Sunday, November 8, 2009


It's been ten years since I left Madison County, and I really haven't missed it much. I haven't had much reason to return, and have only been back a handful of times. Faiyaz has been there twice I think...both times to visit a friend with me who lives just off the interstate. I grew up on what was termed 'roller coaster road', as I kid I lost at least ten dogs to teenagers and adults speeding over those two hills. I ran wild through the woods, I'd bike the 5.5 miles into town or the 6 miles to my friend Donna's house. We never had cable TV, and sometimes we didn't have AC in the summer. I wore ratty hand-me downs with bleach stains because that was all I had. I was never popular, actually the opposite. I would never move back to Madison, for a myriad of reasons. The biggest of these is race. Racism is still a major issue there, and that's something I don't want my amazing girls ever to be exposed to.

But as I've worked on this latest book, I'm finally appreciating the other-worldly beauty of the deep south. It's like writing about a foreign country. As I expose my main character, who is a 17 year old who has spend the last 13 years in New York to rattle snakes, swamps, and alligators, and tonight the bizarre practice of spraying hunting clothes with deer urine, I am missing Madison a little. I'm not a country music person, but tonight I've been listening to "Chattahoochee" by Alan Jackson. Very popular shortly before high school, I can remember a group of girls at Pinetta Junior High climbing on a bench and singing this song while dancing to it. I haven't thought about that for I can't count how many years.

Tonight I planned out a scene of my novel to take place on the Swanee river, at Five Holes in Lee. Five Holes is one of those off the charts hang outs you get in small towns. There are five connected sink holes, some with water in them, and a sandy patch on the edge of the river. Back when I went there, a giant rope hung from a tree limb, the end of which was knotted. You'd swing out over the river, and jump off. I remember the day I decided to swim across the river. I could see the far bank, it didn't seem that far, so I did it. The whole time the group I was with screamed for me to come back, I wouldn't make it, there would be alligators, there would be moccasins...after that day, every time I'd go I'd swim across the river. No one ever went with me, it was just my thing. I'm excited to use that place. "Chattahoochee", even though it's a different river and it's the story of a young man, is a great song for my experiences at Five Holes.

I feel like I'm a different person now. I think if I did revisit Madison at this point of my life I'd be more like my main character than someone returning after a long absence. I am glad that I'm recording snippets of what that part of my life was like, and what that place is like.

I just wish I had some photos to share with all of you of Madison. If I ever do go back, I'll be sure to pack my camera.


Jenn said...

Want some pictures??

Cox Family said...

I can't wait to read your book!

Olivia said...'s a fun one, and it's going to need a few rounds of editing. And yes Jenn, I'd love some pics. Do you have any of the river?

joeythesquash said...

Uh, where is Madison? I know there are no alligators in Wisconsin, so it's somewhere else... Sounds like a fun book.

Olivia said...

It's a small town in Florida about an hour away from Tallahassee, and about 30 miles south of Valdosta, GA. I moved from Madison to Tallahassee when I was 17, but still have a few friends there.

Domestic Diva said...

Nice post - I feel the same way about our shared hometown but I do go back every few months since I still have family there - it's a completely different world :) And since your excerpt is for a book just wanted to let you know the river is actually spelled Suwannee :)

Olivia said...

I googled Swanee vs. Suwannee...supposedly, the river is Swanee and the song is Suwannee...go figure! I grew up thinking Suwannee, so I'm honestly not sure.