Thirteen year old Jeremy was looking forward to summer vacation. It wasn’t that he didn’t like school; he liked school fine and had good grades. However, he loved the freedom of summers. “Just three more days,” he said to his best friend, Casey.
“I’m going to fuck a girl this summer,” Casey proclaimed.
“With that little dick of yours she wouldn’t even know she’d been fucked,” Jeremy teased.
“Ha, I’ve grown since you last saw it.”
“What is it now, three inches?”
“Yeah, it’s three inches and then some.”
The two friends teased each other about their dick size or lack of until they had reached Jeremy’s house. They always ended up either Jeremy’s or Casey’s house after school for a snack before conquering the dragons and beast of the neighborhood. As they grew older these dragons and beast involved challenging the other neighborhood kids to a game of basketball or bicycle races.
There were other times when they just took their snacks to the park and planned their future. They were going to college together and would be roommates. They didn’t care what their major was as long as it was fun. They would go to college away from Davis, California, maybe USC or UCLA. However, both sets of parents were professors at UC Davis and had plans for both boys to stay home for college.
Jeremy had always lived in the neighborhood. He was born after his parents took teaching positions at UC Davis. When Jeremy was five, Casey and his family moved next door when Casey’s parents came to UC Davis to teach. They were immediate friends and their parents soon became friends too.
The two friends stayed in the park until it was time to go home. Goodbyes were usually just a touching of fist and each went into their respective houses. As common, both of Jeremy’s parents were working together in the kitchen preparing dinner.
“I don’t give damn, I’m not putting up with his shit,” Allen Morgan was saying when Jeremy entered the kitchen.
“Hi dear,” Nancy Morgan greeted her son. “Dinner is almost ready, go wash up for dinner.” When she thought Jeremy was out of hearing distance, she continued. “I still can’t believe that you just up and resigned your position.”
“I’m tired of Bill screwing me around like that,” Allen said. “After I worked my ass off for that department, he promoted a guy with half the teaching experience that I have. The guy hasn’t even published one journal article either. The worst thing is that Bill wanted to reassign me to the weekend college.”
“What will you do now?”
“I’ll find something, don’t worry.”
“I’ll bet you’re hungry,” Nancy quickly changed the subject when Jeremy entered the room.
“I had a snack, but I could eat,” Jeremy said; he could always eat. He knew that something major had occurred, but didn’t ask. He knew his parents would tell him when the time came.
Two weeks later when Jeremy asked to be excused after dinner Allen said, “First we need to have a family discussion.” Allen never called them family meetings because he said that all family matters were to be discussed before a decision was made, even if those decisions were made by the parents. “I think you’re aware that I’ve resigned from the university here.”
“I heard,” Jeremy said. He had a feeling that his life was about to change dramatically.
“Your mother and I have interviews at Northeastern State University back in Oklahoma,” Allen continued. “The salary isn’t what we earn here at Davis, but we have your grandparent’s house there I inherited there. The cost of living there is much less than it is here.”
As an only child, Allen inherited his parent’s home and eighty acres in Cherokee County, Oklahoma when his parents were killed in an auto accident by a drunk driver. The land had been part of his great-great grandmother’s Cherokee allotment when Oklahoma became a state. The house had been rented for the past seven years. The family hadn’t been back since the funeral.
“I don’t want to live in Oklahoma,” Jeremy screamed. “I’ll go live with Casey.”
“No dear, we’re a family,” Nancy said. “We will remain a family. You may invite Casey to visit you in Oklahoma and we’ll come back here to visit.”
“But Mom, it isn’t the same,” Jeremy protested.
“I know, but you’ll make friends there,” Nancy said. “You can stay with Casey when we go to Oklahoma for the interviews.”
Jeremy was devastated, but he knew the move was inevitable. He had a few friends, but none as close as Casey.
“You can stay with use and not go to Oklahoma,” Casey offered when he learned that his best friend would be moving.
“I already asked, but they said no,” Jeremy said. “Mom promised that you could visit me in Oklahoma and that we would come back here for visits.”
“It’s not the same.”
“I know, that’s what I said. But, let’s make the best of our time before I have to move.”
“When do you have to move?”
“Dad said that they won’t know for sure that they get the positions for a week or two after the interview. Then we will plan our move.”
