Posted by: Brenda Kula | February 13, 2008

Snippets Of Me

Img_2080I remember summer mornings in the big vegetable garden with my grand mothers. Their steel hoes thudding at the dirt, removing weeds that encroached around the plants. We ate our meals mostly from this garden. In winter we ate the food they "canned" and put into tall glass jars and sealed. They were stored in the dark underground cellar, where we went during bad storms.

I played alone, lost in my imaginary world, amongst the tall cornstalks. Ladybugs traveled the length of my child’s arms warmed from the sun. The silence was punctuated by the hoes hitting hard dirt and insects buzzing. Sometimes I would pluck off a ripe blackberry and gobble it up, dark sticky juice dribbling down my chin. This fruit was used to make cobblers.

Occasionally I would hear one of the older women yell "snake." Then they’d lift the snake with their hoe and throw it over the fence to kill it. I would look away, afraid of the sight. But I’d hear the hoes hitting it. And go back to my little girl world where I drew pictures in the dirt with sticks and watched toads hopping along the rows of vegetables. Turtles would find their way into the garden. I was so amazed at their ability to draw their heads in when danger approached. How useful, I would think. Like an umbrella, only better.

I would go to the henhouse out back to gather eggs. There was always a rooster that met me at the gate to peck at my legs as I made a run for the henhouse, where I shut him out. Inside, dust motes and delicate downy feathers drifted through the still air. Sunlight filtered through the slats in the roof. I’d reach underneath a hen and gently scoop up the warm tanned eggs. Then, eggs delicately balanced in the basket I’d made of the hem of my dress, I’d rush back out past the rooster to safety. Then walk my bounty to the back door.

Evenings were spent on the porch. The sounds then were rocking chairs creaking on the front porch, to and fro, back and forth. I’d grow restless and run around the outside of the house grabbing at lightning bugs flickering in the semi-darkness.

We slept with the windows open, as we didn’t have air conditioners. I’d lie next to the wall in the double bed I shared with my grandmother and listen to the night sounds outside the screened window. Dogs occasionally barked at creatures they heard but could not see in the distance. I was happy for the light breezes that swept through and made the heat easier to bear. Cats and dogs wandered the house, their toenails clicking on the linoleum floors.

I remember the easy cadence of life in the country. where fences cropped the photographs of my childhood inside the gate. We didn’t have a camera to make a lasting keepsake of our simple days. But I have the slideshows in my head spinning on a reel of memory, the sounds I recall keeping pace. It is hard to remember the child I was, the day-to-day unfolding of my existence in scattered disarray. It’s funny how you just have those little snippets of memory as an adult that is summoned by a sound or smell that triggers recall.

I now live a life far removed from that of a little girl growing up in a small Oklahoma town, with no knowledge of who she really was or where she came from. My grandmothers and other relatives who visited didn’t discuss it in front of me. If they discussed it at all.

What I knew of my heritage came from the depths of a large silver trunk they kept in an outside structure between the main house and the chicken fence. I’d lift its dusty lid and sift through the old musty photographs inside. One always caught my attention. The photo of a little girl, about my own age, with dark hair falling mid-cheek, one foot tucked underneath her. She did not smile. But something about her spoke to me. I remember taking the photo inside and asking my great-grandmother who she was. Her mouth would pucker in disapproval, and she’d remain silent, my question hanging uselessly in the air between us. It was only later, when I kept pestering people about it, that I finally found out who she was.

The mother who was, and still is, such a mystery to me. Who no one ever talked about.

(Photos: My mother; and my mother and father on their wedding day (I think) with my grandmother and great-grandmother on the end. It is the only photo I have of them.)

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Responses

  1. That was such wonderful reading!! You belong to our family now–the family of dirty fingernails and farmer’s tans!! I look forward to reading more of what you have to write. You have a gift for it.

  2. Brenda, that was a great read! Thanks for your comments on my blog. I hadn’t thought of painting the chairs but that’s probably what I’ll do. About the quilting, what’s the best way to start? Would a course be the best way? Rosa

  3. Brenda – Where in Oklahoma did you grow up?
    I enjoy your writings!


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