Thursday, June 15, 2006

Canton, North Carolina in the 50s - My Grandparents' Farm

My grandparents' (father's parents) farm in North Carolina was located in the same town as the Champion Paper Mills. When we visited when I was a child I thought the pungent odor of boiled wood pulp coming from the mills was the smell of the huge white blossoms of my grandmother's snowball bushes that grew in the front yard. I'd shove my face into the lacy balls and breathe deeply, taking in the scent. But the flowers smelled of paper mill pollution and it was impossible to differentiate one scent from another -- except for the barnyard which had its own distinct smell. My grandparents had lots of farm animals. They had milk cows, pigs, chickens and goats. My grandfather would find joy in pretending that he was going to throw me into the raunchy pig pen just to hear me scream my head off. All of Haywood County probably heard me yelling!

The cow barn was pretty smelly, too. Cow piles were everywhere and even right there where my grandmother did the milking! She would sit on a stool right there under the cow's belly and yank on those nasty udders, shooting hot milk into a semi-clean silver bucket. Then afterwards she would pour the milk through a strainer that caught most of the hair and she would serve the milk directly from udder to table. My mother found this to be quite disgusting, especially when the occasional fly had to be picked out before drinking.

My grandmother also churned her own butter. They grew their own vegetables and slaughtered a hog or chicken now and then. They had an outhouse at the back of their property and no indoor plumbing. My mom also hated that, though I don't remember the outhouse myself.

One day I wandered into the big old barn with its peeling red paint and found my grandmother milking a big rust and white-colored cow. As I watched, the cow turned its big head towards me and bellowed "MOOOOOOOOO!" at me and I turned and ran like the wind back to the house, yelling like a banshee the whole way!

At Grandma's Place

My grandma’s place on Chicago's East Side was my favorite place to be as a child. It was a place where I felt special. Fat pink and vanilla -colored Christmas tree lights at Christmastime. Space heater in the livingroom. Rough dark green upholstered sofa bed with a multi-colored crocheted afghan thrown over the back of it. Leaf-patterned carpet over brown linoleum floors. Big back porch with its peeling gray paint where we watched thunderstorms while eating ice cream slices from Walgreen’s pint-sized containers. Bright yellow kitchen walls with a chrome-trimmed kitchen table with its swirly-gray and white formica top. The refrigerator was called the “ice box” and there was a white and chrome convection oven that I never saw my grandma use, with it’s big red dial sticking out of the side of it like clown’s fake nose. It was a warm and friendly place, a place where I could relax and be free to do what I liked to do, which was to draw and make things with construction paper and sticky paste from a jar. I lay at night on what Grandma called "the davenport" and watched the lights from passing cars filter through the Venetian blinds and slide across the ceiling over and over until I fell sound asleep. I miss my Grandma so much.