I love the smell of purple hull peas simmering on the stove. My Granny was an avid gardener and would grow most of her own vegetables. I spent my summers in Tennessee with her and my Aunt Tiny. Granny and Aunt Tiny lived in the same house but it was separated into two apartments. There was a door by the bathroom that allowed you to enter Aunt Tiny’s side of the house. My brother and I would sneak over to her side while Uncle Charles was sleeping so we could build card houses in her carpet. Granny didn’t care too much for cards in her house and Aunt Tiny had plush carpet that was perfect for wedging cards in and building delicate structures. We were easily entertained.
Granny had a deep freezer in her closet filled with vegetables from the garden. One summer Aunt Tiny bought a whole box of candy bars and stored them in the freezer for us. We were in pure heaven. Candy bars and cokes were rarely seen in our childhood so this was the ultimate surprise. Aunt Tiny never had children of her own so she would spoil us rotten. We were very thankful for that. She would sometimes take us into town to Hadadd’s Department Store and buy us an outfit or shoes. Since my Mother was a great seamstress having store bought clothes was simply divine. I would slowly walk through the racks and marvel at the styles and fabrics. Granny bought all of her gabardine dresses there.
Grocery shopping happened at a little Mom and Pop store on the corner. The floors were wooden and your cart would bump along the boards. There were no big chain discount stores there back then. The selection was small but somehow Granny lived from what she could buy in that store and grow in her garden. A must have purchase from the little grocer was Nilla Wafers. You could always count on Granny to have a box of Nilla Wafers in the cupboard.
On Saturday mornings my brother and I would sit on the big yellow sofa with Granny and prepare to watch Jerry “The King” Lawler wrestle some inferior beast. Granny would yell at the small television and jump up and down. I think she believed it was real as much as we did. Granny didn’t get out much. I guess the only time she ever left the house was to buy groceries, clothing from Hadadds or go to church on Sunday. Granny never learned how to drive so she was at the mercy of others.
On Sundays one of the neighbors would pick us up and take us to the little Baptist Church just down the road. When inside Granny would pull out her yellow wallet. There were always sticks of Juicy Fruit gum and a few coins in there. She would tear the gum in half and give us each a piece. (If she gave us a whole piece we might smack it or blow bubbles.) I’m not sure why Granny carried a wallet other than to hold her gum and the note she had written about which dress she wanted to be buried in. All of her money was wrapped in an embroidered handkerchief and safety pinned to her bra. I never understood why but this made sense to her.
After church we would go home and eat those purple hull peas that had simmered so slowly. Every time I make a pot I always remember my summers in Tennessee. Suddenly I am sitting underneath that old weeping willow snapping beans or shelling peas with granny.