My Dad and his two siblings got together today and we all traveled out to a Gulf-side restaurant (with my Aunt Kathy as well). We had a pleasant lunch with a water-view and a photo taking fest. After we got back home, we settled down into chairs in the living room and conversation evolved to memories of their childhood. Kathy and I were basically spectators, but it was interesting to me to sit back and hear the three of them talk.
The years peeled away like the rind on the Florida oranges and revealed the sweet fruit of times gone by, but not forgotten. They seemed to transform into younger versions of themselves as they told stories of mischief and child’s play. Once again, they were rooting through dump sites for “treasures”, making forts and tree-houses, climbing trees and eating apples until they were physically ill. They spoke of their parents with affection and laughter as they recanted the ritual of decapitating (sometimes less than successfully) and removing the feathers from chickens and canning fruits, vegetables and juices.
Then more ominous subjects arose (not that be-heading chickens with a home-made guillotine is not ominous enough) – the dead bodies along the side of the road and the man in the burning car and the scary door. The “scary door” was not an issue for my Dad, but for his brother and sister it has been a recurring and haunting nightmare, of sorts. It was merely unable to be locked with its skeleton key, but the possibility of what lurked behind it, ready to pounce in the night was conjured in their minds and provided a sense of fear and foreboding. Spooky.
Back to lighter fare, my aunt talked about going into the deep woods and engaging all the possibilities that their imagination could muster. They made Indian weapons out of rocks, sticks and vines or rope and then buried them to hide them until the next day’s playtime. She recanted the time whe entered an apple orchard during apple blossom time and how she found a “magical, princess world”. Dad remembered looking at the stars and dreaming of becoming an astronomer. My uncle (who is several years younger than his siblings) had a different circle of friends but knew all the local haunts and played in the same woods and had the same sweet memories of home and family. They picked blackberries and grapes and peaches and apples and grew corn, rhubarb, peppers, tomatoes and pickling cukes, just to name a few. They enjoyed the fruits of that labor all year through as they used the canned goods and visited the root cellar (what a different world we all live in today). My uncle is still trying to locate my grandmother’s piccadilly recipe, which may be lost in time, but his memory of it still makes his mouth water.
Smiles were on their faces and laughter filled the room and they were as comfortable and natural with each other as if they had never been apart. It was sad to see them have to separate again and leave more stories for another day in the distant future. I am so glad that I was able to bring Dad here and that my uncle traveled down so that they could have this special day. I was a privileged spectator to the whole purpose of this blog – nurturing and developing family connections.
Just like the home-grown tomatoes we discussed: “there is nothing more sweet and delicious than what you find in your own backyard”. No truer words of the day were ever spoken.