falling in love again

I love waking up to the bright light of early morning
and walking outside to an already hot day
and smelling the smells of cut grass or water from
rain or sprinklers, evaporating in the sun.

I love sandwiches for lunch
with a side of pineapple
or fresh peaches,
pimento cheese has grown on me over the years.

I love the look and glorious smell
of fresh-picked squash cooking
in the cast iron skillet on the stove.
Or the sound of peas cooking in the bubbling water,
bouncing them around, tossing them to and fro
until they are tender and done.

I love afternoon naps in the heat of the day
and damp towels left over from water play
or dips in friends’ pools.

I love the angle of the sun through the windows
at 4:30 in the afternoon. That’s the time my Daddy
always came home, the same time he went Home.
That light is spectacular.

I love the way children emerge from their homes
to play and ride bikes and run up and down the sidewalk,
their little legs pumping and jumping,
when the sun starts its journey downwards behind the trees.

I love the way the frogs start to come out
and sing their songs as evening comes to visit. Their songs
a serenade the breeze dances along to, teasing all around
with moments of believing it might one day be cool again.

I love the bathwater warm muggy nights, when sweat collects
and drips on little heads and big
and how, even though we are all hot and sweaty, we are loathe
to climb off the back of the pickup trucks where we sit and visit
to go inside.

I love the cool air that hits my face and the comfort of a warm shower
to wash the day away.
Or a cool one, the boy says that helps when he’s itchy from
rolling in the grass and talking with the bugs
as they crawl back home to rest.

I love all the hot and humid days and evenings and nights that
barely relieve us from the heat of noon. I love bare feet on warm
grass and the smell of sunshine on puppies and tomatoes off the vine.
I love sweating as I stand and laugh with friends, passing the evening sharing
stories and recounting adventures of days gone by.

It was as though I had forgotten all of this,
grumbling, staring wide-eyed at the dashboard thermometer, until–
this evening as I carried out the trash, I took a deep breath
of heavy summer air,
and I remembered my love
for Georgia summers
and all the stories she has shared with us.

I looked up at the stars, nearly visible,
and I remembered–people and stories–hot summers
spent with people I love.

They are gone,
but she remains with me
and holds me close
as I stand with her and
remember.

peeling peaches at the kitchen sink

we went “a fur piece” to get the peaches piled in their half bushel boxes
just a little ways down the road from where they’d been picked just hours before

the whole way home the car smelled like peaches, real peaches
not that artificial scent that just misses its mark
bringing back memories of sitting with folks I love under the fan
peeling peaches and telling stories and crying out over discovering a worm
or a split pit

we loaded up the table and began the job of putting them up for winter
when there will be no peaches
except those shipped from foreign lands
I once met a peach in Japan that was three dollars
all by himself
and I left him there

I stood in the street as the sun made its way up from the horizon
and heard her sadness, the pain
of not being able to heal her sister
whose life is being stripped away, one muscle at a time
and the heartbreak in her eyes was too much
all I could do was take her a basket of peaches later on and leave
all the words unsaid
for no amount of “I’m sorry’s” or “what can I do?”
can fix her heart or cure her sister

as I stood at the sink I remembered my last trip for peaches
with Mama
and that she drove herself back down there a few days later
all by herself
I marveled at that and now that road brings bittersweet
tears
remembering
and still I stand at the sink and peel the peaches,
rinsing off the remaining fuzz,
and cutting them up
for winter bites of summer sunshine
or cobblers
whenever the children ask

and they always do
that boy won’t touch a bought canned peach
oh, he did that one time
and said, with his mouth full, turned up in disgust
“what on earth is this? this is NOT a peach!”
no, it’s what they call a California cling
nowhere near the Georgia delicacy that grows on trees
after the 4th

of July, that is

we never really put much stock in the ones before that
at least none of us raised around them

as I was

I miss watching my Daddy’s hands deftly peeling the big peaches he brought home
and Mama cutting them up and putting them in the freezer,
that woman’s freezer was always so organized
she used to mark how many dozens of quarts she’d put up that summer
on the slip of paper by the Frigidaire
of snap beans, squash, peaches, and so much more

and oh, she made pickles too

but my favorite were the pickled peaches my Granny made
the sweet and sour and cloves and vinegar
were the fireworks of summer dining
as the juice dripped down my chin
a smile always came

I miss her pickled peaches
and her

and since I can’t do a thing about all the missing and sadness
and sorrow in the world and on my street
I stand at the sink, peeling peaches
putting them up for winter
as I’ve done every summer for so many years

stocking up the
peaches

and
the light
and warmth

for when the world grows cold again

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shelling peas

sitting down with a bowl full of unshelled peas
still warm from the sun
the white enamel pan cool
on my lap
filled to the brim with a whole mess of them

my fingers move with the same motions
memorized by the hands of my people
zipping them open
and dropping the peas down into the pan

the plink plink plink plays the background tune
to the stories shared or watched
as we sit under the fan
thankful for a reason to sit
out of the hot summer sun for a while

we gather and
many hands make light work,
as my Mama used to say

as the pile of purple goes down
with the sun
the peas collect and promise
a good meal soon

the feel of summer
pea hulls in the hands
the smell of summer
their earthiness full of the gift of the land

and the one who grew them
and picked them
sharing his bounty

I smile, remembering precious moments
shelling peas with the ones I love
who taught me how

and now I take the little fingers entrusted to me
and I show them how to unzip
and shell
and look
just in case there’s a bad one in the bunch

they laugh and giggle
and I hope it will always be so
folks shelling peas
and giving thanks for what they have

and laughter
on porches
and summer sunsets
kissed by an evening breeze

and a pot of fresh-picked peas on the stove

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Feeling Sanctimonious Around Here

