Granny and I got to the end of the dirt road that intersected with the main road, which was paved and lead to Main Street downtown. This was a tricky road that we had to get across pretty quickly or run the risk of being squashed like a fly by a squatter, the kind with the long metal handle and the rubbery square at the end. I only squatted a fly if he deserved it; mostly that was when he landed on my food because I discovered that he vomited every time he landed, so in my mind he deserved it because of the insult that required that I dispose of a portion, just a pinch, of my food that wasn’t always so easy to come by, especially if it were a treat.
There we were, Granny and I, at the intersection, having to look both ways before making a mad dash for the other side. We waited a while, looking both ways several times before we hustled to the other side, trying to outpace those fast long cars on country roads.
We landed dead center at the beginning of a worn dirt path. I wondered what was down the path, but I also knew it was a just a matter of time before I found out. Granny seemed to know exactly where she was headed.
It was a pretty clear track, none of that pushing back tree limbs and bushes like the little forest at the back of Granny’s house that Granddaddy seemed to have built just for our personal use. This trail was nothing like that. This trail went straight through, and it was nothing but quiet. As a matter of fact, it seemed like no sound had ever been made in this forest.
Granny, a woman we called an amazon back then because of her height, walked at a steady pace with me by her side until she came to a clearing where there stood one of those old southern wooden shotgun houses that was being allowed to topple and return from whence it had come. We just stood there holding hands, staring at the ruins.
I intuitively knew not to say anything, though that was easy between me and Granny. She was a woman of few words, and I was a girl of fewer. We were made for each other. As a matter of fact, once one of my older sisters had accusingly said that Granny treated me like I was an adult. At 10, I had no idea what that meant. I simply knew that we seemed to understand each other from where it mattered.
So, there we stood in the perfect temperature, nothing to disturb us one bit, looking at the house that was dying. We stood there a moment –staring; we didn’t even sit on the grass for a moment to rest before we began our journey back home.
On the way, Granny picked a plant, pokeweed, I believe. We headed back home, across the same dangerous main road, down the same red dirt road, where I took another look at the tadpoles that weren’t quite ready to reveal their true selves. When we got to the mailbox, I noticed the red flag was down, which meant the old mailman had come and gone. There was nothing in the box for me, like a nice letter from one of my aunties that always had money in it, something that brought me great joy.
Later that day, Granny cooked up a patch of poke salad for the adults in the house. They had a little cornbread with it. I didn’t care that they didn’t share it with me because I continued to wonder Granny how could tell the difference between poke salad and poison Ivy.
It wasn’t until later that I learned that our visit was just one of many to Granny’s childhood homestead. No wonder she’d been so solemn. I can only imagine the memories that were soaring through her mind, leaving room for little else.
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