Time stops

Date June 17, 2010

The new highway came through Gran’s homeplace the first time in the 60s.  The hayfield out front was bisected by two lanes of asphalt and cattle ambling were replaced by Mr. Ford’s moneymakers “driving like bats flyin’ die-rectly outta hell” as Gran says.

Thirty years later two lanes turned to four and twenty acres were barely five.  But her house is still sitting there giving shelter to old memories and stories of children long since raised and days long gone by.

Today cars whiz by thoughtlessly in a hurry to get who knows where.

Just further on up the road.

Somewhere that’s not here.

Because here—time stops.

Gran and I are sitting in the porch swing– her arm around me, me nuzzled in the folds of her thick, wrinkled skin.  Acorns fall haphazardly onto the rusting tin roof each ping waking us from our heat-induced stupor.  The smell of cabbage cooking has managed to sit atop the humidity and ride the ceiling fan breeze.

“You wanna go in, sweet thang?”  she asks.

“Yes, ma’am,” I say and up we git.

“Mind them steps now, child.”

“Yes, ma’am, “ I say as I mind each cracking one.  The floor creaks beneath Gran’s weight and I shuffle along behind her.

“Go on and set the table now and set it good.”

And I do.

Plates.  Silver– mismatched at best.  Napkins.  The tea pitcher– full and fresh and sweating on the outside.

Gran, in her slow, deliberate way, lays out our Sunday dinner spread.  Roast and rice, that strong smelling cabbage and rough-as-the-Rocky-Mountain-tops biscuits.

We’re family here like we are in every other place.  But at Gran’s heavy leaden table, we’re a family at rest in stiff wooden chairs.

We’re a family who bedazzles gossip with “bless her heart”s and “Lawd, help us all”s.

Here we are at home in deep-rooted histories, cotton-pickin’ stories, and old home place memories.  Here we are full as ticks on squirrel dog collars.  Here we are anxious children on birthday mornings.

Gran’s making us wait again.  She does that a lot.  Her familiar hand is holding firmly to that old metal cake top– keeping the treasure beneath it hidden for a moment more.  We all pretend that we don’t know what’s there, but we do.

Twenty years working in the public school cafeteria have made her a master of many things, but her specialty is mounded beneath that metal top.  Saltine crackers with peanut butter on one side, salty, creamy, and crunchy topped with a marshmallow- fluffy, white, and melted to that point right before brown.  Another Saltine sits on top and has been smushed until the marshmallow just peeks out the sides.

Finally, she lifts that lid and we smell her secrets, her stories, her love.  We each wait our turn, afraid of a good Gran scolding, and wait on the word.  “Go on, now.  Eat ‘em up,” she says and we do.

Marshmallows stretch out in front of mouths and cracker crumbs fall onto her sagging floor, but no one notices.

Because here—time stops.

6 Responses to “Time stops”

  1. K said:

    This just might be my favorite yet. I still can’t see a biscuit or a National Enquirer without thinking of Gran. I wonder how many times we heard the sweet sound of “mind them steps now, you hear.”

    I love it Em-you’re amazing. We should forward this lovely blog here to a publisher.

    Love you-K

  2. Tami said:

    Miss you, Em! I finished our story….did you get it? I think it was when your laptop was broken. Le me know and I’ll send it to you again. You might want to change some things. lol

  3. Lou said:

    Em, Em. My gosh, I could feel, smell, and almost touch our Sweet Gran Dorse reading this. You know I barely have a day go by that I don’t long to call her and ask a question about how to make something. About two weeks ago I was picking blackberryies, which I CANNOT do with out being completely consumed with her memory, I was having so much regret for never getting her offical recipe and method (greatness is typically in the method more than the recipe anyway) for blackberry pie and jelly. I spent many hours with her in a berry patch on hot steamy summer mornings. We would have to “dowse” the chiggers with some “coil oil” when we got home too.

    Summers are when I spent the most time with Gran Dorse in my childhood and I could almost write a book on all our “adventures”.

    I could go on and on and on but I do have to work today.

    Great read……….thank you for that stroll this morning.

  4. LB said:

    Hands down my favorite.

  5. deanna said:

    I ate a few Wednesday night suppers at Ms. Dorothy’s house… and that woman made every person that came into her house feel like family!

  6. Dani said:

    OH! Emily that was great! You know I have that metal cake plate lid and I too cover treasures for my kids. Not the great peanut butter & marshmallow because of Abbey, but treasures to them! Maybe that’s why Abbey has an allergy! haha I bet I ate a million of those when I was pregnant with her!!!

    I still honk when I drive by her house. I still try to make biscuits like hers, but have decided I’ll never get it just right. I still remember her smell, her cooking, her sweet mushy cheeks, and her strong love for every person that walked through that door!

    Thanks for those memories, Emily!