I lived once on a road called Star Route. It wound its way up and down the gentle hills of the Piedmont area of South Carolina. I lived in a rented house that was in bad shape with cockroach infestations, water damage, and cheap wooden paneling that had come loose from the walls of the living room.
I wanted to live in the house because of those hills and the name of the street which promised dreamy nights—the naive romantic impulses of young woman. I had a baby in that house, and my husband and I found our way through the messiness of early marriage. My books grew moldy in the back bedroom and the cockroaches always returned within a couple of months after the exterminator came—running across the counters at night, baby roaches (smaller than flees) caught under glass, chasing the hands of the little clock on the stove. But the baby thrived in the small town where mostly retired mill workers and a few odd faculty members lived, who like us had elected to do things like grow corn or raise a goat instead of living in the developments near the college.
The baby talked early, she sat on the lap of the man who lived across the street and called him “Papa.” The neighbors who called me into their kitchens if they saw me on my daily walks up and down the long Star Route insisted I drink glasses of iced tea or water. They told my daughter stories I’d never heard about fairies and witches, the ones that lived out in the country. They knew the secrets of good tomatoes. Before my daughter turned nine months, she could recite the sounds of animals they’d taught her. It was worth the roaches and the mold—the comfort of a place like that.