So after waking up in the wee hours of the morning to hear the cats frolicking outside as they do, I fell back asleep.  I knew things were headed south with the condition of my nose and the passages therein.  I woke up enough to tell my oldest goodbye as she headed off to work.  Then I dozed.  And finally woke up to the stirrings and requests for breakfast of my littles.  I looked the clock.

9:30

Say what?

I could not believe my eyes, but yes, that was the correct time, even after rubbing them and putting on my glasses (after working to find them–that whole “I need my glasses to see where I put my glasses”–ahem).

I felt pretty awful.

At least a tad bad.

But the laundry was piling up and the sink was too, so I unloaded and loaded and washed and folded and then pretty much crashed around lunchtime.  The symptoms I had figured were allergies for others in my house?  Pretty much thinking I misdiagnosed, and this bad boy is a COLD.

How did that even happen?  I’ve been eating fresh vegetable soup all week.

Sigh.

Anyway, I did lay down to rest this afternoon, hoping to give the old immune system a boost.  It didn’t last long.  My mind was on my freezer.  And peaches.

My favorite variety of peaches are ready.  Now.  For a limited time.  I’ve been known to go down to the farm and get five boxes of peaches and put them up in the freezer over the next few days.  We canNOT be without peaches during the winter.  It made me laugh one day last winter when I served the canned peaches I got on sale (I know, *gasp*) and my little guy who is a peach fanatic, asked, with a sour look on his face, “WHAT are these?”  Yeah, I don’t do that anymore.  Lesson learned.  And I have to say that I am proud that he’s a little peach connoisseur, my little Georgia boy.

So it’s time to go and get my peaches and put them up.  But my freezer.  It’s not so good.  It has needed defrosting for oh, let’s say, about a YEAR.  The ice takes up more space than the food, and the food in there was starting to be frozen together.  This does not work so well.

So today, I felt awful, but I couldn’t rest knowing time is of the essence, so I got my act together, enlisted the help of my Zoo Crew, and we moved food into the small freezer and cooler and went to town trying to get it to defrost as quickly as possible.  So yeah, this happened today.

Feeling pretty good over this much needed job finally being done!

Feeling pretty good over this much needed job finally being done!

And then this.

Only thing left is to move the other things back from the little freezer tomorrow.  Whoo hoo!

Only thing left is to move the other things back from the little freezer tomorrow. Whoo hoo!

Despite feeling yucky, I got it done with the help of my crew.  The wet towels are already headed toward the dryer, and it all only took one phone call to my Aunt to check that I was following the proper procedure.  I’m calling it a win.

Mama had a saying when she got the dusting done (which she despised) or did something she’d been putting off for a while–she’d say she was feeling “sanctimonious.”  I think it got started when Mama called to tell my Great Aunt about her accomplishment one time,  my Aunt W replied, “Aren’t you feeling sanctimonious?”  The first thing I used to do after I mopped my floors or finished all the laundry AND put it away or finished putting up the five boxes of peaches I’d inflicted on my kitchen was to call Mama and tell her.  She was more than Mama, she was my best friend and I wanted to share.  And I knew the first thing she’d say would be just that: “Well aren’t you feeling sanctimonious?”  Yes ma’am.  For sure.

Tonight I was blessed to have my Aunt listen, answer my “technical” question about what I was doing, and say, when I suggested (ahem) I might be feeling sanctimonious, “Well I guess you should be.”  She and Mama shared that too.

Because there’s some things in life you should feel that way about…..like defrosting freezers when you just want to crawl back in bed (or just defrosting them at all–seriously), putting streusel in a pound cake (Imma need that recipe please ma’am), or dusting an entire house when it’s your least favorite task of all.  When we set our minds to something and get it done, isn’t it nice to have someone to share it with,  to pat us on the back, and to cheer us on?

Tonight I’m thankful for a clean freezer with food in it, and the anticipation of putting more in it (whoo hoo, Elberta peaches).  I am grateful for my children to pitch in, the many hands that make a task a little easier.  And I’m thankful for Mama who cheered me on, and for those, who like my Aunt, continue to do so.  Lifting each other up–that’s the good stuff in life.  Just like fresh Georgia peaches, there’s nothing else like it.

My Heart Overflows

This afternoon a dear friend told me I seemed happier than I had in a long time.  And that made me even happier.  I showed her pictures of where my day had taken me so far and she agreed–stuff worth being happy about.

