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Christian Creative Nonfiction Inspirational

(For my Father)

Mama’s house is at the end of the shortest street in Bennetsville. It isn’t even what you’d call a street, really. Just a little hook off the main road that circles behind Jason’s greenhouse. I don’t know if there’s even a street sign there. Us locals know where to find it, and travelers don’t have no reason to look. Nothing there for them to be interested in, ‘cept maybe the greenhouse or the little church just past that. But for me, it’s home.

Or, it was.

Growing up on this little street means you know all the neighbors, and their dogs, and their cats. It means chain link fences with gates that barely hold onto rusting hinges, and sprinklers to run through on hot days, watermelon on Sunday afternoons, brick steps leading to cement porches, and hydrangeas. Every house has a big hydrangea bush in the yard. But Mama’s is the prettiest. It’s blue. Bluer than a clear autumn sky.

I stop to run my hand over the cluster of petals before climbing those two brick steps onto the porch. The blooms reach over the iron handrail that shifts when you put your weight on it. A few petals fall down and speckle the sandy earth beneath the bush, almost like little snowflakes. I shake my head, knowing that’s the closest thing to snow this old house will ever see.

The bricks at the corner of the steps are starting to pull away from the house. One has already cracked and chipped. I should fix that. Mama wouldn’t want the steps to look so shabby. But later. I’m not here to fix the steps today. 

It’s Sunday. And I have my guitar. 

I take a seat in one of the plastic porch chairs. Three white chairs sit along the length of the porch, and Mama’s rocker rests just beyond the reach of the open door. The legs bend a little as I get comfortable. These chairs have held uncles way too heavy for the seats, and sometimes two or three of the grandchildren drinking melted popsicles. But I sit, and rest my guitar on my knee, plucking the first string. It’s gotten a bit sharp, so I turn the key on the headstock ‘till the tone mellows. A quick strum across the neck puts my mind at ease.

I begin to pluck the strings with my right hand as the fingers on my left press against the frets. Just a little something I made up to get my fingers moving. The sound that echoes from the polished wooden body is rich and warm, resonating in my chest. I close my eyes and take a breath, allowing the music to take over. I’m just a means for the music to release itself, after all.

“Mmmm, son, that’s sounding good!”

Mama’s voice breaks the silence. I look over, and there she is in her rocker. Her hair’s up in the same little bun, right on top of her head. She’s wearing the same pink polyester mumu, and some worn out slippers. Still smelling like rose soap from the dollar store. 

 And she’s smiling that sunshine smile.

“I’m not even playing anything yet, Mama,” I tell her, shifting a little in my seat so I can face her.

“But it’s still good! Mhmm! Can’t nobody play like my son!”

She leans back in her rocker as the breeze sweeps through the little porch. It’s warm, but it’s still a breeze. The stray strands of her hair dance around her face, and the hydrangea shakes.

“I’ve been missing you,” she says.

“I know,” I reply, softly. “I’ve been missing you, too.”

“You didn’t come the last couple of Sundays.”

“I’m sorry, Mama.”

I pull the guitar a little closer, and the melody comes. I’ve played it a thousand times, maybe more. It’s Mama’s favorite. When she hears it, the song starts in her throat. Her head begins to sway a little, and her eyes close. She steps away from me, from the porch, from everything around us, and is there in that song. A soulful hum begins its harmony with my guitar, running up and down the scale, finding the sweet places where it dances with the melody.

And Mama sings.

“Swing low, sweet chariot. Comin’ for to carry me home.”

“Swing low, sweet chariot. Comin for to carry me home …”

A shudder goes through me. Maybe it’s the wind. Or maybe it’s a spirit come down from Heaven, just to sit on that porch, and hear Mama sing. Most people can’t bring the spirit, because they don’t understand the song. Not the way Mama did. That song had been there with her through all of it. 

It was there when me and my brother were born.

It was there when Daddy left.

It was there through all the hungry days.

It was there through all the lonely nights.

And it was there the day I got my first guitar.

“I looked over Jordan, and what did I see? Comin’ for to carry me home.”

“A band of angels, comin’ after me. Comin’ for to carry me home …”

I take a breath. My fingers continue along the neck, still calling the music forth. “Why’d you have to go, Mama?”

