Whenever I use my grandma’s old black iron skillet, like I did last night, I think about all the food she must have prepared in it. My mind goes back to the many days I spent at her house.
My grandparents lived their lives in the same house where my dad and his brothers grew up. It was a tiny frame house with 2 bedrooms, 1 bath, and a small living room and kitchen. A creek ran beside the house and there was a well and a barn in the back.
Papa was born in 1910 and was the 11th of 12 children. The oldest child was Eldred and the twelfth was Finus. As in finished. Done. That’s it. I guess somehow my great grandma just knew.
Grandma was a little younger than Papa, but I could never remember the year of her birth.
She taught me to crochet and let me sew doll clothes on her old treadle sewing machine. It was the same machine she had used to make clothes for my dad.
She kept Mercurochrome in her bathroom medicine cabinet for cuts and scrapes. She called it “Monkey Blood” and it could cure most anything that ailed a little girl.
Whenever I would visit, my sisters and I would find sticks and Grandma would give us some string (she always seemed to have string), and a piece of raw bacon or bologna. We would tie the string to the stick and tie the meat to the string and run down to the creek with our homemade fishin’ poles and an empty coffee can to catch us a mess o’ crawdads.
We had read that crawdads were called “crayfish” by some, but we didn’t want to be accused of puttin’ on airs, so we stuck to crawdads. They would pinch onto the meat with their claws and we would pull them up out of the water and hold them over the can until they would drop in. Occasionally, one would drop before we got it over the can, and then we would all squeal and try to get it in the can without getting our fingers pinched.
After we filled up our coffee can with crawdads, Grandma would fry up the tails in butter in that old black skillet, and we thought we were pretty important to have caught our own dinner.
I drank my first Coke at Grandma’s house. It was from one of those little bottles with a cap you had to take off with a bottle opener. It made my eyes water, but I liked it.
At bedtime, which was always about sundown, no matter the time, Papa would have a big glass of buttermilk with crushed up crackers and salt and pepper. I always had one, too, and I still like to have a glass now and then.
The last time I went to the house, after Grandma’s funeral, I noticed how small the creek looked. There were no rapids like I had remembered. Just a few ripples here and there. It wasn’t very deep, either, and I marveled at how I had always been afraid of falling in as a child.
There was a new housing development across the street where there had been fields of cotton before. So much seemed to have changed. I wondered if there would be any other little girls or boys who would spend hours down at that creek, gazing into the rippling waters, and squealing with delight over a crawdad on the end of a string.
Those were simple times filled with awe and wonder. Wonder over a crawdad’s claws. Wonder over how a sewing machine could work simply by moving my feet back and forth on the treadle.
I love using that old black skillet.