Car crashes, quarry jumps, and the friends we love despite everything

Photo: Christina Reichl Photography/Getty Images

I put my feet on your dashboard, sand and beach tar between my toes; we are old friends.

You pull out a Marlboro and fumble in your pocket for your lighter, holding the steering wheel with your knees. “Don’t,” I say, reaching out for the wheel, nodding toward my child in the backseat. You nod and drop the cigarette out of your lips to your lap and grin at me. “Fine, but only for you.”

“Not for me,” I say.

“For him, because he is yours,” you say.

“Yes, but also for you.”

I’ve been trying to save you for…

A woman, a worker, a mom, and her vision for the rural South.

Dreama Caldwell (Photo provided by Dreama Caldwell)

A Breakfast

A year ago, I met Dreama at Western Steakhouse for breakfast. We both ordered eggs and grits with a pat of yellow butter melting across them.

Our conversation was sweet: Two forty-something moms talking about our children and our neighborhoods, our relationships and our career paths, all of which were wandering and bumpy, filled with the unexpected turns, barriers, and hurdles that women our age have to become particularly adept at navigating.

But our conversation was also disjointed, due in part to our fumbling eagerness to get to know each other but also because of the near-constant stream of people…

We cannot tell from here.

Elizabeth City, NC, after the murder of Andrew Brown Jr. (Photo by author)

I was twenty when my friends and I piled into my Geo Metro and drove north through the night, six of us in that damn little car. We were a funny, rag tag crew, sticking out like sore thumbs in the Bronx — small town kids in a big city — and I found a piece of cardboard and wrote “41 SHOTS” on it in marker and carried it above my head as we joined the protest.

It all seemed so shocking to me then. I was even more shocked when all four officers were acquitted a year later. …

White mob before breaking into the US Capitol on January 6th, 2020.

Twelve years ago, I packed up a Uhaul and left the home my son was born in. I drove across the country with him in a car seat, singing hours of nursery rhymes to keep him entertained.

I loved that house — a big, collapsing, and beautiful Victorian farmhouse that my friends and I had sunk years of work into to make it a home. I loved that neighborhood; sweet neighbors who would holler at me to join them on their porch or come over late on New Year’s Eve with Jello shots and gossip. I loved that city —…

Past Is Prologue

Hundreds of years from now, how will the story of this time in the United States be told?

Photo: ksunderman/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

As a kid, road trips were marked by dog slobber and historical markers.

We had an ’83 Jeep Cherokee with no heat and no air conditioning. The winters were fine in that car, but the summers were pure hell. Oberon, our Great Dane, would lean his massive head over my shoulder, his drool sliding in long shimmering strings down the back of the seat, pooling by my legs, and sticking my thighs to the vinyl.

We lived in the country, and I spent my elementary school years carsick as we drove up and down mountain roads, gravel spitting out from…

The Kanawha in Charleston. Photo by author.

I woke up in a tent on the ridge above Cat Gut on the shortest day of the longest year and shook the morning rain off the fly. My car was parked in a friend’s yard, his house looking like it could slide into the creek, and I nodded to old man chopping wood before kicking my boots and getting in the driver’s seat. He stared at me and spat.

In Charleston, I stopped for hot coffee and walked towards the Kanawha to see the barges. A woman screamed at a man outside the courthouse; not the stately sandstone courthouse…

Past Is Prologue

Working-class white people in the South have better stories to tell than the Lost Cause

Woman in Graham, North Carolina counter-protesting a Black Lives Matter march this past July. Photo by author.

I think she is trying to stare me down. Her eyes are leveled right at me.

In another space, at another time, we might be friendly. We might chat. I might say, “Excuse me, ma’am, my apologies,” as I bumped into her on my way to pay my bill at the diner. And she might smile at me and say, “No problem, hon.” She might comment on my tattoo, and I might tell her I like hers. Maybe she has a butterfly that makes her think of her mother or a bit of script reminding her to be strong. She…

Working and poor folks are alone in this one. It’s time to build power.

“PPE for Philly Sanitation workers” by joepiette2 is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Our house was way up the side of a mountain and the road that led to it was rutted and potholed. I was small for eight and I could barely see out the backseat window, which was smeared from the dog’s nose. Mountain roads might be the stuff of folk songs, but the truth is they are scary: Deep ravines plummet down with only what seems like inches to spare, loose rocks gather on their edges. …

The local sheriff stands with deputies guarding the Confederate Memorial in Graham, NC, despite no protests.

Alamance County Sheriff Terry Johnson, a lawman for the ages, tirelessly guards the Confederate statue in Graham basically day and night with his deputies, assigning sometimes dozens of his deputies to the courthouse detail, threat or no threat, like a true patriot.

It’s Sunday night and there are maybe a dozen people on the square, most eating frozen custard. My son has chosen a root beer float, and I have had him turn his Black Lives Matter shirt inside out because, well, it’s hard to say how things will shake down in Graham. …

Children, parenting, and sending them in the right direction.

“Turtle Aug 2014 (1)” by Pam_Broviak is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

“I want to go to Germany,” you say as we flip through the pages of National Geographic, laying on the front porch together, your red popsicle dripping onto the pages.

“Where is this?” you ask, grimy finger pressed against the wall map, pointing to Alaska. You say you want to see mountains that have snow on top.

“I want to go to a place with prairie dogs!” you laugh, snorting and covering your nose so the chocolate milk doesn’t come out. You watch the silly little bandits ganging up on a…

Gwen Frisbie-Fulton

Mother. Southerner. Storyteller. Bread and Roses. #race #class #poverty #gender #equity #children #egalitarianorganizing #bottomupstorytelling *views my own*

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