Red Sky at Morning

Red Sky at Morning January 12, 2024

A red sky at sunrise with a flock of geese flying by
image via Pixabay

It was morning, but it didn’t look like it yet.

Adrienne woke me, asking for a ride to school.

Usually, she prefers to get up by herself at five and take the earliest bus to have breakfast with her friends when the cafeteria opens for the day. Michael has been staying up all night some nights, to do laundry at the 24-hour laundromat and see her off to school, then making my coffee, then coming to bed after she’s left. I’ve been having my usual January insomnia that only breaks just before she wakes up. But Michael doesn’t drive, so when she misses the bus, she wakes me.

This time I’d only gotten to sleep at two or three in the morning. I found her leaning over me with a cup of coffee at six. By seven I was outside, scraping the frost off Serendipity.

I could just see the shale cliffs of West Virginia from where Serendipity was parked. The LaBelle neighborhood of Steubenville is on top of one shale cliff, overlooking downtown, and downtown overlooks the Ohio river. West Virginia is the cliff that rises on the river’s eastern side. The sun wasn’t up yet, but the lowest of the clouds above the cliff were candy red.

Red sky at morning, sailor take warning,” I repeated to myself automatically, but it didn’t feel like a warning.

By the time I’d driven five minutes to the middle school, the red was covering half the sky: a brilliant shade that didn’t look real. Nothing in nature is that color. That’s the color of food that rots your teeth. It’s a color you find in gumball machines and arcades. It’s a delectable color that inhabits the jar of Jolly Ranchers one of my teachers used to entice us into good behavior with, a long long time ago when I was much younger than Adrienne is now. There were yellow and green candies that I hated, orange that I didn’t mind, purple that might as well have been medicine, and dark red that tasted all right. But the very best candy was the vibrant, nearly incandescent pinkish red.

When I was just a little older, I had my breakdown and my first manifestation of severe obsessive-compulsive disorder. Nobody knew about high-masking autistic girls and women in the mid 1990s. I was just an extremely fidgety and hypersensitive girl who panicked at nothing and wouldn’t stop reading books to attend to her work. When I could not cope with school anymore, the prissy principal said some cross things to my mother, and the whole family was taken out of the parochial school system to homeschool. I loved homeschooling. It was my salvation. I could fidget and read books all day. My family banded together with other homeschooling families to form a co-op and pooled our resources for tutors and field trips.

I do not have a relationship with my family anymore. My mother tried to make up for her own trauma, being raised in a giant Irish Catholic family so lax and inattentive that they barely even knew where their children were at any given time, by being impossibly controlling of me and verbally abusing me whenever I stepped out of line. She found solace and a sense of safety in the most toxic cultlike religious practice and past that toxicity on to me. We don’t speak to each other now.

When I had a daughter, I wanted to save her in the same way I had been saved. I wanted to keep her away from conventional schooling so she wouldn’t be traumatized. I homeschooled her from Kindergarten all the way through fifth grade. It started out fine, but she was miserable the past two years. We have no community here. We don’t have a co-op or even a circle of homeschooler friends anymore. I gave up and put her in school, where she’s thriving.

You can’t save your child by the exact same means you yourself found safety, because your child is a different person than you.

I wish more people realized that.

After I dropped Adrienne off, I was too restless to go home. I wanted to stay out, but no stores were open and I didn’t have any money anyway. I went for a drive.

I drove west, spiraling up and down through the more affluent neighborhoods further from the cliff’s edge. The roads there squiggle their way up out of the valley, toward the hospital, towards Wintersville, towards Cadiz– eventually home to Columbus, though it doesn’t feel like home right now.

Somehow, in the past year, Appalachia became home. I’ve been living in Appalachia for eighteen years, but it hasn’t been home until now.

The red candy spread and dissipated, going from luscious red to sickly yellow to steel gray. Gray is the usual color of the sky here, and I don’t mind it as much as I used to. The sun was a barely perceptible morsel of yellow in a sea of gray foam. Something in me died and rose again. I was sad, but I was also happy.

It was morning.

I have always wanted it to be morning.

I have always wanted to know that the dark times are over and a new life has finally begun. I thought that was true so many times, and it hasn’t been.

There is still so much more that needs to change.

But I think it’s finally beginning to get better.






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