Saturday, July 14, 2007

"Pot Likker"

I went to a funeral today and watched a young woman give a moving eulogy of her grandmother, the mother of a good friend of mine. She did a great job and did not falter, even under the emotional stress of her loss.

It got me thinking about my own grandparents and how lucky I was to have all four all the way into my late 20's.

Actually, my grandparents had popped into my head alot this week. They come out of nowhere when some seemingly meaningless thing triggers their return. A few nights ago, the trigger was the pot in the top picture. I had made a big pot of collard greens for supper and had just finished packing the leftover greens in a Rubbermaid container when I glanced into the almost empty greens pot and there was the pot liquor, a salty, peppery mix of bacony greens broth.

Nana popped into my head.

My Nana loved "pot likker" and, armed only with a spoon, could clean a greens pot until it shined. She would also clean a pork chop bone until it looked like a desert dessicated fossil bone. I think these were leftover habits from being a young mom in the depression era.

She was selfless, sweet and loving in that way that only a grandmother can be.

Earlier in the week, at Dad's house, the guava tree transplanted from my Aunt Florence's old house is actually bearing fruit this summer. Mom and Dad called me away from greenhouse repairs to come see it.
Papa suddenly appeared.
He always had guava jelly in his fridge. He loved guava paste too. The paste was a special treat, pricier than the jelly. It came wrapped in paper in a little wooden box. He usually got the paste as a Christmas present from one of his many grandchildren and always made a show of his appreciation and delight.

Papa drove a succession of JEEPs during my childhood as he and Nana were avid surf fisherfolk who loved to drive down the beach far from any tourists and cast a line for whiting. They would even tow their camper down behind the JEEP and live on the beach for weeks at a time. That was magic for we grandkids, because we usually got to spend the night camping with them at least once or twice during the summer.
None of that is possible any more. You can't even drive where he used to go fishing, and camping can only happen in campgrounds.
The dog in the picture is Smoky, a much loved and very spoiled pooch that went everywhere with Papa. Smoky liked to ride perched half out of the JEEP with his front feet braced on the frame of the huge RV type side view mirrors Papa had mounted on the JEEP.
Papa and the half in- half out dog were such an icon around town that the St. Augustine Record (a newspaper) did a feature story on them once.
St. Augustine was more Mayberryish back then ... before all the growth.

Papa was the datil pepper supplier for much of St. Augustine in his prime. Next to his big white victorian house astride a busy corner on the west side of town was a greenhouse filled with hundreds and hundreds of styrofoam coffee cups, each with a young datil pepper plant growing in it. When they were ready, he would put a sign out front and people would drop by to buy pepper plants.

"I don't do it for the money," he told me once as we sat on his porch swing.

"I just enjoy growing them and talking with all my customers"

And boy could he talk. Sometimes people would tell me, " I love talking with your Grandpa, I drop by for the conversation as much as the datil pepper plants."

And it was true. He was a natural.

Today, after the funeral, I drove by the corner where the old white house had stood for about a hundred years. It's gone now, a fire took it a few years after Papa died. There's an apartment complex going up on the site of Nana and Papa's home.

There's no sign that we were ever there.

By the way, he died after he fell off the roof at the age of 83, so when you see posts here about me high above everything on my very, very long ladder ... you now know it's genetic.


If only memory was genetic, then my kids could feel what I feel when I look at this new construction being built atop our family's memories.
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29 comments:

Deb said...

I feel whatever you're feeling, FC. It just ain't right. Your Papa was a great man.

OldHorsetailSnake said...

Gee, Cracker, I feel low down and weepy over this. So sorry....

LauraHinNJ said...

Sweet nostalgia.... and I was expecting one of your Florida foody posts.

Your were lucky to have all your grandparents for so long. I miss my grandparents, too and think of them at the oddest of times.

Meems said...

i know exactly what you are saying... from the collard greens and pot liquor for supper (mmm yummy) to the guava paste wrapped in paper in the wooden box (it's been a long time since i've thought of it)to driving on the beaches (those were the days)to buildings going up on the land your grandparents once homesteaded. memories. genetics. family. thanks for the triggers.

