FLAVORS is a coming of age novella, featuring twelve-year-old Sadie Ann Melton. Sadie Ann is a composite of us all. She represents a fascinating collage of inner-child traits nestled deeply inside each of us, regardless of age or gender. Muses for her story include endless, colorful Miller kin and friends who have influenced my life. My model for the Melton Farm was my very own Miller grandparents’ Spartanburg County, South Carolina farm, one which provided infinite adventures during my young years. The story is fiction. But in it, I suspect that some of you will whiff tantalizing flavors of your youth. I recently visited the old farm site, only to discover it unrecognizable. Gone were the meadows and fields and wooded wonderlands. All the slopes and valleys were leveled by modern day technology. Replacing the ancient farm house was a contemporary structure of wood-siding. Nothing familiar remained. The essence of my childhood-images was gouged away and disposed of. It was a profoundly sad, melancholy moment.
Then—I closed my eyes and remembered it as it had been and I realized that all is not truly ever gone. Because no matter how old we get, there still remains that child inside us, just waiting for an opportunity to pop up and bestow a joyful full circle to our odyssey.
In the words of Pablo Picasso, “youth has no age.”
Hence, I give you Flavors.
My thirteen-year-old aunt, Nellie Jane figured heavily into my early education.
“There’s no such thing as a Santa Claus,” she had declared when I was nine-years-old, shattering forever the magic. During one of my family’s Sunday farm-visits, she and I had escaped to the meadow and lounged there, chewing on sugar-cane.
My mouth was hanging open from the shock of it, sugar-cane forgotten.
“Nuh uh,” I had protested.
“Sadie,” she said, as in how stupid can you be? “That’s the truth. Your daddy and your Mama are Santa Claus.” That I had held onto the illusion of a real, live, breathing St. Nicholas until the age of nine was somewhat miraculous considering how street-smart most mill hill kids were. But with Daddy’s iron-clad stay-in-the-yard edict, my parents had shielded me from the cold veracity that was Nellie Jane’s revelation.
“But Santa Claus comes to see you,” I insisted.
She humphed. “Sadie, them presents all come from your mama and Lillian and my older sisters.” She looked at me kind of irritated. “Sadie, you’re too old to believe in Santa Claus, anyhow. Little Joe’s still a baby. That’s different.”
Now, three years later, she had more disclosures in store for me.
“You know where you come from, don’t you?” she asked nonchalantly.
“From my mama’s tummy,” I replied, feeling quite proud that I had deduced such because Mama had birthed my little brother when I was old enough to notice her entire metamorphosis from start to finish. Besides, Mama had been quite open about it all, letting me feel the baby’s movements after her fourth month.
“Do you know how you got there?” Nellie Jane broke a straw and stuck it in her mouth, looking off into the distance.
She had me there. “I don’t know.” I shrugged, at a loss.
She looked at me then, a knowing glint in her hazel eyes. “Your Daddy put it there.”
My gaze narrowed on her, a thread of dread snaking through me. But the question stuck in my brain, wildly waving scarlet inquisitive-banners. So I had to know. “How?”
She gestured then to body parts and explained in detail about mating.
Truth, bald and brutal, struck me between the eyes and shot into my bones and vitals. It was like the Santa Claus wham all over again .
Reeling, I felt a heavy dose of disillusionment weigh me down. I sighed and shuddered, settling down into the meadow sod, strangely depleted. Nellie Jane’s words lingered, scandalizing me with details of how Mama and Daddy had made me.
It was too, too much.
“You’re lying,” I accused weakly. But by the look in her eye, one that radiated pity for my inanity, I knew that she was not.
All these years later, I still marvel that I’d not—by osmosis—gleaned from those mill village peers the low-down on the birds and bees.
At that time, I had not a clue that my innocence was slowly leaking away.
At that time, I had not a clue as to what innocence was.
Emily Sue Harvey is The Story Plant’s Author of the Month. This means we are offering sensational deals on all of her works, including Flavors. You can learn more at our website.