Tears and Laughter: Remnants and reminders of rural summer memories.
June 1, 2018 | View PDF
It has been almost 40 years since I spent my last summer with Fannie. She would not believe the lives we live now.
Even in the 70’s she lived somewhere far back in time. It was partly, I suppose, because she was in rural Marengo County. We lived only minutes away from one another, but we were worlds apart…minus the weekdays we would spend together.
I would often arrive at her house early enough the fog would still be rising over the farm fields. It would slowly lift, surrendering to the golden beams of the rising sun.
Most of our time inside was spent within two rooms, the kitchen and her bedroom. The bedroom had a fireplace in it that would be boarded-up during the summer months. There was a closet with a curtain that served as a door. Behind the curtain was evidence of a fire that had gotten out of hand once. The charred wood had never been replaced.
There was also a small black-and-white television in the bedroom. She was a fan of the Price Is Right. We watched it every day and she would personally advise all the players who made it to the stage. She won with them and lost with them for the hour.
The rest of my day would be spent following in behind her. She drew their water from a well three times a day. I would often miss her first early morning trip, but I would be with her for the next two. We would also trek across the road diagonally to her elderly mother’s house to check on her. Nobody seemed to know for sure how old she was, she was somewhere in her nineties. They said they didn’t keep records when she was born. But I think that was primarily due to the fact that she was born Choctaw. Fannie had such features too. Her sister Mary, who lived in the old dog trot house with their mother, did not. Her skin was darker and her hair was not long and straight, nor was it braided.
The two sisters would do laundry in the back room using an old wringer style washer. They would open the door to their mother’s room so from her bed she could be included in their conversations. I had the privilege of being able to hear them talk, as I would play on the back porch where ripe figs were an arm’s stretch away.
Like so many, Fannie always kept a garden. It wasn’t unusual for her to be canning corn, snap beans, and pink-eyed purple hull peas while she cooked dinner. And it was dinner. I was midday, but it was dinner, not lunch, and it would be simple, consisting mostly of chicken, fried okra, cornbread, and sliced tomatoes. In season, there would be a row of tomatoes with their orange bottoms turned up on the counter. Sometimes the chicken would just be fried gizzards.
She would give me “Co-Cola” out of a left over Bama jelly jar. My favorite plate to use at her house had a dogwood pattern. She did not have matching dishes, just a set of mismatched plates. She would tell me about the dogwood blossoms and Jesus.
I found a plate with that same pattern on it a few years back at an antique shop on the outskirts of Selma.
It hangs on the wall in my kitchen.
It reminds me.