Zanne said...

I hear you. What a wonderful remembrance of your grandparents. You've triggered some wonderful memories of my own, including Gramma's habit of mashing sorghum molasses and butter together to make a satiny mixture to spread on hot biscuits. It's difficult because like you've eluded to, the kids don't have those memories of your granparents to connect to so the scene of the apartment complex wouldn't cause them to twinge.

ImagineMel said...

So poignant! I can relate to the pork chop story...my family was that way with a chicken drumstick! There's even a video somewhere of J falling asleep in his high chair with one in his hand. I SHUDDER to think of the development happening here. But, already, even here, houses that played a big part in my childhood have become businesses. I hope we don't ever see that happen with Mama and Daddy's house.

rcwbiologist said...

What a great post. Thanks for sharing stories about your grandparents. I too have rich memories of my grandparents, and am lucky that my paternal grandpa, at 93, and maternal grandma, at 89, are still alive. Like you I cherish the memories I've had with them. I feel fortunate that our boys, now 4 an 6, have one of their grandmas living near us. I'm hoping that next year when we visit my dad they get to meet their great grandpa for the 2nd time.

Jacki said...

My husband comes from a long line of St. Augustine-dwellers, and he and his dad are both big datil pepper fans. I wouldn't be surprised if he bought a plant from your grandfather at one point!

robin andrea said...

What a touching post, fc. Your remembrances bring them both into our lives just a little bit, and it's easy to see the sweet influences they had in your life.

Hurricane Teen said...

oh...my....goodness. I drive by those apartments headed around my grandma's house from time to time. I am trying to place exactly where they are, though...But I do remember my grandma telling me about what used to be there. I'll have to ask her again. I sure would love to live one day in the old 1950's St. Augustine, for sure.

Hurricane Teen said...

Right off Masters Drive? I'm still trying to place exactly where, though...I do remember some old greenhouses off of Masters Drive from when I was young, and there is a new development on top of there now...But I'm not sure if it's the same thing...Yet another small world moment...or small town moment.

kevin said...

I thought the speakers did a nice job, also.

I saw the new development a couple of days ago. I can't say I like it.

Rurality said...

Nice post. I wish my grandfather (who lived near Ocala) had lived longer - I was only 5 or 6 when he died.

Cathy S. said...

You need to write a book. You really do.

Floridacracker said...

Deb,
Thanks for seeing that :)

Hoss,
Papa had a great life, lots of fish, a loving wife, great kids, lots of grandkids... good stuff.

Laurahinnj,
I really was lucky, I know lots of folks who never knew theirs.

Meems,
Welcome to Pure Florida!
Always glad to meet a native!
That's a beautiful garden web site you have.

Zanne,
I thought of you when I wrote this last night. You do such a good job of documenting the loss of history through development.

Mel,
I can clean one two. I used to get on to Jr when he was little because he'd toss a chicken bone that had lots of potential still.

RCW,
Thanks!
That's wonderful your bright eyed little boys get to spend time with their great grandparents.
Take lots of pictures.


Jacki,
Welcome to Pure Florida!
I visited your site. If Linda Wolfe or Janice (Janet?)Wolfe are relatives, I went to high school with both of them.


Robin,
Thanks! "Sweet influence" indeed!

HTEEN,
45 Palmer Street.
The lot held a big white house and a smaller rental house in your lifetime. The greenhouse was between them.

Kevin,
They both did. Both gave me a lump in my throat. I hope she ... they are doing okay.

Rurality,
He must have lived in Ocala during the Six Gun Territory Days. You were probably too little to remember that amusement park.
Live cowboy gunfights in the street several times daily.
PreDisney Cool Place.

Cathy S,
I can't decide between fiction or non ...
I know one thing, I'd have to write less here to getrdone.

Cathy S. said...

How about non fiction and a selection of your posts to start? And maybe we would all understand if you posted only once a week if we knew that someday we could be able to say, "I knew him when he was a science teacher and fellow blogger." When you when the pulitzer of course.

Floridacracker said...

