It’s August in the South. Sweltering humidity-ladened late summer days. My thoughts inevitably go to my Grandmother’s porch swing. That swing had seen many miles by the time I sat in it. It was the 1950s and I often sat with Granny on her swing whiling away the afternoon shelling butter beans or snapping snaps. I come across very few people today who know what snaps are. They’re more likely to be called haricots vert or some such. When was the last time you ate butter beans!
During those early years of my life there was no air conditioning. At night pajamas stuck to every bodily crevice regardless whether or not one was fortunate to have a window fan.
Living in the South at that time was restrictive and much like a flavorless daily diet of Wonder Bread. No color except for blue laws. It felt as though I was walking around in too tight shoes. I prayed that one day my town would catch up with what I perceived as the rest of the colorful world.
Now more than 60 years later Granny is gone, her rented Oregon Hill house with the beloved porch swing is gone. Air conditioning is ever present. My prayers were answered and my town became a city, with people from all over the world, cultural events, great restaurants, some neighborhoods revitalized while others died.
Months go by without hearing that drawling Southern accent I used to hate.
Today I am filled with reluctant gratitude when I hear a die-hard who has not lost what my ears hear now as music.
Tiny butter beans are found only in the freezer section. Silver queen corn is impossible to find, there is no longer the fragrance of FFV cookies baking, or Sauer’s spices, tobacco curing, or the aroma of my father’s smokehouse which he built with his friend Mr. Trimmer.
Crepe myrtle, dogwood, and magnolia trees still bloom here thank god. There are still icons of the old town flavor. Libbie Market, Sally Bell Kitchen, Joe’s Inn. My red-brick stalwart grammer school has not changed a bit. Hollywood Cemetery is still Hollywood Cemetery. Sweet tea abounds, as well as the glorious Hanover tomato. The cicada’s summer song still fills my heart with joy.
I do not wish to return to the stifling strictures of the ‘50s and ‘60s South but hardly a day goes by that I’m not reminded to be careful what I pray for.
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