A month after I turned 3 years old, my mother and I moved to a little trailer in Evergreen, Virginia. She had just married my stepdad, Dennis, and this was our new home.
Evergreen was less a town and more a village. In Evergreen, I learned how to ride my pink bike with its white wicker basket. I ran through the fields there and picked hard, bitter pears from our neighbor’s tree. I played in the woods near the railroad tracks, lying on the ground when a train passed so I could feel the rumble through my chest. Dennis would take me to a little white country store to buy candy out of glass jars. At Christmas, the post office had a special stamp with a green evergreen tree that they would use to stamp your Christmas card with.
We moved a few miles away from Evergreen when I was 10 years old. But I still feel deeply tied to the community. Dennis is buried there, his grave just down the road from where our trailer once stood. I stood there on a wind-whipped March afternoon, feeling both close to my childhood and impossibly far away.
Evergreen has consumed my thoughts today. Yesterday afternoon, a tornado swept through the area. It uprooted trees. Destroyed homes. Took the village I knew and left it in a shambles.
This afternoon, I couldn’t tear myself away from the pictures of the destruction. I clicked and clicked and felt my chest tighten.
It felt like a little piece of my childhood had died.
The road I learned to ride my bike is impassable.
The pear trees are ripped from their roots.
The railroad tracks are silent.
The country store, the post office shells of what they once were.
I don’t know what recovery will look like for Evergreen. It is a village filled with hardworking farmers and laborers. I do believe they will rebuild and move on. But so many homes, so much history, has been destroyed.
Those places I walked as a child can never be walked again.
Except in my memories.