Things moved fast after Allen and Nancy returned from Oklahoma. Contract offers arrived in less than two weeks. The house was immediately place on the market and to everyone’s surprise sold in two weeks. This all happened so fast that the boys hardly had time to say goodbye.
The dreaded day arrived in the form of a moving van. The movers were much too efficient as far as Casey and Jeremy was concerned. Allen did offer to buy a “last meal” at the Burger King before beginning the long trip east. The boys tried to make it last, but finally Allen said, “We need to go boys. I want to make it to Reno today.”
Jeremy and Casey were in tears when Casey was dropped off back at his house. It didn’t help that the only house Jeremy ever knew looked so empty and lonely. Soon a new family would be moving in and Jeremy couldn’t help but wonder if Casey’s new best friend would live there.
Jeremy didn’t remember much about the trip to his new home. If he wasn’t sleeping he was either pouting or playing a video game. When the family finally arrived in Tahlequah, Oklahoma he became somewhat more interested. After all, this would be his new home. Tahlequah was about one third the size of Davis. The city looked different to Jeremy, but the last time he had been here was for his grandparent’s funeral.
The house was much as Jeremy remembered. It was an older farm house with a porch across the front. There was a barn out back that would need exploring. He wondered if there were any kids his age in the neighborhood. There were no close neighbors that Jeremy could see, but his dad said that with all the trees many of the houses were not easily seen.
As expected the moving van wouldn’t arrive until the next day. This meant another night in a hotel. After checking into the Holiday Inn, Allen drove around town to show Jeremy the home town where he grew up. The university wasn’t as large as UC Davis, but it wasn’t nearly as small as Jeremy expected. Next was the high school where he would be entering his freshman year. However, the high school was larger than Jeremy expect. Allen explained that many of the students were bused in from a large area of the county.
“May I call Casey? Jeremy asked when they arrived back at the hotel after dinner.
“Yes, but use my cell phone,” Nancy said. “It cost less than calling from the hotel phone.”
“May I speak to Casey?” Jeremy asked Mrs. Conner when she answered the phone.
“Well hello there Jeremy, I’m sorry but Casey is still at the park with friends.”
“He’s at the park this late?”
“Jeremy, I believe there’s a two hour difference in our time and yours.”
“Oh yeah, I forgot. Would you tell Casey that I called and will call back tomorrow.”
“I will, Jeremy. We miss you around here.”
“I miss being there. Goodbye.”
The moving van arrived by midmorning the next day. By evening the house was somewhat livable. Mostly all that remain was unpacking, and finding a place for everything. Out of boredom, Jeremy had most of his possessions unpacked before dinner. He turned his TV on and saw nothing but snow. “Dad, how do I connect my TV to the cable?” He called out.
“Sorry son, but there’s no cable out here,” Allen answered. “I’ll call to get satellite TV.”
There wasn’t much left for Jeremy to do but explore the area. “Mom, I’m going to go ride my bicycle,” He said.
“Okay, your dad is going to town to pick up a pizza for dinner. I’ll go grocery shopping tomorrow. Take my cell phone and I’ll call you when your dad gets back with the pizza.”
“Okay, mom,” He called out as he went out the door.
Jeremy saw that there were more houses in the area than he originally though. Many were off the main roads and partially hidden by the trees. Jeremy saw an old farm truck parked on the side of the road. It appeared to be abandoned, but when he came closer he saw an elderly Indian woman attempting to change a tire. “Osiyo,” She said when she saw Jeremy. She must have seen the confusion on his face and said, “That’s hello in Cherokee.”
“Hello,” Jeremy said. “Do you need help?”
“Ha, you look kind of scrawny,” She said.
“I’m stronger than I look.”
“If I can’t help, I can call my Dad to help?”
“Who is your Dad?”
“Allen Morgan, do you know him?”
“Is he Melinda and Lester’s boy?”
“Yeah, they were my grandparents.”
“I haven’t seen Allen since he was a little boy. My husband and I moved to Houston years ago. I moved back here when my husband died. Do you think you can get this jack under there for me? What is your name?”
“Jeremy, what is yours?”
“I’m Annie Wolf.”
Jeremy had never changed a tire before but under Annie’s guidance they eventually had the spare tire on the truck. “I don’t know a lot about tires, but all of your tires look pretty bad.”