Leroy, my big brother, invited my crew to come over to the new house and play today.  And he told me to go do “whatever.”  Whatever?  I thought through the possibilities and then picked up the phone to call my Aunt.  I asked if I could come and pick beans, as we’d been talking about this for a couple of weeks.  After questioning my thought processes that led me to decide to pick beans in my “time off,” she said well sure.  I guess it might seem an odd choice to some.  This is my first “free without plans or a doctor’s appointment” time in a very long, long time.  I couldn’t think of anywhere I’d rather be.  Picking beans without folks with me who might whine about the heat?  Bring it.

I can’t remember my first time in a garden.  I just remember always picking with my Daddy.  My Granddaddy planted quite the garden at Granny’s when I was small.  I can remember sitting on the edge of the bucket picking butterbeans, trying to be so careful not to pull up the whole plant.  Later when we moved to Blackberry Flats Daddy planted and we all picked and snapped and shelled and Mama canned.  I remember helping him plant as recently as just a few years ago.  Using the bricks with a string tied between to line up the row, and then dropping the seeds along every so often.  Oh I miss it.

So, time in a garden today?  Yes please.

My destination today

My destination today

My Uncle pulled corn, and he, my Aunt, and I sat and shucked and silked it under the shade of the trees in no time.  My heart was full.   So often I spend my time with my children trying to make a good moment that will become a precious memory.  Today was for me.  I will treasure the memory of how it felt, sitting there with them, shucking and visiting and smelling the smell of summer.  A treasure.

Summer sunshine growing on a stalk

Summer sunshine growing on a stalk

After we finished with the corn, my Aunt and I headed out to pick beans.  What a treat a pot of fresh beans and cornbread is for supper.  Throw some onion and a few new potatoes in the pot and it’s a veritable summer FEAST.  And now I have corn as a side dish.  It just doesn’t get any better than that.

The beans that will be my supper tomorrow night

The beans that will be my supper tomorrow night

We picked a mess pretty quickly, sharing stories and visiting the whole while, which made it seem like it took no time at all.  After that it was time to take off my garden boots and head off for the next adventure.

I was rockin' the garden boots, right?

I was rockin’ the garden boots, right?

But first I wanted to say goodbye to this glorious place that turns water and light into food for the body and this land that was food for my soul.  There’s something about being outside that does that for me.  And being with family.  I was hot and had sweat running down my face, but oh boy, were my spirits lifted.

A beautiful day

A beautiful day

Next I picked up our Princess from Leroy’s and took her to an art class at our favorite coffeehouse.  It was a surprise for her.  She was a bit nervous because the last time she did this over a year ago, she didn’t think her picture turned out so well.  I hugged her and told her no matter how she thought it looked, I would love it.  I left her to her class, had a quick impromptu visit with friends at the coffeehouse, and then headed next door to the GW Boutique for a quick once-over.

When I returned our Princess had finished her painting, and it was FABULOUS.  She even used my favorite colors.

The puppy's name is Teresa, according to our Princess.....that's a "t" on her collar

The puppy’s name is Teresa, according to our Princess…..that’s a “t” on her collar

I loved that when we were helping clean up, she pointed out what was left where she’d been working her artistic magic.

What was left around where she created her work of art

What was left around where she created her work of art

It occurred to me that we should do that in whatever we do.  Be so enthusiastic and thorough that we overflow–with light, with love, with compassion, with grace. We shouldn’t be so cautious in any of those things that there isn’t overflow.  Makes me kind of wish I had kept that tablecloth.  Maybe my word for next year will be “overflow.”  It sure was my word for today–my heart overflowed.  So much so that my friend saw the joy in my face.

And on the way home, after the littles had their summer gymnastics class this evening (yes it was a VERY full day), when my spirits were sinking over something that happened late in the day and my heart felt very fragile, my littles pointed this out to me.

I kind of have the feeling this was my Mama's way of letting me know she's around

I kind of have the feeling this was my Mama’s way of letting me know she’s around

My Mama showed me the rainbows in the midst of the storms of life.  And tonight, when I felt like one was blowing in, this rainbow caught the eyes of my precious gifts who still get excited over rainbows and bugs and tadpoles and good stories.  When I saw it, my heart knew and I felt some peace.  I am pretty sure Mama was saying, “Don’t let anyone take the joy of this day from you.”

Tonight I am thankful for family who loves me despite all my craziness; for the generosity of my family with their time, their love, their listening, and their vegetables.  I am thankful for friends who pay attention and who know me and are happy when they see me happy.  And for the same friends who walk the path of brokenness and heartbreak with me.  I am thankful for a little girl who loves bright colors and tells everyone, “Mama couldn’t quit smiling when she saw my picture.”  I am thankful for loud cousins playing and growing up together and for their parents who make that possible.  I am thankful for the bounty of the sun and rain this summer and for my Aunt and Uncle who share it.  And I’m thankful for my Mama who hasn’t stopped talking to me just because we are separated by that thin veil.  I needed that rainbow tonight, to remember the joy of today, and not let it slip away. Joy.  Overflow.  Yes.