She shakes her head. “Oh, son. That’s not for me to know, or you to know. Only the Lord knows when, or why.”

I dig my fingers deeper into the chords. “But I need you.” My vision blurs, but my hands don’t stop. “Who’s going to pray for me, now that you’re gone?”

This time, I feel her hand resting on my arm. Her touch is so soft, so gentle. You wouldn’t know they were the hands of a warrior. Of a woman who fought on her knees each night as prayers for her family filled the throne room of God.

“You know better than that,” she tells me. “I prayed for you every day on this side, and I’m still praying on the other side, too!”

The music stops. My hands shakes. And I look up, but …

She’s not there.

She’s not sitting there, wearing pink, smiling at me. The rocker is empty. Her slippers aren’t on the porch, next to the door.

The door is shut. The door is locked.

And the smell of rose soap isn’t lingering in the air.

She’s not there.

… no, that’s wrong. 

She’s there. Even if I can’t see her.

It’s Sunday, after all. It’s our porch day.

“Play my song for me, son.”

The breeze sweeps through once more, and her rocker gently sways back and forth.

The chords form as I softly strum.

D … G … D … A7

“If you get there before I do. Comin’ for to carry me home.”

“Tell my friends I’m coming there too. Comin’ for to carry me home …”




June 05, 2022 20:50

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48 comments

Shea West
22:15 Jun 05, 2022

Hannah, This feels incredibly personal and tender. I suspect you're grieving something, because that really comes through on the page as such. Lines I liked: Us locals know where to find it, and travelers don’t have no reason to look. (Living in a small town myself, this really hit me in the feels so to speak. It's a very precise description of a small town.) I should fix that. Mama wouldn’t want the steps to look so shabby. ( This was a subtle foreshadowing of the mama not being alone anymore. But also, something we do when folks pass a...

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22:23 Jun 05, 2022

Thank you so much 😭❤️ My Dad’s mom (my Nana) passed, and it’s been so hard for us. But Dad and I sing together now, the way he and Nana used to, so I wanted to write this for him! I will definitely take a look at the passage and see what more I can do to make the moment linger ❤️

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Shea West
22:27 Jun 05, 2022

Peace and comfort to you and your family at this time. I'm so happy to know you have that relationship with your dad <3

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K. Antonio
22:59 Jun 10, 2022

So, I actually refrained from reading this story for most of the week. Today, marks the anniversary of my father's death, so I decided to give the story a read now while giving myself permission to be vulnerable. I also found the story to be quite tender. The grief palpable, the sadness and the inspiration come through pretty clear. I also liked how the story is narrated through a younger POV of who I am deducing is your dad. The diction/accent were really nice and gave the story a personal air that I enjoyed. I loved all the details sca...

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23:49 Jun 10, 2022

K!! My friend!! 😊 thank you so much for reading my story. It truly means so much to me. I hope you are holding up ok, and giving yourself some extra love today ❤️

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Michał Przywara
20:46 Jun 06, 2022

What a beautiful, sad story. My condolences. The setting comes through strong, a nice, peaceful Sunday, and the mother's presence felt real. We really do carry our loved ones in our hearts. Death is a painful event, but here the mother is at peace, and she guides her son through the pain with grace. That she continues to pray for him is a powerful expression of her love. Thank you for sharing this.

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21:12 Jun 06, 2022

thank you, Michal <3 I miss her so very much (my grandmother) but I know she's still with me thank you for taking the time to read

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J.C. Lovero
10:29 Jun 06, 2022

Hi Hannah, This is exquisite. I saw that "Creative Nonfiction" tag at the top and was like... uh oh, I'm in trouble. And yes, I definitely was! You do a very nice job setting the stage at the beginning, describing how: "Growing up on this little street means you know all the neighbors, and their dogs, and their cats. It means chain link fences with gates that barely hold onto rusting hinges, and sprinklers to run through on hot days, watermelon on Sunday afternoons, brick steps leading to cement porches, and hydrangeas." With these couple ...

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15:13 Jun 06, 2022

J.C. thank you SO MUCH for reading my story and for your kind words here <3 it truly means a lot, and I'm glad you enjoyed it :) yeah, this tiny town is where my Dad and I both felt "at home" (my family traveled a lot for his job when I was little) so it was a journey for me to return.

