“Where we love is home –
home that our feet may leave,
but not our hearts.”
Oliver Wendell Holmes
With a renewed sense of purpose, I shifted my weight on the temporary
bed they had set up for me. My life was flashing before me now and I
needed to let it unfold. It was important to remember who I was and
where I had come from. I focused on my grandmother because she was my
only connection to the beginning. Slowly, slowly, my mind drifted back
to those long ago days.
I was wearing my favorite plaid dress and saddle oxford shoes. My
grandmother was brushing my hair, telling me it was a fine September
morning when I came into this world and made Ruth and Harold Cover
reluctant parents. The look on her face told me more; they weren’t
pleased about my arrival at all. They hadn’t even picked out my name.
She explained how she had taken it upon herself to call me Marley, an
old English name that meant pleasant wood.
From the day I was born, we lived in my grandparents’ house on a
corner parcel of land in Mansfield, Massachusetts. Through eyes of
wonder and the hazed impressions of a small child’s mind, I watched
each day as my grandmother pumped well water from her kitchen sink and
cooked on a wood-burning stove.
My grandfather’s job was to empty the drip pan under the ice box each
morning. This made room for the new block of ice that was delivered
daily on a horse-drawn wagon. That block of ice kept our milk and meats
cold. Three mornings a week, four bottles of milk with an inch of cream
floating on top, were delivered to our doorstep. My mother loved to
sneak off the cream for her morning coffee.
Nighttime was magical. The lack of electricity provided us with a sweet
tranquil darkness. The only source of light came from fireflies,
kerosene lamps, and the moon and stars above. These delicate sources of
lighting left a vivid impression on my youthful mind.
My grandfather made an impression on me, too. He didn’t show me much
affection, but every morning we would sit side by side in his legendary
garden. I could feel my imagination stir, as the potatoes and carrots
pushed up new sprouts to greet the morning sun. That garden fed us and
half of the neighbors on our street. Surrounded by the stillness of
growing things and the fragrance of warm soil, I was filled with
constant delight. Then, my grandmother would come and take me back
inside and feed me, wash me, and make sure I was dressed for the day.
On nights when my grandfather’s snoring kept my grandmother awake, she
would send him to my room and take me back to bed with her. She would
heat two bricks on the wood-burning stove, wrap them in a towel, and
place them at the foot of her bed. The warmth of her body and the sweet
scent of her milk-white skin would enter me on those cold New England
nights. The days and nights spent on my grandparents’ farm were filled
with wonder and curiosity. While the vegetable garden grew silently
behind their house, my life took on a shape of its own.
My grandmother suffered from sugar diabetes. The night she was dying,
hospital rules wouldn’t allow me to say goodbye to her. I sat
broken-hearted in the corridor, until my mother came out to tell me she
had died. That was the night my youthful world collapsed.
The following month, my father received a job transfer. Just like that,
I was uprooted from my beloved New England and transplanted in Lake
Wales, Florida, a small provincial town in the center of the state where
discrimination flourished, migrant workers picked citrus trees clean,
and white birds soaredhigh in the air with fallen fruit hanging from
their beaks. Bit by bit, the familiar smells of my early New England
childhood were replaced with the scents of Stuckey’s pecans, boiled
peanuts, and Orange Blossom Perfume.
It was a turbulent time in history. Americans were dug into a Cold War
at home and abroad. Democratic hopefuls raced to become president amidst
scandal and military deadlock. Our family was struggling to embrace the
new technology of the black-and-white television set and the disturbing
news that was on it. For the next decade, I was saturated with news. I
watched the launch of Sputnik I and Sputnik II and sat in awe as NASA
was born and Rocket Fever swept the nation.
Every night, we would line up on the living room couch and listen to the
heated struggles over civil rights, Castro’s Communism, and Joseph
McCarthy’s rise to power. My parents would often discuss how McCarthy
seemed to flourish in the Cold War atmosphere and how he had ruined more
careers of writers, actors, and top officials than any politician ever
So much was happening all around me that I needed to find ways to cope.
Out of desperation, I developed an imperceptible resolve in myself that
helped me deal with my emotions and keep my worries at bay. I called
that resolve my will.
When John F. Kennedy became president in 1961, I was still a junior in
high school. Kennedy’s inauguration was a significant event, but I was
in the middle of my own significant event. I was seven weeks pregnant
and had no job, no car, and no plan.
Excerpted from "Yield" by B. J. Tiernan. Copyright © 2016 by B. J. Tiernan. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Excerpts are provided solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.