Good Morning, Nostalgia: Denise Shaw
"We laughed and looked into each other’s eyes, shared joy, and made happy memories"
Nostalgia: a sentimental longing or wistful affection for the past, typically for a period or place with happy personal associations
By DENISE SHAW
Thinking about my folks today, and “Lessons imparted in the vegetable garden.”
The beautiful vegetables from the gardens of my grandmother Mary Barringer, in Philadelphia, Miss., and my aunt Ruby White, in San Diego, Calif., bring back so many good memories. When I was a child, summer fruit and vegetables like watermelon, strawberries, carrots, beans, corn, and tomatoes, in the summertime in the 1960s and ‘70s was magical.
We planted those fruit and vegetables, watered them and waited for them to grow and ripen. We ate outside on the patio most days, often glancing at the garden and saying “soon we’ll have fresh corn, carrots, and peas. It gave us a sense of pride and hope for better days. I liked the snap beans. When I picked them I knew what was on the menu. The time spent snapping the ends off those beans also afforded me more time to spend with my grandmother. We’d each take a chair and sit at the kitchen table and “snap,” talk, and laugh. It was our time.
Every day before breakfast, the kitchen window was always open and our neighbor and childhood friend Robert would smell the bacon and onion fried potatoes and showed up almost every day at breakfast time for sure. We always had homemade jam and preserves. I didn’t eat store bought jellies or jams until my folks passed away.
When dinner was cooked and ready to eat, we all gathered around the stove top and each one took a dish to the patio table and before we ate, broke bread and prayed over the food. During those magical intimate moments of supping and sharing with family, nothing else much mattered — not the war raging in Vietnam or the fight for civil rights, and nobody cared about the Watergate scandal of the time involving “Tricky Dick” [President Richard Nixon].
This was our family time at the dinner table. No politics were allowed.
I recall Aunt Ruby looking over her glasses, smiling and saying, “Eat all you want. I have cooked aplenty. If we run out of food I’ll just cook some more.”
My brother always complemented Aunt Ruby on the cakes she baked. In my aunties house, there was a longstanding rule that there always must be a cake on the kitchen table. My brother, sister, cousin, and I ate all the cake we could hold because we knew that a “cake on the kitchen table” was a rule we were obligated to obey. And you know, we kids always obeyed the rules.
We looked forward to the good food daily and just enjoying the afternoon. We truly had joy. We laughed and looked into each other’s eyes, shared joy, and made happy memories.
When the summers were over and the time arrived time to return to Los Angeles, Aunt Ruby always supplied me with stationary and stamps so that I could write her and my grandmother. We didn’t want those times to end. Remember when a regular stamp was a dime and an airmail stamp was 15 cents?
When Aunt Ruby passed away she had shoe boxes of letters from me. She kept them over the years — it was her memory box. Upon her passing, I received her most precious possession — her Bible. She labored over, studied, and prayed the covering and protection over me and that has kept me to this very day.
That included good healthy food that always included fresh fruit and vegetables straight from Aunt Ruby White’s and Grandmother Mary Barringer’s gardens.
The times are bygone as my grandmother and aunt have long since departed this Earth, but the memories are everlasting.
Denise Shaw resides in Ontario, Calif.
Compton Herald endeavors to publish more cherished stories that warm the heart of a bygone era from our loyal readers. We invite you to email your memories (600 words or less) to, “Good Morning, Nostalgia,” at thecomptonherald@gmail com