By Lynn R. Mitchell
A friend posted this picture on Facebook today and a flood of memories washed over me as I looked at the flowery loose-fitting dress, the probably-handmade apron, and the weathered hard-working hands busy at work snapping green beans. I remembered sitting on my grandparents’ porch as a child with my grandmother, my mom, and often some of my aunts as they snapped or peeled or did whatever was necessary for whatever fruit or vegetable was in season.
“Many hands make for light work.”
It was amazing how quickly those weathered hands could work — snap, snap off the end pieces and then snap snap snap the bean, dropping the pieces into the bowl with a dull thud thud thud — and then on to the next in the wink of an eye. If it was butter beans she would zip off the string, spread it open, and using her thumb quickly pop the two beans into the pan with a ping, drop the shell into another bowl, and move on to the next. Peas the same way, and so on.
My grandmother could peel an apple with one long peel, never breaking it until the apple was bared, a feat that amazed me as a child, and one that I mastered as an adult — not from practice but from experience.
Grandpa, a stern, tall, angular man, would soften when he whipped out his pocket knife and cut an apple into pieces, giving us kids a slice of what tasted like the sweetest, most yummiest thing on the planet in those days. But most of the time he wasn’t there with the ladies. That was their time to work and visit.
The conversation would be about a neighbor who had been ill, a tragic car wreck, the latest news of the community, who was expecting and who had a new baby, or other day-to-day events. Sometimes when our young ears were present, they would lower their voices in hushed tones when it was about something we didn’t need to hear.
Often, as they chatted and filled pans, I would slip away to wander toward the huge garden or down to the old barn, leaning over the fence talking with the horses or climbing the plum tree. My younger sister, who was my constant companion, and I would run in the garden rows through the over-our-heads corn stalks, holding our hands out in front of us to smack away the razor-sharp leaves that left thin cuts on our young skin.
It’s a wonder we didn’t put an eye out.
Every Sunday afternoon many of my grandparents’ children who lived in the area — they had 10 — and their kids would head to Grandma’s house after church, spending time together in that family tradition. While all the cousins — a passel of kids of all ages — played and ran and goofed off together, the adults would sit in rocking chairs on the porch in their Sunday dresses and suits, the sound of the glider a soft scratchy background to accompany the laughter and playfulness of that set of adult siblings and their spouses, with my grandparents in the middle of it all.
How young my aunts and uncles and parents were as I see them once again sitting on that wrap-around porch! They are all gone now except my mother, a sprightly 87 years old, who was the youngest of the ten children which made my sisters and me among the youngest of the cousins.
Memories. Priceless memories….
Art credit: Watercolor by artist Jill Pritchett