Dear Willie...

It was morning, a long time ago. I'd just moved to the Georgia Mountains during a down pour the night before and I felt like road kill. To be honest, despite its beauty, I was not happy about this place being my new home. I'd recently given birth to my youngest child and my beloved grandmother (Maw Maw, I called her) had passed away at almost the same time. Upon my arrival, I fell asleep in the new house without removing my makeup. So, on this particular morning, I had that hungover raccoon-eyed look. But I didn't concern myself with that as I loaded my baby in the back of my Thunderbird and headed to the nearest grocery store for supplies.

Making my way through the aisles in zombie mode - just grabbing anything and everything - I was exhausted. Looking around at the other people, I felt totally out of my element. Yes, I'm Southern and they were Southern, but these were mountain people - a different breed altogether. I didn't think I would ever feel at home again.

I made it through the checkout line (still in a haze) having mindlessly purchased enough to fill up two carts. I remember that the store had to get a little old man to help me navigate to my car. This was about the moment that I started to feel a bit embarrassed - because there I was with my big Buddha baby, breasts still too large for my frame, and day-old makeup. What I didn't know, was that the clouds were about to lift. Something was about to shake me out of my stupor and help me to realize that everything was going to be okay - I wasn't on another planet after all.

Like I said, the little old man was helping me with the second cart. But he walked through the automatic doors in front of me instead of behind because I'd told him to look for a red T-Bird. After he crossed the threshold, I had to stop walking to let a man who was passing by make his way. That man was you.

There you were - a legend - right in front of me in the middle of nowhere.

I've always had a photographic memory and I took a picture of you in my mind. You looked back at me, probably hoping the massive package of toilet paper on my cart wasn't blocking my view enough to make me slam into you. It wasn't. You looked right into my bloodshot raccoon eyes, and put your hand on the back pocket of your Wrangler jeans before continuing on your way.

Though I tried not to stare, I noticed the morning sun was reflecting off of your smooth braids. You looked happy and rested as you stopped at the passenger window of a white vehicle and "chatted" with the person inside. Nobody else seemed to notice your presence, making me think my exhaustion was playing tricks on my mind. So, I quietly asked the sweet little old man, "Excuse me Sir, but is that Willie Nelson over there?" He looked up from the trunk of my car long enough to glance your way. "Yep," he replied before continuing his work.

I put my sleeping baby in the car seat with my mind now awake and racing. "Should I go and ask for an autograph?" I thought. A quick look in the rear view mirror and the answer was "No." But the rear view mirror also revealed that you were looking my way. Whether you were hoping nobody was going to approach you or pondering how in the hell I managed to get all of those groceries into my small T-bird, I don't know. But my pride in appearance made me drive away and mind my own business....for about three minutes.

I'd no sooner left, when I decided to turn that car around and go back to the parking lot. But alas, as quickly as you had appeared in front of me, you'd left the same way.

Still, my spirits were greatly lifted by that chance encounter. I knew I wasn't so far removed from the world, that I couldn't find my way back anytime I wanted. I grew to love the mountains and its people. And every time I come back and pull into the Food Lion parking lot, I think of you; the creative, gentle and rebellious soul that is Willie Nelson.

Thanks for the comfort.