They had huge respect for everything. When the early afternoon hit and there was no denying the incredible heat, they didn’t huddle around the only AC unit in the living room. They didn’t even go to the bathtub for relief. But everything did shut down, the old house quiet, and intensely hot, inside and out.
The windows in their house were long and skinny, around 36 inches to ceiling, basically, if I had to guess. There were three of these big tall windows in the dining room. That room seemed to get the hottest. I’m sure they had blinds, and they had to have drawn the blinds, I just can’t remember. I do remember sneaking out to the road once, when I just wasn’t feeling like a nap, and hot hot the old black-top road was. It was sticky, and stuck to my shoes. I remember how the pine trees around the corner where things grew more wild, began to get sticky too. And the smell was intoxicating. Walking in an old pine forest on my own, being bold and independent when I was so young… coming home with a puppy, of course.
To this day, I don’t know how it was possible, because I never saw them do any housework, especially my grandmother. But their house was always in order, floors always clean. Staged, basically. In a very homey way. Their dining room with the big windows sat in the very middle of the house and there was a big table and chairs, and a china hutch. That was it. Nothing else. She always dressed her table in a big white table cloth, and that was pretty much it. They weren’t excessive at all, about anything.
Funny thing was, they could have been. My grandfather was so tight, you’d never know that guy was flush. He had several bank accounts, and he was known to help people out from time to time, but he never acted in extravagance. What they had was nice, and they lived a decent life. But the resources they saved, saved for no one, could have… wait… what could it have done? What does simply throwing money at any problem ever do…? My own mother would talk out loud from time to time, as I remember, and a lot of what I heard had to do with money, and not having enough. But at my grandmother’s house, they never talked of such things. They always had things to do.
The contrast that was lived in their home was tenable. From the relentless heat of a summer’s day to the twinkling lights of winter cold, it was always raw, real and visceral. The water from the tap always cold, with a taste heavy with iron. They’d always had a well and I’ve long forgotten when they did switch over to city water. When they’d begin to wake up after nap, things would stay quiet, and still so hot. This was a good time to present the new puppy as neither was keen for argument at this point…
As I look back on it all, I pretty much did whatever I wasn’t supposed to do. I was just a curious little kid. I wanted to investigate things and explore. I didn’t have imaginary friends, and my brother was never there, so I enjoyed time with animals. I often wonder if those small town country days are over, or if somewhere out there, still lives a sweet, innocent bunch of good people, just trying to make it, and help each other. Where no one needs to lock their doors and people don’t do without. They just don’t.
As you went more south of town, you would find the best places to explore, but I never went much past Old Jim’s place, or the sisters on the corner. I loved them so much. They were always full of mischief and play. You could just see it in their eyes. I always wondered how they got their yards so perfectly clean. Not a rock, not a blade of grass. Just dirt floor flat and clean, all around the house. Maybe sometimes we might forget, as the years have blended us so much, but Susie’s skin was very black, except for her pink hands and feet. And I loved to look into her eyes. They seemed like they were full of a million stories. And they always had animals around their houses.
Now we’d consider those houses just a shack. They’re probably gone now, just like the people who lived there are gone. You might not remember people from years gone by, but my heart wells up to think of them all. They were good people. Not a bad one in the lot. My grandmother enjoyed them as well, but mostly the amazing giant vegetables they might bring for her approval. The vegetable truck which came once a week was always a big deal. They pulled that big heaping hulk of a truck up into my grandfather’s driveway, squeaking and straining under the weight of a thousand pounds… and they’d start honking, the old woman yelling out “Veg-tabulllllssssss…” very loudly, as if no-one was there to hear her at all… and kids hanging out, hanging on… to all the vegetables all over the back of the truck. It was quite the spectacle!
Since all those days of summer are just memories now, the idea of a new summer ahead of us makes me wonder. The possibilities are endless.