I remember sitting in the metal chair with a bowl of beans in my lap in the backyard. It was hot and humid in North Carolina, even in the shade. Papaw had picked the beans at his farm that morning. It was up to me and Mamaw to shell them so she could cook them for dinner. The metal chair had a small rock to it with it’s u-shaped design that held it up. Mamaw’s had a cushion. My feet didn’t reach the ground, but I could make it rock with my body; a fine balance between rocking and not dumping my bowl of beans on the ground. We shelled the beans, the shells going into a compost bucket, the beans into a metal bowl. The sound of the beans pinging against the metal. There was no plastic. These sounds are nostalgic. When was the last time I heard beans pinging against a metal bowl? Sometimes we’d mix up the bean bowl and the compost bowl and throw the item in the wrong bowl. We’d know it as soon as we released the bean or shell. The other one would stop, look; we’d both grin and laugh.
Mamaw was faster than me. Refilling her bowl of beans; two to my every one. She could sit upright in the metal chair; nap and still shell more beans than me. She wore what she called her house dress, her hair had been done on Friday, a standing Friday appointment. Her hose, nylons, stockings; I’m not sure what you call them. I always called them pantyhose; whether they were knee highs, thigh highs, footies or actually went all the way up to your waist. I never put the name together with their actual function. To me they were all pantyhose. Kind of like when I used to call my younger sister “dick breath”. I had never contemplated how one would come to be that name. Mamaw would roll her knee high panty hose down to her ankles. They were too hot. She always had on hose. Whatever beauty the hose were meant to bring is detrimentally lost when rolled down to your ankles.
Mamaw would try to make conversation. But I was shy, didn’t talk much to anyone. Just observed. From day one; just observed. She would ask me if I had any playmates. I said no. I said no for two reasons. One, I didn’t know what playmates were and two I was hoping that she would get me some for my birthday. She never got me any playmates; just gowns and robes. A set. Always pale light colors of pink or green or yellow. Always a sticky itchy, probably flammable material that would drive my highly sensitive senses crazy. Wrapped in a box from the department store where Mamaw’s friend worked, folded in tissue paper. I hated them. Almost as much as I hated the beans we shelled. Mamaw was of a different time. A time where your hair was “done” and you wore hose while you shelled beans with your granddaughter.
Mamaw and Papaw’s bathroom smelled like old people. What was it that could make a nine year old label something as smelling like old people? Noxzema? Aqua Net? Dove? What would a nine year old say about my bathroom. “Hippies”? The smell of patchouli. Maybe that’s the new old people smell. Patchouli.
Mamaw and Papaw had puzzle books everywhere. Mostly crossword puzzles; word puzzles. There was usually a jigsaw puzzle in the works on the card table. Unless it was bridge night, then the card table was needed for its intended use and the puzzle went back into the box. People don’t have card tables anymore. Where do they play cards?
Me and my sister got to have snacks in the living room. Bugles and Fresca while we watched Lawrence Welk or Hee Haw. Things that we never did at home with our mom and dad, where the beans came in cans and we slept in old cotton t-shirts and watched Laugh In.
Family saga is a great genre to read. Especially when it’s in another era. The book selection is “The Hummingbird’s Daughter” by Luis Alberto Urrea. A family saga in Mexico in the late 1800’s during the Mexican Civil War. This is a great story. It follows a well to do ranching family with a hint of ghostly spirits and shamanic healers; grandmothers and granddaughters and panty hose. (Or, I believe it was actually petticoats). Don’t let the over abundance of characters scare you off. Just keep reading and using the chart to refer to who is whom. It will all fall into place. Great book. I highly recommend. Pantyhose and butterbeans I do not recommend.
More great book selections and a few fun adventures can be found at Wild About Books.