Out of the blue, I called my Aunt Barbara this morning.
She is Mama's sister, the youngest of my grandmother's brood. Because of her youth, she was the fun aunt for my cousins and me. In fact, I have a picture of her in her high school graduation cap and gown, posing nicely, trying to hold me, while I toddled away in my diaper-filled pants.
I am the oldest grandchild, the only girl, so we've always had a special relationship. (Well, since I was potty trained.)
When I called this morning, she said she and my uncle had just come from a market where they purchased peas. She was resting a few minutes before putting them up in the freezer.
"We bought pinkeyes and acre peas," she said.
My mouth began to water.
I remember many summers on my granny's porch, surrounded by Mama, Aunt Barbara, and Granny, with a bucket of unshelled peas in front of me and a green Tupperware bowl in my lap.
I learned very early how to shell peas without loosing a single precious morsel.
Snap off the end, open it, then slide your thumb down the pod, careful to let the peas fall in the bowl and not on the porch. It doesn't take long for your thumb to get sore, so you find ways to continue shelling or rest a moment, until all the peas are shelled and sorted, pausing long enough to drink cold swallows of sweet tea.
The porch was always cooler than the house in the summer. Granny didn't have air conditioning for years. She and my grandfather just didn't see the need. They'd lived as long as they had without it and been just fine, thank you.
So we spent many hot afternoons sitting on the porch, fanning ourselves and swatting the mosquitoes and gnats. I dangled my bare feet from Granny's swing, next to her sprawling ferns and petunias in hanging baskets. I listened to crickets, mockingbirds, and Bobwhite quails.
"Bob White! Bob White! Bob White!" I called into the pecan trees.
The birds answered back and I called again, "Bob White!" in a melodic dance between bird and child.
Our duet continued until the quail flew away to a neighbor's yard. I returned to shelling my bucket of peas, the bowl still resting on my lap. The four of us sat for hours there on the porch until it was time to go in and cook supper.
Sore thumbs, sweet peas, bare feet covered in sap. Thick, humid air filled with calls of bobwhite quails and the faint smell of thunderstorms across town. Afternoons ending with a supper of fried chicken, pork chops, or freshly caught catfish.
These are the memories of generations sitting on a porch.
These are the treasures of a little girl loving summer in the South.