Query and introduction for Macon project
My name is Theodore Andrew Simmons, Ted for short, and like some, my name represents my heritage. Theodore was my great-grandfather. A school teacher and principal outside of Philadelphia. The Simmons part requires a longer explanation, one that this text aims to fulfill.
My parents met in central Florida, though neither were truly from there. When I was 8, my mom moved me and my brother up to New York, and now, at 28, I can tell you what it means to be a New Yorker. How to take the subway, what’s a good price for Knicks tickets, how to cut through the Manhattan Mall or Waldorf Astoria when it’s raining or too cold out.
Yet, I would have a harder time telling you what it means to be a Simmons. I have no recollection of my parents being together. Their divorce coincided with my birth, and though they remained amicable throughout, my dad and his side of the family were always at a distance. Some of my fondest memories with my dad are the drives we’d make from Orlando to Cocoa Beach, the windows rolled down, him hawking loogies out the window at light speed.
William Sidney Simmons IV, known as Bill to anyone that would listen, died on Feb. 16, 2007. I was 18 years old. He was a waiter all his life. A talker and a charmer. He loved sports, baseball most of all, and played, I like to think, up to his dying days. He was sweet, maybe a little naive, and his death remains the defining moment of my life.
I write this introduction from the porch of 471 Spring St. in Macon Ga., the house my dad lived in as a toddler up to his teenage years. He would come back frequently, even after his parents moved him and his siblings further down the coast. It is a Tuesday in March, what is to be my last full day in town. It is 75 degrees and the wind has the chimes next to me singing.
This is an old house and in 2020, we will celebrate the fact that it has been in the Simmons name for 100 years, My great Aunt Jane lives here now with her husband Paul, their children having left decades ago to start lives of their own.
I spent this afternoon digging through an old bookcase and china cabinet where dust had settled on magazines, yearbooks, photos. I have spent the past few days digging through something much larger and abstract.
My mom, fiance Jess and I flew into Atlanta late last week, rented an Orange Hyundai Santa Fe and drove 70 miles south to Macon, a place I hope to capture here thereafter. The purpose of the trip was to introduce Jess to the family she's marrying into and to pay homage to my dad on the 10 year anniversary of his passing. But what should be apparent by now is that my own motivations run much deeper.
In the ten years since we buried my dad in Riverside Cemetery, right next to his father Sid and his mother Mary Ann, I have pursued writing as both a career and avocation. With bylines in national publications and years of training as a writer and reporter, there is a story, my story, that I am eager to tell.
How exactly, if at all, do I fit into this crazy family? Lives have been lived and lost in this house, My dad was babysat by Jane in these rooms. He slept with his grandmother “Nanny” in the very bedroom Jess and I shared this trip. He brought his high school girlfriend here in 1972. He brought my mother here some decade-plus later. What follows is my own quest to understand roots that more often than not, feel foreign. My thought on loss and grief, with a decade of hindsight. If this ancient house is a mirror that reflects generations of Simmons’s, than this is me grappling with parts of myself that I’ve failed to recognize and negotiating them with those found 1,000 miles north, at times to contradictory results.