Where I Come From

I am from photo albums, from Kodak and Polaroid and big square Sylvania flashbulbs.  From sharply squared off corners and gently rounded ones mostly arranged in chronological order in tacky albums with faux tapestry covers, and from the ones placed carefully in a shoe box awaiting assignment.

I am from the simple one level ranch style home on a typical middle class, paved, side-walked street of suburbia.   I am from the two kids, one dog, one bathroom, nicotine infused house with the pink bedroom at the end of the hall. 

I am from the red petunias and geraniums in the planters out back, the forsythias and yew in front with the rose bush that just wouldn’t die and a large flowering crabapple too. I am from black top driveways and rusty swing set, from sandbox and child-sized picnic table and wade pool to small to accommodate all the kids in it. 

I am from black-eyed peas for good luck in the New Year and brunch on Christmas morning,  from white-collar and blue-collar, educated and simply, life-experienced.  I am from pasta and garlic, Coq au Vin and creamed chipped beef.

I am from the gap between your two front teeth that takes an orthodontist to repair and crooked index fingers, from short stature and freckles and ugly feet. I am from determined, strong-willed, kind, honest, hard work.

From “always do you best no matter what it is you’re asked to do” and “treat people the way you would want to be treated”.  From “right is right and wrong is wrong” and “life isn’t fair”, but “what goes around comes around”.  I am from “If you can’t look yourself in the eye, nothing else really matters”, and “Your character is showing”.

I am from a deep Baptist tradition of faith handed down from generation to generation and the Salvation Army Band.  From Deacons and Sunday School teachers, from Church Training and Monday Night Visitation.  From salvation by grace and forgiveness that’s a free gift.  I am from Victory in Jesus, Because He Lives, At The Cross, In the Garden and Moment By Moment.

I’m from Illinois and Tennessee,France, Ireland, Sweden, the Cherokee tribe and Italy.  I am from sweet corn, brats and pork tenderloins, from biscuits and gravy and greens. I am from decadent chocolate mousse and baked brie, corned beef, lingonberry jam and lasagna.

From, “I can’t hold the umbrella, my rain bonnet and ice cream at the same time” and “Hey, look at those candles!  They re-lit themselves!  What about that?”, and “I thought that was lemon Jell-O!” I’m also from, “What night does Saturday Night Live come on?”, lung cancer, and melanoma that goes to the brain, fifth grade educations that were acquired by walking two miles up hill both ways in the rain, bagnacauda and a deep abiding faith.

 I am from cedar chests and treasure boxes, jewelry, well stored, handed down from generation to generation, and china cherished, polished and used only for holidays.  I am from depression era pink glass and Jewel Tea earth ware, from railroads and grocery chains, dietary departments and large commercial kitchens, RC and Pepsi, innocence and simplicity, difficulty, hardship and make-a-way for yourself in spite of life. 

It’s truly a colorful heritage with an interesting cast of characters.  I got a little from all of them.  I think I did well.

The Mulberry Bush

When I was little, my grandma lived in an apartment in town. Unlike many apartments, this one had, not only a front porch (which will no doubt be the subject of another post) but also a small yard! Actually, for an apartment, it was a rather large yard. In the center of the yard was a gigantic Mulberry Bush/Tree.
I’m sure it was once a bush, but it was so overgrown it had become a tree in its own right. Even as a child, I realized that no one had ever, intentionally, planted such a large tree in such a limited amount of real estate. Yet, there it was- a veritable feast for human and bird alike!

 The apartment had been a boarding house many years ago as evidenced by the abandoned hinges that adorned the frame of each doorway. At some point in its past, that building must have been “high-class living”. The mulberry bush/tree even had a concrete sidewalk running from the back door to the tree. It then circled the tree and made its way, leisurely, past the black- eyed- susans and daisies to the alley, where it ended amid lilac bushes and a long ago dilapidated fence and arbor, that, no doubt, used to welcome friends and tenants alike.

 

Even in its worn state, I thought it was magical! I imagined parasoled, gloved ladies sitting in the yard sipping iced tea and enjoying a small bowl of the sweet/tart berries while engaging in the gossip of the day. Perhaps the berries were even used in a pie or cobbler! Maybe they were for wine or tea.  Grandma said you could take them and use the juice as a dye for material.  We even painted pictures with it one time!  Whatever the reality had been, I was certain it was magnificent!

 However, for me,  the Mulberry Tree simply signaled spring and the upcoming summer and many lazy nights with my Grandma. We would sit outside or take a walk down to the water front to escape the heat of the one bedroom apartment. In those days, Grandma was still “old school”, which meant no air-conditioning. Upon our return trip, we could cut through that same alley and walk down the sidewalk towards the tree. I would ask to pick and eat some and Grandma would always “happen to have” a butter dish carefully hidden under the back steps for just such an occasion.
Exhausted from the exercise or the heat, or both, we would hike the two flights up to her apartment to carefully wash, and ever so slightly sweeten our find!  Then we would sit, both of us, cross-legged, on the porch, or better yet, the two large rocks out back and savor each berry.