“Do you know," Peter asked, "why swallows build in the eaves of houses? It is to listen to the stories.” ~ J.M. Barrie, Peter Pan

7.03.2008

Cold fried okra & 5 owls


I know! It sounds like some weird southern delicacy, doesn't it? But never fear - one thing has nothing to do with the other. Except that they both make me feel very happy & summery & relaxed & childlike. Very summer vacation, very out of school, very "look at this!". Remember that feeling? Bare feet on oil topped HOT, HOT, HOT roads, but never mind - we ran. We ran to the park down the street - back then, we stayed outdoors all day, and the park was the place to be. We were there from morning to night, running home for lunch to houses without air conditioning, and running back to the park where we stayed until suppertime - until the bats were flitting around the telephone poles & mothers were calling us in. There were swings & merry-go-rounds & monkey bars & tether ball & baseball & 4-square & even board games. It's where I learned to play chess. There was a giant sandbox & each year the city parks would hold a competition for best sandbox sculpture - I remember building a sand octopus & dying it green. There was also an annual "circus" - each park, under the supervision of the park's director, would perform a circus act. We'd practice all summer, and at the end of the season, the local baseball field would open its gates for this city-wide celebration. (One year we were acrobats, performing our tricks while hanging from ladders.) Each park would also choose a princess, and she would ride in a float built atop a wagon, decorated by us kids, and pulled by a chosen few. A queen would then be chosen from amongst these lucky princesses. I know, I know - it sounds horrible & sexist, but it was fun! It was a big deal! One year I was the princess, and my mother made my dress - orange & tangerine with flowers. I remember being disappointed that it wasn't blue, but it didn't matter - I was a princess! But my very, very favorite thing was The Puppet Truck. Oh, it was MAGIC! The city had a truck that was a marionette theater - painted bright red, with a stage built into the side. It would perform at each park 2 or 3 times during the summer. It would appear about sunset, but the performance wouldn't begin until after dark. And, oh! The agony of waiting! My house was on the same street as the park, and the truck would pass by on its way, and it was all my mother could do to keep us inside until after supper. But she would, and after supper, the whole family would walk (or in our case, run) to the park, joined by all the other families in the neighborhood, to see that night's show. The darkness would surround the truck & the only light would be the stage light; the marionette costumes were the most magnificent magical colors, shimmering & glowing & absolutely intoxicating! I've tried to paint this scene many times, but can't come close to the enchantment of those evenings. I don't even remember the plays - I just recall the colors & the warm night air & the escape into fantasy.

But what about the okra, you say? My very favorite vegetable (well, maybe a 2nd to brussel sprouts). Childhood memories there, also - when relatives would descend on my grandmother's house in the summer, we'd have fried okra & boiled new potatoes & home grown tomatoes & fried catfish & cream peas. Sweet tea. Served on tables set up all over her house & backyard, fans set up to keep the summer air moving. It's still about the extent of my cooking ability. When I fry okra, I slice it & just wet it with water, then toss into a frying pan with hot olive oil, then sprinkle quite liberally with salt & peppered cornmeal. Keep turning it until the cornmeal is crisp, and be sure to fry more than you can eat. Because you want to be able to have plenty of this goody cold, which you then douse with Worcestershire sauce. Maybe mix it up with diced home-grown tomatoes. Always my breakfast the next day. It just doesn't get any better!

And the owls? 5 of them. This morning. At the back of Mary's driveway. My smile hasn't faded yet. I don't have the camera equipment and/or expertise for this situation, but this time you don't have to just take my word for it. Robert now has a blog (which means from now on, between the two of us, nothing in our neighborhood is safe from scrutiny) , and you can check 3 of them out here. Be sure to click on the photo & enlarge it. It's way worth it!

Meanwhile, the hammock & the lake are my places of choice for the weekend. As I told Christy this morning, just visualize yourself laying there in the morning sunlight. If you're nice (and I know you are), I'll bring you a glass of sweet tea - heavy on the ice. Happy, happy Independence day to you all!

5 comments:

  1. I had the biggest smile planted on my face as I read this post.

    You had the most magical summers as a child! Full of imagination and creativity..no wonder you are such a creative soul.

    Sure beats watching tv and playing video games, hey? What is this world coming to? What is it losing???? Kids just don't seem to find the magic anymore.

    You have rekindled my childhood summer memories.
    Thank you for this!

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  2. Jaime - I really did, didn't I? I'd thought that as adults we'd forgotten all the magic, but maybe not. Maybe we just have to rediscover it - it's still in us.

    Debi

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  3. You know, I think we, with the rest of this beautiful blogging community are rediscovering the magic everyday! And each time we find something and share it, the magic just keeps growing, making us all feel childlike deep inside our souls.
    It's a beautiful thing.

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  4. i also, like jamie smiled and often shook my head as i read this post debi. it is marvelously foreign to me as far as what you ate/eat. but the rest of it? it made me remember! and i'm pretty good at remembering my childhood. but the blacktop, tar covered roads... did you also chew it up when it was hot, pretending it was black gum?!? the running on it because it was soooo hot. we played in the neighborhood churchyard, having not had a public park since our town as so small. but we had a carnival every year at teh local VFW, which was where all the town events took place. i love your memories of all the ways you were involved in creating the community fun. a tangerine princess...WOW and WOW!! fantastic post. btw i went over to meet the owls. too cute for words!
    xo

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  5. Robin -

    OH! I never chewed the "black gum" but here were kids who did - I'd forgotten that! How crazy!!!

    :) Debi

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