“I guess I’ll go to town tomorrow try to get some new ones. Wado, Jeremy.”
“Wado is Cherokee for thank you.”
“Tsi-lu-gi, that’s how you say welcome.”
Jeremy felt comfortable with this elderly Cherokee woman and said, “Look you have another flat tired.”
“I’m only teasing. But, you will have another flat if you don’t get new tires soon.”
“Ha, you’re a tsi-s-du.”
“What does that mean?”
“Rabbit, and to the Cherokee a rabbit is a trickster.”
The cell phone rang and Nancy informed Jeremy that his dad was back with the pizza. “Goodbye, Mrs. Wolf. Mom said for me to come home and eat dinner.”
“Just call me Annie, and goodbye is do-na-da-go-hv-i. Do-na-da-go-hv-i tsi-s-du
“Good grief, what happened to you?” Nancy asked when she saw her sweaty and dirty son.”
“I helped a woman change a flat,” Jeremy said. “She knew Grandma and Grandpa, and she knew you when you were a little boy, Dad.”
“Who is this woman?” Allen asked.
“Annie Wolf,” Jeremy said.
“Gosh, I had forgotten all about her,” Allen said.
“Jeremy, go wash your hands and face and eat before the pizza gets any colder,” Nancy said. “You can shower after you eat.”
With no TV, no internet, and no friends to hang with, Jeremy went to bed early. He woke early to the sound of birds singing. This was different than the sounds of the city he was used to. His parents were still asleep when he got up. He left a note that he was going for a bike ride and that he had the cell phone.
He rode down the same road in which he met Annie and to the highway. He wondered which house was hers. As he rode along he heard singing. It was a beautiful voice singing a beautiful song in what he assumed to be Cherokee. He stopped to listen and saw Annie working in her garden.
We n’ de ya ho, We n’ de ya ho
We n’ de ya ho, We n’ de ya ho, ho ho ho
He ya ho he ya, Ya ya ya
I am of the Great Spirit, Ho! I am of the Great Spirit, Ho!
I am of the Great Spirit, Ho! I am of the Great Spirit, Ho! It is so, it is so.
Great Spirit, Great Spirit, Great Spirit
(Note: To listen to the words of this beautiful song go to: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tJmbSTY41jI&feature=related)
“Annie, that was beautiful,” Jeremy said. “What is that song?”
“It is the Cherokee Morning Song,” Annie said. “It’s an ancient Cherokee language song that my grandmother taught me. The song is sung to greet the new day and to give thanks to the Great Spirit for being here to observer that new day.”
“Someday could you teach me that song?”
“I would be happy to do that. What are you doing out so early? I thought teenagers slept until noon during the summer.”
“I woke up early and decided to go for a ride. I just happened to ride by your place. I guess I should go back home for breakfast.”
“Let me give you some vegetables from the garden. I always grow more than I can ever use.”
“Thank you, Annie. Is it Wado in Cherokee?”
“You’re learning fast
“Do-na-da-go-hv-i tsi-s-du, goodbye rabbit.”
“Where did you get these?” Nancy asked when Jeremy handed her the bag of vegetables.
“Annie Wolf sent them,” He said. “She said that she grew more than she could use.”
“It will be nice to have fresh vegetables,” Nancy said. “I need to call her to thank her.”
“It’s wado,” Jeremy said.
“It’s what?” Nancy asked.
“Annie taught me how to say thank you in Cherokee,” Jeremy said. “Dad, do you know any Cherokee words?”
“I know a few,” Allen said. “I’ve forgotten a lot.”
“When I rode up to Annie’s place she was singing a beautiful song called Cherokee Morning Song. Have you ever heard it?”
“My grandmother used to sing that, I’d forgotten about that. You’re right, it is a beautiful song.”
“Annie is going to teach me that song,” Jeremy said.
“Annie sounds like a nice lady, we need to invite her to dinner sometime,” Nancy said. “Now go and wash up while I start breakfast.”
“I didn’t know we had food to cook,” Jeremy said.
“I was tired of eating out so I pick up a few things when I went to get the pizza,” Allen said.
“After breakfast, I’m going grocery shopping,” Nancy said. “I need you to go help because your dad needs to be here when they come to install the satellite dish.”
“Dad, don’t forget to have my TV connected,” Jeremy said.
