I remember springtime at grandma’s. I’d get up in the morning and stretch for what seemed like an eternity. I’d wash up and head for the kitchen to find grandma who was already up and cooking breakfast. The smells of grits, scrambled eggs, bacon or fried bologna (edges black and greasy), sausage link, and something she called scratch biscuits filled the kitchen.
“I ain’t done, son”. She referred to me as her son even though I was her grandson. So I’d go into the den and see if there were any cartoons on. I’d wrap myself in her bathrobe or a blanket and sit there and watch cartoons whose names I can not even recall now. Meatballs and Spaghetti was one. And there was another involving a talking dune buggy. The driver was a character that reminded me of shaggy from Scooby Doo. I can’t recall them all.
When breakfast was ready, I go to the kitchen table and for lack of a better word, throw down. Sometimes the grits was so hot I’d swallow it without cooling it down and it would burn my throat and esophagus and even the bottom of my stomach. Naturally I’d chase it with water. The cool relief would travel the same path, ahhhhhh. Did, I learn my lesson about eating hot grits too fast? No. “Boy slow down”!
Grandma always had coffee, water, and orange or apple juice with her breakfast. Then she’d send me to get her pills. She always had a box full of pills. I had no idea what they were for. But there was a lot of them. But she was a strong and determined woman. She refused to allow old age interrupt her routine.
That afternoon, I’d go outside and run around with my cousins. Occasionally a tractor would drive by and the exhaust would fill the air. Strange as it sounds, I love the smell of those old tractors from the ‘80s. They were evidence of summer’s arrival. The tractors were going to disc someone’s field. They were going to plant one of three things: corn, cucumbers, or tobacco.
Sometimes my grandma would flag the driver and ask him to disc her field which comprised of half her back yard. Years later my aunt would put a trailer here. But for now, it grew our food. I had no idea how blessed we were. From that field we had butter beans, corn, snap peas, black eyed peas, field peas (yes there is a difference), watermelon, iced potato, and sweet potato. That’s not to exclude turnips, collard greens, mustard greens, cabbage, and string beans.
This field was my grandma’s first love. One day she got too old to do it. The mind was willing, but the body was simply too old. Grandma needed a walker to get around. She refused to use it. She’d rather use my arm and the walls of the hall way. She fought death tooth and nail. Death was going to win, but she was going to make him work for it.
During the glory days of the garden, she’d allow me and my cousin Chris to assist her. We’d take old T-shirts and fill them with a fine powdered insecticide. We would go through the beans dusting them. The powder went through the T-shirts at a controlled rate. It would protect the plant from bugs killing it, and we could eat. This was work, but to an 8 yr old boy it was fun. Sometimes we got more dust on ourselves than on the plant. Inhaling the fine dust would leave a sweet taste in your mouth even though you did your best to keep it closed.
Not once did I see a snake. But I knew they were out there. I never once saw grandma run, so I assumed she couldn’t. How could she protect herself from snakes. My grandma kept a sharp hoe with her. She had two of them. This is how she protected herself from the snakes. She’s chop their heads off and keep going. No me. I’d be watching from the top steeps of the back porch. Then I’d come see the headless snake.
My mother has ophidiophobia. She has an extreme fear of snakes. I believe that this is part of the reason she didn’t help out in the garden much. It is a very real condition. But it was labeled as lazy. I too have a as yet undiagnosed condition. I get very bad headaches when I bend over. I’ve been told that this is a symptom of high blood pressure. For this reason I avoided work. I became a hard worker by default but I had to learn to combat this headache effect by controlling my bend, angle, and flexing the proper muscles in my head. I told my mom and she believed me. But never took me to the doctor to ascertain what may be wrong. Therefore the “you’re just lazy” label stuck.
*I'm going to have to end it here. There is more to come at a later date*