Saturday, September 27, 2008

The Best of FriedOkra: September Sun

Originally published September 2007.

Grandaddy FriedOkra puttered outdoors professionally and recreationally, and he grew and meticulously tended grapevines in his beautiful sloping backyard. I so clearly remember those gentle early days of Southern autumn, right about now, the week of my birthday, when we'd all be at Grandaddy and Grandmama's house for the weekend, my big sister and me, my parents, my Aunt and Uncle and two cousins. The late afternoons would find us four girls on that slope that led down to the water's edge, under the deep shade of Grandaddy's scuppernong vines, picking the grapes and eating them, or pinch-shooting the fruit out the peels at one another, our squeals and laughter gathered up and lifted away on a gentle, cooling breeze.

A Scuppernong is a soft, golden-ripe grape with a dusky-honey flavor and a sweet floral aroma completely incomparable to any other. We'd stand beneath the cover of those fruit-laden vines, dodging humming yellow-jackets who shared the harvest every year. In the distance we could make out the roar of the crowd at the Clemson game, and the muffled THWOMP! of the cannon each time the Tigers scored.

Recalling the smell and taste of those grapes is almost too sweetly nostalgic for me to bear, yet what a perfect memory for this week. This week I turn forty. FORTY. I am a mother and a wife, a full-fledged adult now, there is simply no denying it, try as I may. But inside, I'm still that innocent, tiny, tow-headed girl under the grapevines with her three best friends and favorite playmates in the whole world.

Inside I'm still just me, barefoot and sticky to my elbows with scuppernong juice, enjoying today and anticipating tomorrow in the burnished light of the late September sun.

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  1. Reminds me of my grandpa's garden when I was little. I remember hiding in the garden with my cousin and eating strawberries, raspberries and gooseberries. Ahhhh, good times!

    I remember one time my grandpa asking us sternly, you haven't been eating my strawberries, have you? We told him noooo! Then I remember looking at my cousin and she had strawberry all over her face. Oooops! Busted!! Grandpa was just kidding, though, he didn't care. That's what the garden was for.

  2. Way back a long time ago I remember making a tent out of a picnic table with a blanket thrown over the table & my very bestest friend and my Grandma would bring us out lunch to share under that wonderful play place that was off in some exotic land we made up. Memories are great!!!

  3. Hey Megan. We talked a while back through email...don't know if you remember but I am from pretty much the same place in SC that you are. And I went to Clemson. Do you remember talking to me? Anyway, I watched Clemson play football today on TV. Unfortunately we lost to Maryland, but the Tigers were playing at home. I bet your family could have heard the cannons today.

    I have a blog case you would like to check it out.

  4. So you have another birthday this week? What day? I'm a Libra too.

  5. Oh, how I miss the scuppernongs. I live in Colorado now and each time I visit my parents in the early fall (in Florida) I raid my mom's HUGE vines. They are so wonderful! Such wonderful memories, thanks for the reminder!

  6. Muscadines transport me back to my Mama's house - well actually to her shed next to her house. She had a trellis/arbor and we would reach WAY up high to snag those wonderful golden nuggets. Now when we walk through the local Farmer's Market and I pass a vendor selling them, I'll SNIFF and SNIFF and I'm 8 years old again.

    I also remember that sloping backyard (not as vividly as you), and the THOMP of the cannons. AHH memories....

  7. Sweet memories. We have scuppernong vines too, but my kids have yet to experience the fun you did.

    My husband grew up in that area, but, unfortunately his memories of Clemson are the traffic and not being able to get anywhere because of all the people! Can you tell he's a gamecock fan?

  8. Precious memories..thanks for reposting this for new readers, like me

  9. I grew up with scuppernongs and muscadines growing outside my granny's place. mmmm...

    Bringing back sweet juicy slimy memories!