Jeremy wasn’t fond of grocery shopping, but he went along because he knew his mother would always buy his favorite foods. He knew this shopping trip would be time consuming since it would be necessary to completely stock the pantry. After two full shopping carts his mother wrote a check in the amount of a small fortune.
The installer was busy installing the satellite dish when Nancy and Jeremy returned from shopping. While Allen ‘supervised’ the installation, Jeremy helped his mother unload and put the groceries away.
“Mom, I’m going to go ride my bike,” Jeremy said when he had finished with the groceries.
“Jeremy, Annie is going to get tired of you bugging her,” Nancy said.
“I think she lives alone and gets lonely,” Jeremy said. “I’ll tell her to send me away if she gets tired of me.”
“Okay, but fill a water bottle,” Nancy said. “It’s hot out and I don’t want you getting dehydrated. And, take my cell phone too. I think we need to get you a cell phone if you’re going to be out riding alone.”
“Mom, I’ll be fourteen next month. I’ll be fine.”
“Still, we’re getting you your own cell phone and you must take it with you when you go riding.”
“Yes mom,” he agreed. He knew there was no need to argue.
“Ask Annie to come to dinner tomorrow evening, and thank her for those lovely vegetables.”
Jeremy found Annie sitting under a huge oak tree snapping green beans. “Osiyo,” He said.
“Osiyo do-`hi-tsu,” Annie said.
“I said, hello. How are you?”
“I wish I could speak Cherokee.”
“I could speak Cherokee before I could speak English. I didn’t learn to speak English until I started school.”
“You speak perfect English now.”
“I have a teaching degree in elementary education from Northeastern State University here in Tahlequah.”
“My parents will be teaching at NSU this fall. Oh, Mom said to tell you thanks for the vegetable, and she wants you to come to dinner tomorrow evening.”
“Wado (thank you), I’d be happy to have dinner with your family.”
“How well did you know my grandparents?”
“You’re grandmother and I was friends and classmates. She started dating your grandfather in high school. He and my husband were friends too. We called them the Lone Ranger and Tonto. I went to college at Northeastern and my husband went to the University of Oklahoma to study petroleum engineering. My husband and I married after we graduated from college. Your grandparents married no long after graduating from high school. Our friendships drifted apart after that. However, we would see your grandparents when we came from Houston to visit our family here.”
“Was your husband Cherokee?”
“He was half Cherokee.
“The same as my Dad?”
“Yes, and that would make you one quarter Cherokee.”
“That’s not very much, right?”
“There aren’t many full blood Cherokees left. One quarter is a lot. Being Cherokee is here.” She clutched her heart.
“I never really thought about being Cherokee until I met you. I want to learn as much as I can about the Cherokees.”
“I will teach you all I know.”
“Do you have any family?”
“I had a brother who was killed in Vietnam. My husband and I were never able to have children.”
“I guess it is time for me to go home. I’ll see you tomorrow.”
“Come in the house and I’ll send some fresh eggs to your mother.”
“We bought eggs today.”
“These are fresh. These taste better.”
Jeremy was surprised at the house. It was very old and the floors creaked when they walked over them. In spite of the age of the house, it was spotless clean. There was a picture of a young couple hanging on the wall. “Who is this in that picture?”
“That’s my husband and me.”
“You were beautiful and your husband was handsome.”
“I guess that means I’m not beautiful now.” She laughed with a twinkle in her eye.
“Yes you are, but in a different way.”
“You’re a diplomat, Jeremy Morgan. Now, can you manage these eggs on your bicycle without breaking them? ”
“Since they’re in a carton, I think I can.”
Annie arrived for dinner and presented Nancy with more garden fresh vegetables. “Let me pay you for these vegetables, and the eggs you sent,” Nancy said.
“No, friends don’t charge friends for things they grow,” Annie protested.
“Thank you Annie, I can see why Jeremy loves visiting with you,” Nancy said. “However, if he gets to be a pest send him home.”
“Goodness no, I love his company,” Nancy said. “Allen, he looks like you did when you were younger.”
“I don’t see it,” Allen said. “Fortunately, he got his mother’s good looks.”
“Thank you dear,” Nancy said. “Annie is right though. Jeremy looks like you did in your pictures.”
“Thank you Nancy,” Annie said. “That dinner was delicious. I sometimes tire of eating my own cooking.”
