In the postwar ’50s, modern appliances came into being with a promise to ease the backbreaking chores of homemaking. A vacuum , dishwasher, microwave, and a telephone all came with the promise of more leisure time; to rest, go out of the house, to drive, or look for more fulfilling work.
Fast-forward, I sit at my kitchen table-dishwasher emptied and loaded by 7 am- coffee dripped- Eggo popped-I consume calories while connecting my Bluetooth to my ear. First phone call by 8 am, then shower, dress and place luggage on the porch to wait for the cab.
The ease and expedience of flying offered the illusion of more leisure time also. However, over the years due to security checks and issues, a flight can take up an additional two hours pre-flight and an hour or two post-flight due not to mention boarding delays. To be productive in this downtime, I plan to review my meeting notes, organize my one personal item, and touch up my make-up. But I have gotten ahead of myself.
While finishing a call, the sun shone through my kitchen window, the beams reflecting on the lead-glass panes of my grandmother’s hutch. Scanning the keepsakes inside, I am drawn to the gold leaf trim on the rim of her teacup. Playfully encircling the rim with my gaze, I am able to see the steam rising and remember the warmth of the cup in my hands. I am taken back to Alabama, once again to my grandmother’s shack made of simple clapboard walls.
Except for the heat of mid-summer, the shadowy rooms always had a damp cool feeling. But when I walked into the kitchen the home came alive! Grandmother’s stove would hug you with warmth. The morning beams tip-toed over the plates, cups, and depression-glasses in her hutch.
On the stove were many cast-iron pans, the largest skillet would simmer the delicious gravy made with bacon drippings, a little dab of flour, and fresh milk from violet the cow. The fresh ground pepper gave the gravy the distinction of being black-eyed gravy, others would use red pepper seeds for a red-eye gravy. Next to the stove was an old porcelain sink with two separate spigots. Fresh eggs sat in a bowl on the sink’s countertop waiting to be cracked. To the left of the sink was a window with simple ruffled valence curtains. Beyond was moist foliage cushioned in the fog that would later lift and evaporate as the morning sun rose over the lush pine mountain.
I was allowed to stir the gravy, cut the biscuits into circular mounds, and set the table. I would take out my favorites; a pink bowl made of depression glass, blue and yellow flowered china plate, and a milk glass plate with hand painted peaches.
Small plates with red and burnt orange roosters held thick honey-cured bacon and pork sausage, fresh from the smokehouse. The milk glass looked so fresh and shiny with the tomato slices. A large bowl and ladle, with pale pink rosebuds, for the black-eyed gravy and a Currier and Ives plate stacked high with biscuits. Grandma never forgot to set out the fresh peach preserves in a canning jar. We sat for a leisurely breakfast and conversation.
With the dishes washed, we went outside to feed the dogs, cats, and chickens. Afterward, we would drink mountain spring water in mason jars, put on our bonnets and go out to the large garden to till, weed, and pick.
Supper would come around 4 or 5 a simpler meal of corn bread with hand-churned butter, beans, fried okra. Afterwards, we relaxed on the front porch.
Up before dawn, the days were long and I suppose my Grandma was weary from many years of this routine but I felt healthier and more content when I was there. Any stress could be worked off physically, we had no boss to call out deadlines. Our deadlines were the setting of the sun over the mountain ridge, fall harvest, and canning. Our tiredness was refreshed with a hot shower, spring water, and wholesome nutrient-packed meals. The mountain, lake, livestock and the spring animals all communicated with us.
No carpooling, flights, traffic jams, planners, instant foods to contend with. No emails, cell phones, or faxes to interrupt. Just the reliable change of the seasons and a smooth and steady pace, with endless moments to connect with God and nature.