I let my life unfold in a book called House Not Made With Hands. Not many people choose to do that. I didn't tell it all. I couldn't remember it all. Wish I could have. I just started and the little corners of my mind lit up with memories sufficient to write home about. I have given my children these memories of a Delta girl, and I hope that part of my life will stay with them forever. There's not a lot of that kind of life left in the Mississippi Delta. It changed. Beyond recognition, sad to say.

But in the fifties, it was alive
and well, every long and lazy
day sufficient for storytelling.
The dusty road, some mimosa trees all
decked out with their
pink blossoms blowing
in the summer breeze,
a long green trail that led to
the Indian Mound,
and a tune called  
Darling, You Send Me
sung by my favorite and
Clarksdale's own,
Sam Cooke
—well, all of this was a
fine setting for the beginning of a love affair that would last a lifetime. A love affair in the true sense of the word, not in the sordid, loathsome contemporary prevailing use of the word. There is little purity left in relationships.

I call him Ray in the book. Remind me and one day I'll tell you why I chose that name. You might like it. We chatted one Friday night long ago about my school. It was one of those Delta cotton town institutions sated with beautiful southern belles and handsome young guys, mostly of Ivy League quality. There were days I didn't fit in. I had to love it from the sidelines mostly. My daddy was not a big cotton planter. He was a plantation manager. We lived out in the country, the flat Delta country. A place I loved and still cherish and will till the day I die.

It was not all bad,
not by any means.
I have treasured memories
of the halls of the beautiful
old three-story city school
with its hardwood floors
and ivy covered brick walls.
Of the cemetery in the courtyard where
the family members whose name the school bore
were buried. I thought of the restrooms where the baser girls would go and drag on cigarettes
until their lungs were full, blow the smoke out the huge open windows, and toss the butts to the ground below, hoping no one would tell.

Of the large, mossy-smelling 
music studio with theatre 
seating on the slanted 
hardwood dais where 
juniors and seniors, 
regardless of social status, 
gathered for glee club 
and a cappella choir, 
beautiful voices blending 
to sing Ave Maria in all four parts. 
I was proud to sing with the glee club 
for special occasions. 
You didn't need a fake accent 
to do that. And I could never 
forget the massive third floor 
study hall with its oiled wood floors, 
creaking with every step, incentive
for keeping your seat and
not making a spectacle of yourself.

Blackberry Winter

I didn't have to worry about the sophisticated city girls on the weekends. I had Ray, and he was all I needed. I thought about the things he and I did that winter so long ago. This place. The fencepost. The stile I was sitting on. The brown leather saddle, cracking with age. They were all gentle reminders.

. . . The dry brown leaves on the cottonwood trees lining the turn row between the fields and the Indian Mound rustled in unison with the distant hum of the Farmall tractor that, with the twelve-row plow, pulled up rows for the spring crops on the far side of the turn row. The familiar sounds of the South, nature's cadence, performed an opus only heard by those fortunate enough to have been born and bred in the Delta.

The soft snapping of the saddle alternated with the sound of the creaky wooden stirrups, tapping out the rhythm with every move of the horse. The leather popped as it gripped the horse's back, softly blending with the song of the mocking birds in the cottonwood trees.

With every clip of the horse's hoofs, time was slipping away, but at the moment, I didn't realize how quickly. It crossed my mind I may have deluded myself in believing he really cared for me until something significant happened.

And then I learned Ray had his thoughts about time and meaningful moments, and possibly even the future, when he said, "Slow down, horse. Jane and I are in love." He pulled back on the reins and slowed Prince to a walk.

My heart pounded so hard I was sure Ray could hear it.

"Yes, slow down, Prince. Time passes all too quickly in the grand scheme of things," I said.

In the rush of the moment, I realized this love story was not one-sided at all, but it did not occur to me the drama of two lives would play out on such an incredible stage.