Tag Archives: Family Stories

Precious Watermelon Memories

Watermelons. Luscious, refreshing and satisfying, they deserve another blog post.

Last week, I shared four essential ingredients for eating a watermelon the best way. This week, I bring one final ingredient to your attention for truly memorable watermelon-eating experiences.

Last essential ingredient, but not least

Watermelons, bought not from strangers, but grown in one’s own patch — although my father, a lifelong expert, declared the stolen ones the sweetest. As boys, he and his brothers patronized patches owned by Mr. Purvis Williams and Mr. T.C. Higgenbotham.

Of course, when Dad amazed the Louisiana town by becoming a minister, he swore off such pastimes. When he returned to his hometown as a 79-year-old retiree, however, he celebrated his first watermelon season there by investigating local patches. One flourished near his old homesite. He hadn’t seen watermelons that good since boyhood, the fat green-striped orbs almost bursting with juice.

The patch’s owner: his new pastor.

Dad managed to steer his next conversation with the reverend toward gardening and complimented him on his beautiful melons. As he’d hoped, the pastor invited his new parishioner to help himself.

Dad knew he didn’t mean it. A Southerner himself, he understood the man was just being lyin’-polite. However, while the pastor still regarded him as an ignorant Yankee who didn’t know any better, Dad took advantage. He raided the pastor’s patch and returned home in triumph with a prize watermelon. My parents and I chilled it ice-cold, then devoured it on the front porch with my cousin Tara on a sweltering July afternoon. I couldn’t imagine anything more luscious.

Still, this little feast did not compare with those of my childhood, when Grandpa iced down a dozen from his garden in a horse trough. By mid-afternoon, when even bees buzzing around the pink crepe myrtle bushes sounded hot and lazy, the entire family gathered on the back porch for a watermelon feed. Every uncle, aunt and cousin received half a melon to munch.

After we finished, the adults, anticipating the imminent Watermelon Seed War, banished us kids to the yard. There, we discharged our arsenals without harming any grown-ups.

Sometimes, Dad peeled thin green slices from the outside rind with his pocketknife. He fashioned these into Billy Bob buckteeth that put the costume-shop variety to shame. Dad pulled his hat down over his ears and gave us big green-toothed grins. We stuffed the “teeth” into our mouths, yuk-yukking at each other. Occasionally, one of the toddlers stuck seeds up his nose, which was always good for a little excitement when things grew dull.

Thirty-five years later, after we had devoured the last sweet pink chunk of his pastor’s watermelon, Dad saved the seeds and tended a prize patch that resurrected delicious memories of past banquets on the porch.

God help the rascally kid or retired minister who tried to steal his watermelons.

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: What precious watermelon memories come to mind as summer approaches?

The Blue Dresser

How did the dresser start out in life? I don’t know, but its size and plain, sturdy lines said, “I belong to a kid.”

The dresser’s original kid probably wadded clothes Mom had folded and stuffed them into its drawers. Perhaps he yanked out drawers, climbed the “stairs” and jumped off the top with an umbrella parachute.

Years later, I discovered that dresser in a secondhand store, marked half-price. It would do until my three-year-old son started school. However, it wore a woebegone, cast-off aura.

My mother, two thousand miles away, whispered in my mind, “Nice find. Great price. But this little dresser needs happy paint.”

As a teen, I’d rolled my eyes when Mom painted end tables orange and a bedroom suite blue. Who did that?

Well … I did. After a critical paint chip comparison, I began painting the chest eye-popping blue. I planned to paint its handles equally vivid red.

Then my young husband needed an emergency appendectomy. While Hubby slowly recovered from complications, I slowly finished the dresser. Late at night, I added a second coat, a third, maybe more — I don’t remember. I experienced a glad moment when I hauled the completed dresser upstairs to my son’s bedroom. An even happier one when I brought his daddy home.

David, flanked by his older sisters, was a toddler when I painted the dresser a vivid blue.

Both had jobs to do. Daddy returned to work. The dresser once more endured yanks, shoves and a “helpful” kid who stuffed clothes Mom had folded into its drawers. (He also attempted to climb to the dresser top, but I stopped him on the second step.)

A doggie bank constructed from a Pringles can resided on it, along with half-consumed PB&J sandwiches and piles of baseball cards. With ABC curtains, Mickey Mouse sheets, and a carpet perpetually layered with toys, the dresser helped make the room my kid’s haven.

But adolescence sneaked in. The first clouds of Eau de Gym Shoe settled over his room and, with them, a dark cloud of protest: Mickey Mouse sheets? Seriously? Did he really need ABCs displayed on his curtains?

David with his wife and their first baby.

I changed his décor to manly navy blue. Strangely, he didn’t ask me to lose the dresser.

Perhaps, even he realized he didn’t need a bigger one. Why, when his wardrobe resided in heaps on the floor?

Plus, the doggie bank’s big smile still matched the dresser perfectly.

One day, he departed for college, then marriage. The cheerful blue dresser, deprived of its kid, looked a little sad.

Now, though, it proudly houses coloring books, finger paints, and Play-Doh for grandchildren.

That dresser was made for kids.

And this old kid still loves it.

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: What furniture in your home tells your family’s story?

The Amazing Corn Maze Adventure

In autumn, we Midwestern grandparents like to complicate our lives by taking our families to corn mazes.

On our first outing, my husband eyed me. “Some people need 12 hours to find their way out.”

“Ha!” I say.

But that’s all I can say. Maybe, I’ll exit before Thanksgiving. Or Christmas?

Like my mother before me, I possess zero sense of direction. Unfortunately, our daughter inherited something of our deficiency.

Her husband and mine took over. “No way are these kids getting lost with you.”

One grandson wailed, “I don’t wanna get lost with Mommy!”

His brother backed away. “Grandma’s trying get rid of us!”

The men hurried the kids into the maze. Onlookers, fingers poised to dial 911, glared at my daughter and me.

The maze looked friendlier. I have always liked rustling cornfields, with thousands of leafy stalks whispering autumn secrets. Once we entered, though, other participants vanished. Where, exactly, were we?

My daughter said, “Let’s retrace our steps. We went this way, didn’t we?”

At the next intersection, I boldly pointed the way. “We came from this direction.”

“You think so?”

“Uh …”

Cornstalks moaned with the wind. My skin prickled, but I summoned the confident tone that faked me through years of parenting. “As long as we see the barn, we’re fine.”

The only problem: the barn kept moving. Farther and farther away.

Suddenly, from the opposite direction, it pounced on us like a daytime goblin.

My daughter, who once hitchhiked a Mexican highway without fear, halted, eyes wide.

I checked my phone’s GPS.

“Recalculating …” The GPS Lady snickered. “Recalcu — bwahahaha!”

My daughter’s GPS Lady joined in. They loved the corn maze.

Us? Not so much.

We switched off those annoying voices. But those of our family? No. This corn maze tale would be repeated at holidays forever.

Even if we never returned to eat pumpkin pie. (Sniff.)

Finally, my daughter straightened her shoulders. “We’re going about this all wrong.”

“We are?”

“Sure. Let’s walk away from the barn. At the next fork, close your eyes. Pick a path, any path. At the next one, I’ll do the same.”

“Right! That always works with interstate ramps.”

We found an exit. Before relief gave way to gloating, the guys emerged from another.

“Grandpa and I figured the way out from the sun’s angles!” one grandson crowed. “Did you do that, Grandma?”

“You used a GPS.” My husband sounded as if we were running a Ponzi scheme.

No, we had used our own special system, based on navigational instincts those guys couldn’t begin to understand.

My mother would have been proud.

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: Have you ever experienced a corn maze adventure?