A PERSONAL ESSAY: MERCHANT'S MILLPOND
I imagine my grandfather out there
now. Every time I drive through the
swamp, I look out between the trees and
wonder ifhe's been there, years and decades
before these roads were built.And I look
into this picture and wonder if he's back
in those woods behind the little girl,
himself already a man, cooking breakfast
for the trappers.
Again, my father reminds me that from
the mid-18th century until my grand-
mother was an adult, day-to-day life back
here did not change. Families lived here,
alorte in the woods, eating the same things,
working the land in the same way, and
being buried in the same little graveyards.
Two hundred years, and that's just us.
As far as Merchant's Millpond goes, it
survived another year and two floods that
devastated much of eastern North Car-
olina, though there was speculation that
it might not. During Hurricane Floyd,
the water rose past the danger sign, and
over the bridge that spans the spillway-
several millions ofgallons an hour spilling
over. Then it rose an inch an hour once
over the bridge, flooding the road for over
a mile.And the spillway held.
I went back the last time I was home
and took my roonunate. The water was
calm again and we walked to the shore.
No one was there. But I saw canoes full
ofpeople. Offamilies of Chowanoc Indians,
of my grandparents when they were
courting, and ofmy father and mother
fishing. And of me just at the edge of my
memory, drifting in and out of sleep in
the bottom of the canoe. .lID.
ELIZABETH LASSITER '00 graduated this
spring as the first recipient of a new prize given
by the University for creative nonfiction, the
William Lavonsa Moore Prize. This essay
earned her that honor. Herfiction also has been
recognized with the Truman Capote Prize (for
1998-99) and with this year's Louis D.
Behind the author's grandmother, pictured here at
no more than age 12 with her pet lamb, is a swamp
into which many things, including one family's roots,
have grown deep.
Septe III ber/0,t0ber 2 aaa