It seems like it was another life when I first heard a Whipporwill sing. That’s not to say they haven’t been prolific in our area for a long time, I just haven’t had the ears to hear them. Time has a way of doing that to us, I suppose.
I spent most of my childhood in my Mamaw and Papaw Jackson’s home. It was a 2 story red brick built into a hillside in the subdivision my Papaw helped raise in his younger years. They were my maternal grandparents and when we weren’t living with them, we held all our holiday family gatherings there, snow days were spent there and every time my Virginia cousins came into visit, you could bet we would all have an extended sleepover together.
I remember summer nights: forcing open the old, swollen windows of my room, with took many coats of paint to count, to let cool air in, only to be mesmerized by the call of the Whipporwills. Much like my favorite bedtime story, Dark Pony, they would lead me off to Sleepy Town with their unique call. I imitated that call perfectly. I knew their name like it was mine. Then one day I grew up, moved away and I forgot. Much like my memories of the Weeping Willow.
Growing up, the Weeping Willow was both a terrible and wondrous tree. You could hide alongside the fae in its branches and be, simultaneously, asked to “pick a switch” from it’s terrifying array of whips. I was notorious for dragging back large, cumbersome branches of various species to be “whipped” with, hoping, with my excellent acting skills to be pitied and spared either for my density or my long face, neither of which were genuine.
Mamaw and Papaw are gone now and I’ve lived with my Granny for a few years now, caring for her as each of my grandparents cared for me. As I pushed open the smooth-gliding, plastic windows of her modern home, I heard a hauntingly familiar sound. It almost brought tears to my eyes. Like a song on an old mixtape that brings back all the joys and heart aches, my childhood came flooding back.
My mom has a Weeping Willow sapling she wants me to plant at my homestead. I’ve put off planting it because it deserves a place of reverence and with all the recent logging, changing and general upheaval on the land, I want to make sure it finds a permanent spot to grow old with us like the one from my childhood.
It’s been 30+ years since I lived in the big red house where I was spared whippings and lulled to sleep by the Whipporwills. Tonight my heart is back there in that place where I’m just a child, both fearful of and longing for the future: confused and comforted by the trappings of my childhood.
Life is so cyclical. I hear Cicadas will converge this year and I look forward to the memories their presence uncovers…