Summer of 1960 When I Was 7...chapter 3... I've never stopped thinking about Irene...
I have found that smells can bring memories sharp enough to thrust a person back in time so they feel that they are reliving that part of their life. Biscuits browning in the oven, a pan of Crowder peas and okra boiling on the stove, pine sap oozing in the heat, or the musty odor of earth in a summer rain all make me remember the time that stands out most of my life. But I think it’s the people who make up the most in childhood memories. And, I’ve never stopped thinking about Irene.
It was last summer that my father moved to another town to go to school. My mother got two jobs and Irene came to take care of us. It is hard for me to remember a time when Irene was not with us. She seemed part of the family right away.
Irene was a big woman. I was too big to sit on Momma’s lap but Irene would still pick me up and hold me in her big, soft lap in the little rocking chair in that kitchen and croon away any tears or unhappiness. In my memories I always picture her in the kitchen sitting in our old rocking chair with me or my little sister in her lap reading the Bible, or she would be ironing, washing dishes or cooking. Her dresses were soft cotton with a rag tied on her hair that didn’t match. It didn’t matter; she said that it was only proper for her to have her hair covered. Her eyes were black with crinkles in the corner when she smiled. The smell of baby powder surrounded her. I could see the white dustings of it on her dark skin. When I was upset, I’d run to Irene. She would always take the time to hold me, answer my questions, and soothe my feelings. I sat in her lap until the convulsing sobs subsided. Irene would sing, “Oh sweet Lawd” in a soft, soulful melody. I’d wipe my tears and run my wet fingers over the dusty powder that covered her arms and chest then watch the shiny patterns left behind.
“You sweet chile. You wanna biscuit?” I hopped off her lap and she pushed herself up off the rocker and opened the top of the bread tin and handed me a large, floury, biscuit left over from supper last night.
“Poke a nice big hole now,” she said, so I pressed my thumb inside and wiggled it around to make as large a hole as I could. Then Irene poured in some syrup. I smiled and ran into the other room as sticky syrup ran down my chin.
To be continued…..