Monday, August 26, 2013

Georgia on My Mind and Childhood Memories

I was inspired by the road trip to my mother's house last week to write this post. When I was younger my siblings and I traveled every Summer to our grandparents homes in Georgia and Alabama. My mother is a Georgia Peach. Although she has spent many years in Philadelphia, she was born and raised in Georgia. My Father was born and raised in Alabama in a more rural area than my mom. After visiting my grandmother and other relatives for a week we would drive to Alabama to see my fraternal grandmother. 

Every Summer my parents and three children drove for hours from Philly to Georgia. I love road trips. I loved when night came so I could look up at the vast dark blue sky and follow the moon and stars with my eyes. My favorite part of going South was and still is seeing vast forests of towering pine trees with the sun shining through the pines. I still imagine what it might be like walking through the trees. There is certainly the opportunity to do this where my mother lives but my concern for snakes, raccoons, foxes, fire ants and a multitude of animals and insects stops me. 

My grandmother on my mother's side lived in a wood clapboard house with a tin roof. I noticed that the tin roof of homes in the South today are different and more sturdy. I liked to sit on her porch when it rained and hear the rain as it hit the roof. There were two large wooden rocking chairs on the porch that were well used for rocking.  There was a fireplace in the living room that heated the house in Winter along with a small portable heater. When we were there in Winter I was never cold in spite of no central heating. After the fire died down at night and the heater was turned off for the night we got in bed. My grandmother had so many handmade quilts on the beds that you were never cold. The quilts were so heavy you usually stayed in the same spot in bed and didn't move much due to the heaviness of the quilts. When I visited my mother's house last week I slept in her huge four poster bed. I told her, "I feel like I'm at grandma's" because the covers were so heavy on the bed. Her house has central air, much needed during this time of year in Georgia. I normally only sleep with a sheet, even in air conditioning.

My grandmother and great grandmother lived on the same land with single houses side by side. There was a huge pecan tree towering in the yard, gardenias, camellias, huge elephant ears and tall dahlias, crepe myrtles, and a multitude of flowers. There was a large fig tree with ripe figs in the Summer that my sister loved to eat. I like canned figs but I don't like them raw. My great grandmother whom we called Grannie, had a large pomegranate tree next to her house. 

There was a body of water next to the house which we called the branch. From time to time large turtles came from the water and my grandmother would catch them and make snapper soup and other turtle dishes. My brother and uncle would catch crayfish and other creepy crawlies from the branch. I liked to catch lizards that were common during that time. I like to see them change colors when next to your skin. My brother and uncle also liked to catch fire flies and put them in jars to see them light up at night. It was a child's paradise until I think of the gnats. Many times I would stay inside until evening when there were fewer gnats.

The soil in the yard was like white sand on the beach and everything grew beautifully there. My mother always told me that people would come to see my grandmother's yard every year. She had a small garden in the back of the house and also chickens and a rooster that announced the morning. I didn't know then that the eggs that she gathered for scrambled eggs were organic and better and fresher than buying store bought eggs. I never liked the fresh taste of the eggs or chickens that she sometimes prepared. Years later when I visited the Pennsylvania Dutch in Amish Country and had chicken for dinner it reminded me of the freshness of her chicken and theirs was probably also home raised as hers was.

When I was a child my grandmother cooked on a gas stove but there was a large cast iron stove still in the kitchen that she used when my mother was a child. There was a wood cabinet that we called a safe. This was used to store baked cakes and pies. My grandmother made the best biscuits. When I was older and my mother went to visit but I didn't she would send me her home made biscuits. I have finally perfected my biscuit baking but it has taken me years. My grandmother and great grandmother passed years ago but the memories of them are as fresh as if were today.

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