“Do you only eat Cherokee food?” Jeremy asked.
“Over the years the Cherokee food has been influenced by the Europeans. A lot of the American food has been influenced by the Native Americans also. There are some foods that we Cherokees consider traditional Cherokee foods.”
“What are those?” Jeremy asked.
“Hominy, wild onions with eggs, wild greens, and kanuchi, to name a few,” Annie said.
“What is kanuchi?” Jeremy asked.
“Kanuchi is made from hickory nuts,” Annie explained. “The nuts are pounded and made into a ball and then later it can be cooked with water to make a soup like mixture. Hominy is added and some people sweeten it. Traditionally the Cherokee sweetened it with honey.”
“Do you make it?” Nancy asked.
“I do,” Annie said.
“Would you teach me how?” Jeremy asked.
“Traditionally, this was made by the women,” Annie said. “But, in these days men often make kanuchi. I would be happy to teach you how to make kanuchi.”
“Jeremy, I didn’t know that you were interested in this,” Allen said.
“I’ve never thought that much about being Cherokee until I met Annie,” Jeremy said. “I want to learn as much as I can about the Cherokee culture as I can.”
“Son, I guess I’ve lived away from here so long I lost contact with the Cherokee ways,” Allen said.
“Annie lived in Houston for years, and she still knows the Cherokee culture,” Jeremy said.
“Jeremy, I only knew the Cherokee culture until I start school,” Annie said. “Your dad had a Cherokee mother and a white father. That makes a difference.”
As promised, Annie began teaching Jeremy the Cherokee Morning Song. He was singing the song one morning while he was preparing breakfast for the family.
We n’ de ya ho, We n’ de ya ho
We n’ de ya ho, We n’ de ya ho, ho ho ho
He ya ho he ya, Ya ya ya
“Jeremy, what is that song you were singing?” Nancy asked.
“That is the Cherokee Morning Song that Annie taught me,” Jeremy answered in embarrassment.”
“That was lovely. I didn’t know you could sing.”
“I’ve never tried before. This is the only thing I’ve ever tried to sing.”
“Maybe you should consider taking chorus when you enroll in school.”
“Mom, most guys don’t take chorus. People will think I’m a fag.”
“Jeremy, first of all don’t use that word again. It’s either gay or homosexual. Second, why should you care what people think? Besides, I think you’d be surprised how many guys take chorus, I’d venture to say that the percent that are gay is no higher than the remainder of the student body.”
“It smells good in here, Son,” Allen said as he sat at the table for breakfast.
“Jeremy, sing that Cherokee Morning song for your dad,” Nancy said.
We n’ de ya ho, We n’ de ya ho
We n’ de ya ho, We n’ de ya ho, ho ho ho
He ya ho he ya, Ya ya ya
“That was beautiful,” Allen said. “I didn’t know you could sing that well.”
“That’s what I told him,” Nancy said. “I suggested he take chorus this fall. But, he thinks people would think he was gay.”
“I took chorus when I was in high school,” Allen said.
“I didn’t know that,” Jeremy said.
Jeremy continued his Cherokee education with Annie, and he would often arrive early and help her with her garden before the heat of the day began. One morning as they were busy pulling weeds Annie asked, “Did you have a special friend in California?”
“Yes, his name is Casey.”
“You know Jeremy, often when you don’t see someone those friendships fade. Just like the close friendship your grandmother and I had.”
“I know when we first moved here I talked to Casey every day. Now, we only talk about once a week. He never calls me. I’m the one that calls.”
“Maybe he didn’t feel the same about you that you felt about him. Tell me about him.”
“We were best friends since we were five. He is fun to be with. He is handsome.”
“I doubt he was any more handsome that you. Do you love him?”
“Annie, do you think I’m gay?”
“It doesn’t matter what I think. You’re who you are, and gay or not you are a wonderful person. You have to be yourself, just as the maker made you.”
“I don’t think I’m gay. Besides, I don’t want to be gay.”
“Jeremy, there was a time when I didn’t want to be Cherokee. Many of the white children in school made fun of your grandmother and me, as well as the other Cherokee children. They made fun of us because our English wasn’t very good. Over time I learned to be proud of my Cherokee heritage. You may or you may not be gay, regardless, be happy with yourself.