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Nora Murray
07:44 Jun 29, 2022

Wow I have tears in my eyes, this really moved me. Beautiful emotions captured in this story. Would love to read more of this one. Feels like a "Where the Crawdads sing" kind of setting.

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18:14 Jun 29, 2022

Thank you, Nora ❤️ It means a lot that my story could move you that way! Thank you for stopping to read and leave me a comment!

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Dillan T Ajer
12:44 Jun 22, 2022

Love it. I'm standing over a fence listening in. Now I want to hear more about him, maybe how he wanders the countryside, RJ style, looking for his crossroads, or how he found Lightnin' Hopkins sitting at another old porch strumming about a racehorse or cadillac. I want to hear how he tells people his mama's story every night before singing it the way he was taught it. There ain't nothin' but the blues Hannah. Well done!

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Seán Mc Nicholl
21:58 Jun 14, 2022

Hannah, this is beautiful, truly beautiful. The faith, the hope and the love you carry in those words are breathtaking and heart wrenching. Your ability to transport the reader to that scene with your words is amazing, simply done and not in an overbearing manner. This is definitely one of my favourite stories on here. So beautiful. Well done.

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15:32 Jun 15, 2022

Sean :) thank you so much for stopping to read, and for your kind words! I very much want my reader to feel THERE, and see and hear and smell the things around them, thanks for letting me know that came through! <3

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Andrea Doig
15:28 Jun 14, 2022

Yip! You did it again. Stunning story. I knew where it was going from when he saw his Mum on the porch - because its the kind of story I would write and that I love to read. Only you did it far better than I could. You gave me a master lesson in show don't tell and especially in using the senses. Beautifully written. And of course, as always, I love your style and the flow. Thank you for sharing x

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16:21 Jun 14, 2022

Andrea 😊 you are so very kind! I’m glad you enjoyed it, this story was very special to me. My Nana passed away, and I’ve been thinking about her A LOT! Thank you so much for reading and for all of your encouragement ❤️

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Carolyn Brown
19:38 Jun 13, 2022

Beautiful. I could hear that familiar rhythm of the rocking chair on the porch accompanying your words.

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20:38 Jun 13, 2022

I'm so glad the music really came through for you, Carolyn :) thank you for stopping to read!

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L. Maddison
18:25 Jun 13, 2022

Tender and solemn to read, and all the while the music playing through the words is uplifting. Grateful that you shared this beautiful story.

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20:42 Jun 13, 2022

thank you so much, that means a lot to me <3 also, just thank you for taking the time to read!

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Katy Borobia
23:00 Jun 12, 2022

I enjoyed reading this! Firstly, I loved the descriptions of the small town. When I worked at a nursery the different hydrangeas were my favorites, so that made me happy as well. Loved the unexpected though perfectly fitting twist - and the mother praying for her son beyond the grave is such a beautiful, almost chilling touch. Well done!

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00:34 Jun 13, 2022

Thank you, Katy! Hydrangeas are still my favorite flowering shrub, because my Nana had them in front of her house by the porch 😊 I’m so glad you enjoyed the story, thanks for taking time to read it! ❤️

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Ashley Paige
16:57 Jun 12, 2022

What a beautiful tribute! “Who’s going to pray for me, now that you’re gone?” so heartbreaking.

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00:34 Jun 13, 2022

Thanks, Ashley! This one was a “gut punch” to write, but I was inspired 😆 Thank you for reading! ❤️

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Ace Quinnton
16:26 Jun 09, 2022

This. I like this. And it made me cry a little bit on the inside. Knowing that there have been quite a few losses in my family this year. Ones who I didn't truly get to know but were there for me even when I wasn't there for them. My mother's grandma passed away, and my stepfather's mom and dad passed away as well. I regret not being able to know them, and the fact that I was selfish to not want to. This story had hit different for me. Thank you for writing this. (Also, when I was reading this, I read it in a Southerner accent. I have no ...

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17:42 Jun 09, 2022

Hey friend ❤️ I’m so sorry for your loss. I understand what you mean. My uncle was diagnosed with cancer when I was in high school and I realized I didn’t even really know him, even though I saw him all the time. But that doesn’t change their love for you 🙂 I bet they would just want you to live every day to it’s fullest. And you definitely read it the right way! Bennetsville is my hometown in South Carolina 😆 VERY southern!

