Early mornings remind me of my Granny’s house, pink sunrise skies and the smell of fresh coffee and biscuits baking, usually some kind of meat cooking in the iron skillet on the stove. In the mountains its always chilly in the mornings, even in high summer. Lying deep in the feather nest of my bed, the heavy quilts hold me captive in their warmth, I know the hardwood floor will be a cold constant on my bare feet as I run past the gas stove in the hallway into the bright early kitchen noise and heat and conversation of my Granny and Pawpaw’s morning life. They start before the sun. She cooks breakfast for him before he leaves each day for the barbershop 30 miles away in Shelby. I crawl up on his lap for the few minutes I have with him before he goes, knowing it’ll be sunset, close to dark before I see him again. He smells of lime aftershave and the lavender Granny uses to iron his white dress shirts. His long arms encircle me in a tight hug and he ask’s “Who’s girl are you?”
I am his girl forever. I am that mountain child forever. I want those cold mornings of the Blue Ridge, those years are my touchstone, my constant reminder that I am strong enough and loved enough. Those years and those people and that kitchen are the gifts of my life and I am so grateful.
I know that I am very fortunate to have had that for the first 6 years of my life, those daily reminder’s of love, from Granny and from Pawpaw. After Pawpaw left every morning, Granny’s day began. Her love was expressed in the normal hugs and kisses way, but it was also expressed profoundly in the way she produced, preserved and fed us food. There was ALWAYS something to be done. Depending on what season it was, something had to be tended or picked in at least one of the gardens she maintained. Even in winter there were turnip greens to be picked or soil enrichment to be done, pruning for the fruit trees or grape vines. Soil enrichment involved shoveling chicken manure over turned soil and hoeing it into the top 12 inches on a 4 acre farm. All of this done by a middle aged woman who probably weighed in at 115 pounds. It made me aware of the hardened labor that goes into the food I put in my mouth, it made me respect those people who do it, the small farm, the small farmers. Buy your produce from them, whenever you can, find a farmers market that sells local produce. I like an Idaho potato as much as the next girl, but when I buy local potatoes they last longer and taste better. And it means my potato farmer will be back next year with her potatoes.