Friday, May 21, 2004

Beginning of a Story Yet Untold

The Turnipseed family came to Lovejoy, Georgia, two hundred and eighty-one years ago. Which makes us older than the country itself. Adewole begat Elijah who begat John who begat Paul who begat John who begat Moses who begat Ezekiel who begat David who begat me.

I am Mary. Mary Alice Turnipseed. Many things were passed down to me--a stubborn thatched roof of hair; an even more stubborn jaw; a pair of eyes placed a little low, like God’s hand slipped when he was making me; but the most notable thing passed down to me was my name.

For the Turnipseed men, this name meant that they were nearly impossible to marry. Each generation was an extinction level event because no woman in Lovejoy could find love or joy in taking on the Turnipseed name. And so all the men became the most flattering, most loving, most perfect gentlemen to compensate; and virtually all found themselves well beyond marrying years with no mate; all became poster children in unrequited love. And over the centuries, it became a ritual for all Turnipseed men, just about the age of 20, to load a burlap sack, containing a pair of overalls and one good suit, and ride a dusty wagon all the way to Atlanta to find a woman willing to overlook his tragic flaw.

And in the tradition of every Turnipseed woman, from Omitola to Ruth to Mary to Naomi to Sheba to Clara to Lucy to me, at the first opportunity, I found a man to marry to get rid of my name. Which is how I married the man whose trembling hand first taught me shame.

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