Up until about ten years ago there was a week in March known as AEA week to Alabamians. To anyone else it might simply be considered Spring Break. We were out of school for the week and the teachers had the opportunity to attend the annual Alabama Education Association conference.
On the farm, AEA week was for planting. To this day, the smell of fresh turned soil takes me back to AEA week, walking barefoot in the soft tilled earth--a welcoming of early Spring which led to Summer. [A reminder that school was almost out.] Just the same, the smell of fresh cut grass reminds me of summer days on the farm, taking turns pushing that lawn mover, sweat dripping off skin laden with minute slivers of grass cuttings and drinking water straight from the water hose. When we mowed Mamaw and Papaw’s yard we would each get silver coins and were allowed to walk down to the Log Cabin Grocery where we would get a RC or Nehi Cola in a returnable bottle, maybe some peanuts or a MoonPie and penny bubble-gum! Ah, another smell-of-remembrance--wind-blow, sun-dried linens. There’s little more comforting and relaxing than to lie down on linens dried by Mother Nature.
For many years, we didn’t even own a clothes dryer. I remember helping mother take clothes off the line that were frozen stiff. When they weren’t frozen I almost always buried my face in the sheets and towels before tossing them into the basket.
Those clothes lines and poles were multi-functional. Sometimes during the summer months, Mom & Dad would allow us to have a party. Farm raised meats, fresh from the butcher, were on the grill served with fresh veggies from the garden and fruits from the trees. We had watermelon eating contests, ran about in the sprinkler hoses, played Red-Rover, Hide-and-Seek, Witch in the Well--for those who may not remember that, the “Dad” started the game by saying: “I’m Going to Town to Smoke My Pipe and Won’t Be Back Till Saturday Night”--and apple bobbings. The apples stems were tied to a string and hung from the clothes line. Your hands had to go behind your back as you attempted to grasp the apple between your teeth--which was tied just high enough you had to be on your tippy-toes to do it. I eventually learn to go for the smaller apples! [My first kiss was had at one of those summer parties--out behind the old barn.] Those T-shaped clothes line poles called out to you, ‘run towards me, leap, grab on, swing’--we did--till Mother yelled at us. We’d wait awhile before going back again, but not too long.
Mother ironed everything! All of us girls learned how to iron at a fairly early age--starting with wash cloths and dish towels -- yep, even those. I still sport a scar on my hand from attempting to straighten a corner of a dishtowel while watching and learning how to iron from Felita. Mother had a white plastic bottle (much like the quart milk bottles in the markets today) that had an aluminum top which mother had punched holes in. It was the starch bottle. You had to sprinkle whatever you were ironing with starch first. The bows on the the back of our dresses stood UP. The school teachers often commented on those stiffly starched dresses.
I was well into the second year of school when I wore pants to school for the first time. The kids in my class were shocked. Girls could only wear “pant suits” and the top of the suit had to come down to the fingertips. Mother made a lot of our play clothes and pajamas when we were young. Brightly coloured flour and feed sacks were her main source of fabric. I felt special to wear something mother had made from salvaged goods. I think memories such as these--along with all of the farm life--may have something to do with my tendency towards and my foundation in living green.