I first beheld beauty in my mother’s dark eyes. I grew to recognize and trust her voice, smile, and touch. Her scent. She satisfied my hunger, and one remarkable day, she opened her arms and said, “Come to Mommy, Iris. You can do it!”

And I did, surrounded by a loving father and young uncles who lived with us in the McCoy Homeplace. There, nestled in a lowland Appalachians call a “bottom” sheltered by lush, green mountains, I played with my two sisters.

My father and uncles harnessed Old Jim, our mule, plowed and planted the corn fields. Straight rows of corn grew with my sisters and me. We ran to the barn and back while red bud, rhododendron, and mountain laurel bloomed above us.

One winter night Old Jim died. We cried tears of sorrow for we loved Grandpa’s old mule because our mother and uncles did. They told us stories about Grandpa Floyd following sure-footed Old Jim up and down the hill they planted with corn.

My mother looked upon that hillside as if it was the loveliest place in the world. On the other hand, our father set his eyes upon a barbershop in Detroit, Michigan.

Thus, in the summer of 1954, Sadie and Warren O’Brien left the McCoy farm with their three daughters and earthly possessions. Dad drove winding roads through the mountains and what seemed hundreds of little towns to Yacama Street where not one mountain or hill rose up to shade us.

Mom’s dinner table and spare bed became the harbor for relatives looking for work with Chrysler, Ford, General Motors, and Michigan Bell. And so it was with the Italian, Polish, and German immigrants who also had left what they looked upon as their loveliest place in the world.

The saving grace of Yacama Street that summer was the magnificent Brown’s Creamery soda fountain nearby on Seven Mile Road. The window gave view to a counter where people sat on stools dipping long-handled spoons into tall ice cream dishes. The wonderful thought of scooping a spoon into one of those dishes produced a desire that my mother eventually fulfilled.

Yet, neither she nor I had anticipated my fright when my first day of kindergarten arrived. My older sister who suffered with asthma had entered her Open Window classroom with no hesitation. However, I feared getting lost on my way to school alone. Much worse, I’d never entered the huge doors of the two-story Gabriel Richard Elementary School. Who would find me if I got lost?

No matter how much I trusted and loved my mother, I couldn’t walk to school without her. Rather, I hid behind the large tree in the front yard and fell asleep. I woke with bird doo-doo on my head which provoked a knuckle rubbing from my mother.

Dear Reader, almost a lifetime later, I observe male and female cardinals feeding upon lavender shrubs gone to seed in my backyard.

One of the most beautiful places in the world.

Contact Iris at irisfarmletters@gmail.com.