Thursday, September 30, 2010

Terry Dennis Place Essay

You wouldn’t know the place if it was spelled out on a map with and thumb tack in full print. Honestly, anyone who sees Dixon, MO on the map would skip over it just as easy as they would pass through it in their vehicle on the way to nowhere in mid-Missouri. I am convinced that one would have to search my own heart to find the real Dixon; my upbringing and epitome of love and nostalgia. It is a feeling of security, tradition, emotional warmth, and personal connection (Hubbard) that can only be matched by time with God himself. The location generates emotions of love, freedom, togetherness, peace, and ultimately seclusion. The seclusion aids in amplifying all of these emotions, because all the emotions are centered in one small area, making it very difficult for them to escape or even be short-felt.

The town is small, rural. A town surrounded by an abundance of fields, hills, woods, farms and gravel roads off of tiny Highway 13 (barely a highway) between Fort Leonard Wood and the Lake of the Ozarks. It’s been awhile since I have been there. It was three years ago when my aunt had passed away. She was the reason my mother and I even came to Dixon so much. She was a second mother to me. She passed away from an ulcer that burst inside her stomach that leaked into, and eventually through her intestines. We don’t go to Dixon anymore. It’s like the glue that once held this family together passed on along with her. One thing that does still exist is Dixon. Though somber in some aspect, there are always signs that remind me of that place I once knew.

The smell of burning wood through the air reminds me of those warm Christmas nights I would spend with my family at the old house. There is no other place I would rather be at Christmas than that house, thus I’ve had to adapt. The fireplace would glow and shimmer much brighter with each log my uncle and I would stack to the pile. He would have the logs already chopped and stacked in a pile downstairs in the laundry room. That smell of fresh linens would fill the air once the threshold of the downstairs living room and laundry room was crossed. It is a smell so central to my emotional feelings of warmth, comfort, and security; it is my family and my Christmas. The sound of Christmas jingles from the upstairs Christmas tree further sooth the mood of love and family as you listen and watch the soft, fluffy snow start to accumulate on the curvy gravel road outside. It is a sound I had grown accustomed to since the time I was an infant. Christmas in Dixon seemed right. Driving through the town, seeing Christmas lights draped from old buildings, trailers and cottages, watching families build snow men in the snow, attending a church service at the old church down the road to the left helped make and shape my love for the Christmas season. There is simply no Christmas like a Dixon Christmas.

There was a peace to the town. Aside from Christmas, the town rarely came to life except for the annual Cow Days festival in the town square each late September. On a regular day you can find people going to the market in their flannels and boots, going to diners for a bite to eat, or just passing through to fill up at the very Casey’s that my aunt used to work each morning before she passed. The sounds of truck engines, children yelling, the local teenagers reuniting after a long night or just before their night begins are just a few of the diverse sounds that can be heard once you step out of the car. You can catch the teens hanging out in parking lots of the local food markets, or for some reason, the friend’s house that you have to make eight turns on the gravel road to get to their house. Though the town was small, there was never a shortage of pretty little country girls. My family was majority predominately female so that meant a female cousin and her female friends. The house would fill with the scent of cucumber melon lotions with each new pretty face that entered. I’m not sure why this was the scent of choice, but being the lone adolescent teen boy in the household with no one to hang out with, any flowery scent was enough to keep me occupied for hours.

In Dixon, however, it wasn’t enough to just be the only boy at the house besides my uncle. I was also one of three black people in the city while I was there. This was never an issue of mine. I would go places and see familiar faces that I had met through my aunt and uncle’s church and be welcomed with open arms, just as I could hang out with a group of my cousin’s friends and never catch a slang remark. It wasn’t until I was thirteen when I had an encounter, or lack thereof with an elderly woman asking directions. She was riding the street looking for directions, saw me standing there, perfectly capable of navigating someone through town or down the street, and I watched her roll down her window and glare my way, then pass me, only to speak to a white friend of mine that I had brought along for the trip to Dixon that week. Though I never noticed the prejudice until that point, even now, I look back and am still able to distinguish that prejudice apart from Dixon. The Dixon I know is love. The Dixon I know is my childhood. The Dixon I remember is my symbol of security, warmth, and family. A picture cannot do it justice and a song cannot bring out the nostalgia. To truly know Dixon, one would have to be there. One would have to take at least a year to live and love and form relationships there. One would have to know what its like to sit outside on the porch swing, stare into the sky, and just get lost; get lost in the night sky with locusts buzzing wild while the sky breaks to unveil any constellation you could think of. You would have to know what its like to just hang with the gang at the corner store and just reminisce about nothing. No, Dixon is not just a town. It is not just some hole in the pavement that you just pass through on the way to nowhere. Dixon is nowhere…but it is everywhere me.

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