Tears and Laughter: Summer dreaming on a winter day

Somewhere, with summer still months away, yellow squash must be in season. It was on sale last week at the Piggly Wiggly.

And of course, I bought some. I always do, although I’m not sure why. My family won’t eat them and I don’t care for them either. I have stewed squash and deep fried them. I’ve made casseroles using them and smothered them with cheese, but I still don’t like them.

Many times I have bought them just to arrange them in a basket on the counter.

It’s a silly thing.

They remind me of another time, of another kitchen, other counters where yellow squash waited in wicker baskets with wire handles.

Her house was quiet.

Quiet enough the tick-tock from her wind up clock in the bedroom could be heard from the kitchen.

Or at least it could until she starting taking pots out and putting them on the stove. The rhythm and stir would drown out the continual ticking of the clock.

These were simpler times.

The walls were covered with wooden paneling. There was a string of dried red peppers that hung from a nail beside a picture of a man with his hands folded in prayer saying the blessing.

The table was covered with a red and white checkered vinyl tablecloth. The table was in the center of the room. She wiped it down before and after every meal.

There was usually a row of tomatoes lined beside the basket of squash. And there were four cabinets above the counter and the stove. There contents were hidden behind two double doors. One had salt, pepper, vegetable oil, and a big blue can of Crisco shortening in it. The one beside it held a few cans, Texas Fair black eyed peas, Bush’s Best turnip greens with diced turnips. There was a bag of dried lima beans, the big ones. And a box of elbow macaroni, part of which would be boiled tender with a couple of the riper, peeled tomatoes.

A stack of mismatched plates with matching saucers and bowls were in one side of the second cabinet. Cups and glasses stood opposite, face-up, with some of them having once held Bama grape jelly.

She always kept a box of cornflakes on top of the refrigerator. She called it an icebox. Its corners were rounded on the edges.

I never ate the cornflakes. I didn’t like them for the same bland reason I don’t like squash. Yet I buy them still.

Just like I use an iron skillet so my hands feel what her hands felt. And I bought an old plate like one of the plates from her collection at a flea market in Selma. It has dogwood blossoms on it. It was my favorite. She would make sure I got it.

The one I found hangs in my kitchen like a medallion. I surround myself with what reminds me of her. I have the basket of squash on the counter and a big box of cornflakes. I stand there real quiet. I just wish that clock was still ticking.

Amanda Walker is a columnist with The West Al. Watchman, Al.com, The Thomasville Times, and The Wilcox Progressive Era – https://www.facebook.com/AmandaWalker.Columnist.