When I was a kid, we used to walk “up in the holler” to my aunt and uncle’s house.
I loved to go there. Their home was nothing fancy to look at, but I found it fascinating. The living room was papered with something that looked like wood paneling. The paper was split and sagging in places, so they’d patched it with old aerial maps.
My aunt stored her dishes in an icebox in the dining room. A large chalk horse with red circles painted around its eyes stood on a dark bulky buffet beside the table. The horse appeared to be glaring at us, and my siblings and I were all a little afraid of it.
In the extra bedroom, the bed was piled with my aunt’s “purties.” She liked dolls, and that’s where she displayed them, propped up against the bolster.
My cousin slept upstairs. His room was hot as an oven in summer. I can remember climbing the stairs to his room and seeing piles of dead wasps beneath the window, apparently casualties of heat stroke. The room always smelled like sweat and drying shuck beans.
My favorite spot at their house was probably the front porch. From there, we could see way down the valley. The wood floor was weathered to a velvety gray. My siblings and I would vie to sit in the mint-green painted swing beside my aunt, but whoever didn’t get that choice seat would sit on the edge of the porch and swing his or her legs over the side.
Pink cleomes bloomed in the corner of the yard beside the chimney every summer. My uncle gathered some of their fine black seeds in an envelope and gave them to me once I moved out on my own. They’ve been blooming in my yard every summer since.
We’d often time our visits to their house around supper time. My aunt always had something tasty fixed, one of my favorites being her fried hoecakes. She used plenty of “May-zola oil” when she fried them, so the edges were golden brown and crispy.
I make hoecakes myself on occasion. Most of the time, the smell of them takes me straight back to my aunt’s kitchen.