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Ace Quinnton
17:53 Jun 09, 2022

It's alright mate. I didn't really know them all too well. I've only seen and met my stepfather's parents when I was very young and saw them over at their wedding. It's true for any of my relatives' ancestors. I always live life to the fullest, generating ideas for stories to make. They can read them all in Heaven. (Or wherever they're at). Very southern indeed. Is it nice there in South Carolina? I want to put that on my travel list, so I can go visit it one day.

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18:44 Jun 09, 2022

I will have to check in on your work soon 😊 It’s VERY warm! If you visit, be sure to go to Charleston, it’s got so much history and AMAZING food!

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Ace Quinnton
19:00 Jun 09, 2022

I suggest that you read the Seemingly empty series first. I'm working on number four. I'll keep that in mind, and YES on the food. I want to try a little bit of everything wherever I travel when it comes to the cuisine.

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Aeris Walker
08:33 Jun 09, 2022

What a beautiful story! So simple, but so rich with description and emotion. I loved how the mother enjoys her son’s playing even as he’s just warming up, that’s such a mom thing to do. Every little detail—the wobbly rail, the hydrangeas—so perfect.

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Zack Powell
03:15 Jun 08, 2022

What a beautiful, heartfelt story. Not shocking since it's tagged "Creative Nonfiction," and not shocking because it IS a Hannah P. Simmons story, but man, this was phenomenal. I love how much emotion you fit into a piece of this size. How does the saying go? "Brevity is the soul of wit." I feel like this piece epitomizes that well, with good dialogue highlighted by a clear diction/syntax/accent, and with good imagery (love the rose soap smell and "bluer than a clear autumn sky." Good everything, really. Love the language used in this one -...

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13:31 Jun 08, 2022

Oh my gosh, Zack, you are so very kind <3 I will admit, I've been having a very rough couple of weeks (some family stuff) and reading this just made me feel so very happy :) thank you for taking the time to read my story, and commenting, it means more to me than you might know! I'm so glad you enjoyed this one! I seriously doubted myself, over publishing it, because I was just so emotional writing it, but this makes me feel like I made the right decision.

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Nandini Panchal
17:15 Jun 07, 2022

Such a sweet yet simple story! I am starting my term next week so I'm trying to keep up with my reading by short stories rather than full-length novels. I'm not flattering you or anything, but you are one author whose stories I always look forward to.😀😀 P.S: I like your description of the music; as a piano player, I can say it is realistic.

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18:07 Jun 07, 2022

Nandini! It’s so good to hear from you 😊 I am honored that you look forward to my stories! I also play piano ❤️ I learned a LITTLE guitar, so I pulled that to my memory when writing! I hope your term goes well, and I will keep an eye out for anything you write!

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Riel Rosehill
20:02 Jun 06, 2022

Hannah, this is a beautiful story. You did an amazing job with it, your descriptions were so colourful and alive, I could just see it all in front of me. I have no critique nor have I picked up on any line edits (I know, I'm being useless - or the others beat me to it!) I'm sorry for your loss - I've been through the same three years ago and know how hard it is, so I hope that crafting this story helped you, even if just a little.

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13:32 Jun 08, 2022

Riel <3 thank you so much for stopping to read and comment, it truly means the world to me right now!

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Russell Norman
10:25 Jun 06, 2022

Great story, beautifully written.

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15:14 Jun 06, 2022

thanks, Russell! :)

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Zelda C. Thorne
09:23 Jun 06, 2022

Oh Hannah, this is so beautiful. I've got a lump in my throat, tears brimming. Your prose is wonderful, gently carrying the reader away. I hope this gets recognition.

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15:17 Jun 06, 2022

Rachel, you are so kind <3 thank you so very much, I'm glad you could feel this journey with me!

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Suma Jayachandar
03:57 Jun 06, 2022

Hannah, this is so tender and heartfelt. And has it's roots in love for a person who will always live on in one's heart. 💕The descriptions and reveal are fantastic! Thanks for sharing this.

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15:18 Jun 06, 2022

Suma! thank you, my friend <3 I hope you have a beautiful day!

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