I know of her have been gleaned from years of searching for my family. And I’ve learned, the best of her are not the dates and places that define a brief sojourn that we call life; but rather, the small, powerful, daily activities she and all those surrounding her called “jest bein’ happy”. 

As my dream began, she was showing me inside the cistern, which was in her back yard, and in which I knew snakes swam. She told me not to be afraid, they wouldn’t hurt me. Really, Rosannah? Not you too! I will never buy into that nonsense that a snake is more afraid of me than I am of it. Never, not even in a dream. I told her, rather hysterically, to put the cover back on, and she cackled at my silliness over a little old snake.  

Then, we instantly were sitting on her porch, rocking in our respective chairs, and she asked if I had brought her tobacco. Because we can do anything in a dream, I naturally pulled from my pocket a bag of Granger Twist Tobacco; her favorite. I thought this particular type was for chewing, but Rosannah smoked it. She was delighted. 

It was sweet to watch as my little great great granny packed her corncob pipe and lit it, took a deep drag, and with her eyes closed, exhaled that beloved tobacco. She had been smoking a pipe since she was twelve, and according to her, was the reason she always felt so good and strong. 

No way was I going to contradict, and advise smoking was bad for her health. I mean this was a woman of courage and fortitude who had outlived three husbands, was the mother of seven children, lived alone in the middle of nowhere, chopped her own wood, cooked everything from scratch, polished her floors and furniture with wood ash, and had snakes swimming in her drinking water! She could do precisely as she wished. 

And next, two of her boys, Amos and Thomas were with us in the living room, playing music she loved most. Amos with his violin, and Thomas strumming his guitar. Mountain music. Songs that were taught to the boys by their father so many years ago, handed down to him by his father and uncles. All the tunes and songs having originated in Ireland, and with a creative twist here and there, became the music of mountain folk who settled in the Appalachians before we were a nation of our own. 

I woke up with those notes still fresh, lingering, as though my people and I had just bid farewell to another day in our mountain home, another day on our prairie farm, another day with those we loved. I felt peace and a sense of joy, which always is a good way to begin, or end any day. 

It is a gift, for which I am grateful, to be accompanied in life by family memories, songs, and music; those parts of the we of me which have brought us this far, and will see us through each of our tomorrows. Yes, it is a gift being forever accompanied by the love of home and family; those are the songs of my people. 

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