Road trips with her father to his home in rural Arkansas were “golden,” formative experiences for Sabreen Adeeba, despite the obstacles facing black families as they traveled in that era. Shared Stories is a weekly column featuring articles by participants in a writing class at the Norwalk Senior Center. Bonnie Mansell is the instructor for this free class offered through the Cerritos College Adult Education Program. Curated by Carol Kearns
By Sabreen Adeeba
When I was a young girl I recall my father and I leaving the hustle and bustle of big city life in Los Angeles.
The familiarity of school, new construction, urban churches, taxi cabs, buses, neon lights, and sirens in the night were exchanged for summer vacations to the South, where my father was born and raised. El Dorado, Arkansas, was a simpler life and a second home for me.
Road trips were an enjoyable memory for transportation to Arkansas. I and my father enjoyed traveling by car. We always began the trip with food he had prepared.
Sometimes I sat in the front of the car with my father, but my favorite place was the backseat where I colored, played with my dolls, and, as I became older, loved to read. Most of all, I admired the views – horses grazing, cattle, and mountains.
We drove through three states before we arrived in Arkansas – Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas. In Arizona there were grand canyons, so colorful. My favorite were orange, though they were all beautiful.
New Mexico was my favorite state. It was so cultural and very visual. My father would buy sombreros, moccasins, and jewelry to take home as souvenirs or gifts.
The last state we passed through was not as intriguing as Arizona or New Mexico. It became a learning experience.
Hungry and tired my father and I stopped at a small café in Texas. We sat down at a table and waited to be served. We never were. The treatment of the waitress towards us left me confused and my father angry.
“Let’s get the hell out of here,” I remember him saying as I followed him out the door.
We never stopped at hotels when we traveled to Arkansas. My father usually pulled over to a truck stop where there were restrooms and we slept in the car. All in all, I stilled loved the road trips to Arkansas.
I loved the big farmhouse my father grew up in with acres of farmland, the smell of fresh grass and the distinct color of soil that resembled red clay in looks and touch.
I have memories of a warm breeze caressing my cheeks, colorful butterflies, beautiful and free. Honey bees sucked pollen from flowers, while birds sang sweet melodies from their nests in the trees. Hens clucked happily about the yard.
Rural mornings awakened us with the aroma of baking biscuits in a country oven and the crispy smell of freshly-sliced bacon from Uncle Charlie’s smokehouse. Grits were simmering in butter, fresh eggs from the hen house were waiting to be scrambled or fried, or sunny-side up.
Jams, preserves, maple syrup and butter, which was kept cool in the cellar, sat on a long wooden table in the kitchen where we all enjoyed the tasty delight called breakfast.
Lunch was simple for us kids involved in rigorous play. Lunch might not be more than biscuits left over from breakfast, with honey and lemonade, or cornbread and buttermilk.
Suppers were early in the South and may consist of fresh collard greens from a well-kept garden that I helped pick and wash. Hot water cornbread, yams, Aunt Betty Mae’s mac and cheese. Fried chicken or fish was a specialty. each cobbler, sweet potato pie, pecan pies were not uncommon for dessert.
After supper, when the dishes were washed, dried, and put away, we all sat outside on the wide porch. The elders told folk tales, sang blues, and played guitars. All was golden to a young girl’s memories.
Aunts, uncles, and cousins always came to visit when we came to Arkansas. Some stayed while we were there. Days were filled with Southern glee, plus joy. I was never bored.
Arkansas was as much my home as Los Angeles, if not more. My last visit to Arkansas was at the age of 13, but I remember it like yesterday, when I was a young girl.