Cathy S,
You're a good coach.
Good motivation.

Sharon said...

So true. I wish my kids could see the 7 acres of fruit trees on the St John's that was my Great-grandfather's. Now it's a subdivions.
(My Dad loves guava jelly) :)

edifice rex said...

Man, your post made me think of so many things. You know, that's one part of being a construction worker that I don't like; we sometimes have to tear down old homesteads. Usually there is nothing more than the foundation left but still, it always makes me think. I never knew either of my grandfathers; they died before I was born and both grandmother passed away while I was pretty young. You are lucky. I often wish I had a grandfather.
And yes, you scare the crap out of me with your ladders!

kathy a. said...

such a sweet post! it was my great-grandmother who loved to cook, and i was lucky to know her when i was a kid. one grandmother died before i was born; the other was known for roasting the thanksgiving turkey for about 4 days.

one grandfather was, well, distant -- you might have whistled at his aqua 1956 T-bird, and admired how "his" blue jay ate nuts from his hand, but i suspect that blue jay was his only friend in the last decade he lived. my other granddaddy -- you would have loved him! his passions were fishing and gardening, and he knew how to hug a grandbaby.

Jacki said...

Linda and Janice are siblings to my father-in-law, Clyde Wolfe. You may recognize his name from the last local election, where he won Circuit Court Judge. Wow...small world!

Anonymous said...

FC-
You said you were lucky to have your grandparents unil your 20's. I will be 50 next week and I still have my Grandma! Yep, she turned 99 in June! It's so nice to have my children 32, 30 and 23 to have spent time with their Nonnie! And we all treasure each memory!
Lightenin
PS: I'm counting the days 'til you and Thunder take your trip!

Floridacracker said...

Sharon,
It's hard to watch so much go. My folks passed on $100 lots along the river on SR-13 as newlyweds in the '50's because of the high price and the isolated location.

Edifice Rex,
It's just the nature of things, I guess. At least you do a great job of salvaging and recycling materials into your new "old" house.
Ladders are our friends :)

Jacki,
Linda was a couple years older,but I dated the younger sister of her friend Helen H. so we knew each other. Linda (Critter) was a very good friend of mine. She loved horses. I haven't seen her since some long ago class reunion.
A very small, very connected world indeed.



Lightnin,
THAT is amazing!
I'm looking forward to seeing you two also.


Okay, lunch is over, back to paintwork.

Susan said...

Great post! My grandparents didn't live close but we had a neighbor lady (Aunt Vernice) from Alabama who cooked the best green beans (still can remember her sitting on the porch snapping beans) and guava jelly. To this day, guava jelly is still my favorite. Have you read the book "Losing it all to Sprawl?" About a fella in Sanford who finally gave up the family home because of development. Only us old-time Floridians can remember how great it used to be! I really enjoy your blog - very entertaining and informative.

Floridacracker said...

Susan,
Wow you have a lot of blogs.
I've heard of that book, but I have not read it.

pissed off patricia said...

Anyone who has had the joy of a wonderful grandparent has had some of the best of what life has to offer.

I buy and eat quava paste every christmas. I like it on saltine crackers. When this started? I have no idea.

This was indeed a lovely post!

Danielle B. said...

It was wonderful reading this bit of nostalgia from your life...you were blessed...coming from a military family...well, we weren't able to be around extended family for any great length of time...but I do have some very treasured memories of the "B. Farm" where we would roam among the blueberry patches and go apple picking. It is these memories that played a part in deciding to 'retire' to Florida where both sets of parents live so our daughter will be able to have memories like the ones you treasure. Nice post!

Floridacracker said...

POP,
I don't know either. I need to Google guava paste to find out!
I agree 100% with your grandparent statement :)

Danielle,
Thanks. Providing those memories and childhood for my kids is also why I left the Park Service and settled here in the wild part of Florida.

Cathy said...

What a lovely piece. I knew you were your grandfather's grandson even before you mentioned his ladder love. The last picture is a heart-breaker. Don't worry. Your kids see the loss in your eyes. The beauty is that your creating wonderful memories for them to carry forward. Good job.