The Summer of 1949 was extremely hot. The red clay soil was so dry it had turned to a fine powder. It felt like silk between my toes and after mid morning became too hot to walk on without shoes. I remember this because I remember that I walked with my grandmother Nannie to a nearby neighbor’s farm to swap her freshly made butter for jam and on the way back I wore my shoes. All I need do — all these years later — is close my eyes and drift back in time to feel the powdered clay pushing up between my toes and smell the aroma of the pastures on my grandparents farm. This is something that has never left me.
In a way it is the roots that have grounded me all my years. I know the peoples I belong to, what I am part of. The history. The family. My family.
Lately I have found myself revisiting a time very few of my friends can equate to because they did not live it. They did not live in rural America, did not know the feel of the hide, the stench of a wet barn nor the sweetness of that same barn after being freshly laid with clean straw. They did not swing from rafters and they certainly never tipped a cow.
I wish more than life itself my grandchildren could experience what I experienced as a child or at least when I tell them of my life they would completely understand it. But I fear the stories are too removed from what their lives consist of today for them to fully appreciate how wonderful it was all those years ago. At times they look at me in wonderment when I tell them of my grandparents farm. I’m completely convinced they think I’m making up stories for their entertainment.
When they are elder — sixty years hence — will their grandchildren understand how it felt for them to hold an earth worm? How then can I expect them to know how it felt for fine silken soil to filter through my toes. But I want to keep trying to explain all the things that were so wonderful when I was their age so at each and every opportunity I become an impromptu performer and charm them with my stories.