In search of black eyed peas, I rode over to see my Aunt Flossie yesterday. She’s third born sibling of my dad’s family of 12 kids. At 88 years old, she still has a clear window into the past. I walked into her house just after noon. The back door was open to all comers. As I knew it would be, the stove was covered with pots and pans and plates and bowls full of food, with pies and banana pudding on the side. At the table was her and her 90 year old Braves fan husband, Oliver. They looked like they’d seen a ghost when they looked back and noticed the seldom-comer. “Get you a plate and sit down” she says. Of course, she’s not gonna stay seated herself, she’s gotta get up from HER plate and show me all the goodies to choose from. I was only looking at the pot with the peas but she pointed out the meats (which she’d forgotten I avoid) first and then the boiled potatoes, sweet potatoes, turnip greens, fried cornbread, etc. She poured me a glass of sweet tea and sat back down with me. She complained a little about how she wasn’t able to make as much as she used to or that it might not be as good as usual because of her age. She could’a fooled me. “I have to put more water in the pot for the peas now because I’m scared I’m gonna forget about’m and cook all the water out”. They were great of course and she even got up again to personally cut me some onion on top. The conversation continued on to a recently passed Uncle and a 28 year old girl who had overdosed up the road. Flossie loves to talk and told me so. She told me about her doctors and which ones would sit down and engage in a little one on one with her about her health. I had only dealt with one of them and he WAS a bit of stick in the mud. Then she got to talking about the old days. I had stood up and said “bye” at least once by then but I kept sitting back down for more. “When we were young, my mama took $20 and bought all of the material to make all of our school clothes”. Remember, this is 12 kids we’re talking about. “…and when I made my first dress I ordered the material for 7cents a yard…from Sears and Roebuck Company”. “It took 3 yards, so it was 21 cents for that dress!”, she laughed. And we think we got it bad. “Sun up till sun down we were out there in that garden, hoeing.” …“And all you got was food” I chimed in. “Thass right” she said. “But I LOVE to hoe, I still love to hoe, I just ain’t been able for the past couple of years. But you mark my words, as soon as Spring time comes back, I’m gonna be out there in the garden a’ hoeing!” “Ronnie (her son) said they were gonna have to cut that hoe off to get it in my casket with me”, she added.
“You look like Nelson (the baby of all the kids) now that you got FAT!” she giggled. That was NOT the first time I’d heard that. Not that I was fat, but that I looked like Nelson. He was my favorite uncle of all. He’s the one that took me to Carolina basketball games and even a few football games. “I sure didn’t know he was gay though” she said. Even though he had a wife and a daughter I really don’t see how she could have missed all of his flamboyant behavior. He was basically the family’s Richard Simmons. “I just wanna dig him up…” I cut her off, “dig him up?! Why?”. “...and spank him cause he was the way he was…” “Well, he couldn’t help it, Flossie. Just love him.” “I do” she said. Everybody did.
Almost two hours had gone by since my banana pudding and she was still talking and I was still listening. I finally found a way to the back door from whence I came, gave her a hug and left. I know I won’t make it to 88 years old, but if I do I hope I’m as sharp as she is. After all, some young (compared to 88!) nephew might come in wanting to hear about how tough it was back in my day so that he can feel a little bit better about his.