Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Ahhh......the summers at my grandparent's house.

In reference to the picture of the future goat farmer of America, my sister and I used to spend the summers with my grandparents because we were too young to stay by ourselves while our parents were attending graduate level classes , acquiring their advanced education required for teachers. They attended the University of Georgia, which was several hours away from where we lived, so they rented and apartment for the summer and we stayed with our grandparents in south Georgia. The afore mentioned picture was one that my sister took of me when we were playing dress up one day. I fancied that I was some type of bohemian farmer girl. We're all allowed our moments of dorkdom. Mine will apparently last well into my senior years.

Someday I should write a book about those summers because even though I missed my parents, most painfully at times, a person cannot buy a vacation or pay for any time that would be as priceless as those days are to me. We did our fair share of manual labor.....planting, weeding, mowing miles of lawn and anything else that our grandparents thought we should do. Sometimes it seemed like we'd been signed over for slave labor, but deep down inside it felt good to be a part of something that produced so much good food, and kept us outside where it was just us and the hot sun. There's something about being outside all day when it's so hot that you feel that the sun is burning out anything in you that doesn't belong there. Eventually, we didn't even notice the heat anymore because whatever was inside us that made us feel the heat was gone. There were of course, enormous payoffs such as playing in the mud and sand, both of which became glorious rivers and pools of muck after one of those summer monsoon rains. I can remember my grandmother being completely traumatized when I taught the pristine neighbor kids how to spend an entire afternoon in the mud and render their clothes unrecognizable just like mine. I remember wading through the mudholes around the sprinklers out in the gardens after it had poured down rain and all I can say is that it felt so good, that if adults were doing that kind of thing, you'd see a lot of people standing around in fields smoking cigarettes. To err is human, to spend the afternoon wading around in a mudhole is divine.
The tree houses.( I'm taking some freedoms here with the word house) - A tree house was wherever we decided we would perch for several hours , and it usually involved pulling up and lowering down any number of necessary items in the tin bucket we were allowed to use. My grandmother used to fix lunch for us and we would lower the bucket down, mouths watering in anticipation of what was coming back up - it was usually a ham sandwich but it never disappointed. There is no food that tastes better than food raisied up in a bucket and eaten while sitting on the big branch of a pecan tree. Speaking of eating, it would be very remiss of me not to mention how I set out to eat every watermelon that they grew in their garden - and believe me - they had some watermelons. I would sit on the patio and eat the melon right off the rind - no fork, no knife, no spoon - just me and the melon. I always looked like I'd been caught in a tragic accident that involved the explosion of watermelons.

And of course, I can't forget the endless stacks of Harlequin romances my sister and I read because my grandmother belonged to the monthly Harlequin Romance Club and she received a box of books every month from them. Eventually it seemed as though Harlequin romances were breeding in my grandparent's house because you couldn't swing a dead cat around without hitting a a romance novel. On rainy days, upon finishing our chores, we could consume any number of those books! Our acquisition of reading material was limited to weekly trips into town, visits from the book mobile ( which was second only to getting ice cream as far as I was concerned) and of course, the ubiquitous Harlequins. I haven't read a Harlequin Romance in years, but I'm thinking maybe I should. Would I return, if only momentarily, to a simpler, more lighthearted time? Maybe if I made a sour cream pound cake and some lemon curd sauce to go on top and ate it while I read the books it would be the magic formula for time travel back to those days. It's worth a try.

Looking back on these days, I might have known that someday I would be destined to return to some type of communion with that past life. Now I work in my yard where there is no fabulous south Georgia sand or dirt............plenty of rocks and clay, though. I plant flowers spring, summer and fall and as you read this, I am preparing a raised bed to try and escape the crummy dirt problem, so that I can grow some vegetables and flowers together, minus the rocks.
I try to cook some of the same things that my grandmother cooked - this morning it was buttermilk pancakes. and bacon. I've tried my hand at her waffles, potato fritters and in the past when I flung good sense to the winds - fried chicken. I'm realistic - talent such as my granny's went to the grave with her, but I do okay. Lately, I've been experimenting with not measuring things - just dumping ingredients in whatever I'm cooking - just like Granny did. So far, so good - no scary outcomes, it's been rather liberating. I recently acquired a Dodge truck, which is nothing like Pa's old Chevrolet , but a girl can dream. I am searching relentlessly for the place to live where my children can roam and play in the dirt and wade in the mud; where I can have grapevines and tomatoes and hopefully a patio where I can sit and eat watermelon right off the rind.
I don't fry chicken any more, like Granny did ( she did that a LOT),but I like to bake bread, which I cannot recall my grandmother ever doing because they ate store bought white bread. My grandfather would eat no other. He also ate eggs every morning, souse meat and the fat off of every piece of meat he ever ate and everyone else's too. He also drank a little watered down whiskey just about every day and he lived to be 96. He knew a few things.

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