She lived 25 miles from where my mom worked, and gasoline was up to $.60.
It was the Bi-centennial.
Grandpa had retired from the oil field and they’d expanded the garden. Because there were more people there to help work it.
They had these two old apricot trees. They’d been there for twenty years. Never blossomed. Never put on fruit. Until this year. They made up for all the years of disappointment.
For their anniversary, grandpa had made Grandma a swing. Like a porch swing, only it sat out in the back under the mimosa tree.
The days were long and hot. In Oklahoma, the wind blows continually, not in gusts, but relentlessly. My hair was continually blowing everywhere. So mom kept it short.
She would leave for work early in the morning. And I would take all Grandma’s berry baskets (collected since the great depression) and go drop on the ground beneath the apricot trees. I would fill the baskets and take them in. Grandma washed the apricots and returned the baskets to me. At the peak of the crop, I could fill them up to six times per day. Grandma added this to her full time work with the garden.
They also grew zucchini bigger than my leg from the knee down. And green beans. There were, of course, tomatoes and peppers. These grandparents didn’t grow corn(the others fought the good fight for ‘roasting ears’.). But that’s about all they didn’t grow. I was never thorough enough to suit anybody as a green bean harvester. Which was just as well, as my work made it possible to add apricots to the harvest.
It was not without a good deal of noise, that I did my work. I cried at the injustice and mistreatment. And my wishing for rain gave me the opportunity to wish for the sun to come out. It was more pleasant to pick up the apricots from the dry ground than to kneel in the mud.
Grandma didn’t love to turn the air conditioner on. She saw it as needless waste. Not one living person supported her in this. Oh, in April, we all agreed. You shouldn’t need it in April. But in mid-July? There were no prizes for being the last one to close the windows and turn it on.
She had her swing. She worked like a maniac in the blazing sun or the stifling kitchen all day. When the dinner dishes were back in the cabinet, she’d get a cold drink and her cigarettes, and go outside and sit in the swing with the sun at her back. Under the mimosas, she’d smoke and watch the hummingbirds come to the mimosa blossoms. Mom would sit with her, too. She’d put in a day at the medical office, come home and change and join Grandma in harvesting and canning the green beans.
By the time the weather cooled in the fall, I couldn’t eat apricots anymore. I wasn’t filing it in the ‘great moments of my life’ file. But now, I think about my equal role in the work. I didn’t sit around nagging about the two activities I was willing to think of as fun. A lot of hard work made me grateful as a Pilgrim for time to read or write or play or watch tv.
I think I’ll move that summer from the “Argh” file to the “Good stuff” file.