BOOKS, PAPER, MIXED MEDIA
Originally posted on 9/1/2020
Fresh. Ripe. Juicy. Cantaloupe melon always reminds me of the Sunday afternoon dinners of my childhood spent in my grandmother Nell’s intimate kitchen. Grandma usually began planning Sunday Dinner on Friday evening. On Saturday mornings, grandma and grandpa’s schedule flowed through the day like an easy stream. Coffee came first, usually at sunrise, accompanied by bacon or sausage, eggs, biscuits, and gravy. Next was their weekly visit to the Farmer’s Market down-town. They would bring home found treasures, bright greens, reds, purples, and yellows. They would have lunch, usually a tomato sandwich, and then grandma was off to the beauty parlor. After getting spiffied up, it was time for a big decision to be made. Winn Dixie, Harris Teeter, or Park-n-Shop? The Park-n-Shop was all the way in Charlotte, so they didn’t go there as often as the other two. If we were lucky, my brother and I got to stay the evening with them and help do the shopping. On those evenings, we were right there with grandma and grandpa helping snap green beans, or de-silk ears of corn, or shell peas, or whatever needed to be done. Sometimes grandma would bake a cake and we got to lick the beaters. We would talk and talk about nothing, and The Lawrence Welk Show was on the television.
We lived in the house right next door to grandma and grandpa, and my bedroom window looked onto their driveway. On the Saturday nights when we didn’t get to tag along with them to the grocery, I would watch out my window anticipating their arrival home. I’d wave, they would wave back, they carried in their items, and I pictured them sitting there watching Lawrence Welk with their dog Copper instead of me and my brother. Secretly, I was happy I didn’t have to watch Lawrence Welk, but I missed my grands. (I’m sure they were happy to have a little break – but they would never, ever tell me that. I was always welcome anytime.)
Night overtook evening, and one by one I’d see the lights in the neighboring house go dark.
Sunday morning it was time for church. When I was young, mom and dad didn’t go to church, but I went sometimes with my Aunt Chrissy. She was a Sunday School teacher and all the kids loved her. I felt special being her niece. Anyway, at some point mom and dad started going to church, and like the Energizer Bunny they kept going and going and going. Sunday morning, Sunday night, Wednesday night, and any other time the doors were open. I got so tired of going to church I asked grandpa if I could go to the flea market with him after Sunday dinner. Me and grandpa always had a great time together, and we didn’t get in any hurry, so I would get back too late to go to church (as I’d hoped). After missing church a few times, I wasn’t allowed to go with grandpa on Sunday afternoons. My heart was broken. I think his was too.
After church, mom and dad would talk, and talk, and talk to the other church folks, and it seemed like an eternity until we could leave church and go to grandma’s for dinner as we did almost every Sunday. Her gas stove would warm the air inside the house until it was steamy, which was delightful in the wintertime, but in the summertime a large clamorous air-conditioning unit in the window would compensate. I could smell deliciousness the second we opened the door. As we entered, Grandma would be standing over the stove stirring a pot or watching the oven for the biscuits to brown. My brother and I would run into the living room where grandpa was for hugs, and to stay out of grandma’s way. Grandpa always asked us how church was, and if we were hungry. Then he’d tell me how pretty I looked in my church dress, and my brother how handsome he looked. Mom stayed in the kitchen to help grandma, and dad sat in the chair in front of the window where the light was best, quietly reading The Gazette and sipping on a glass of grandma’s sweet tea.
When the food was ready, grandma would take out several well-worn porcelain bowls that had belonged to her mother, my great grandmother Rose. Then she would fill them with green beans, corn, fried okra, squash, rice, macaroni and cheese, lima beans, butter beans, potatoes, tomatoes, collard greens, or whatever she had found at the Farmer’s Market the previous morning. My brother was especially happy when it was macaroni and cheese. My favorite was her chicken casserole. There were always sliced tomatoes, and there was always fresh, ripe, juicy cantaloupe melon cut into long moon shaped slices.
After dinner, mom and grandma stayed in the kitchen to wash the dishes while the rest of us returned to the living room. I’d read the funnies paper from The Gazette, and my brother would watch Fred Kirby and The Little Rascals on TV. Mom and grandma eventually joined us, then we would all begin watching Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, or The Incredible Mr. Limpet, or The Beatles Yellow Submarine, or whatever the Sunday afternoon movie happened to be. One by one the adults drifted off to nap and my brother and I would wake them up when the show was over. Then it was time to walk over to our house to begin getting ready for church again.