I never knew it at the time, but I had an extraordinary childhood.
I grew up a mile or so from my Papa’s house. It was a tiny 2 bedroom house with one bathroom. The bathroom door latched with a hook into an eye bolt screwed into the door frame, and the bathroom cabinet had mercurochrome, or what we called “monkey blood” for curing any scrapes little girls might get on their knees when they fell on the gravel driveway.
Papa was born in 1910, the 11th of 12 children. He had been a share cropper, a pig farmer, and a butcher. I can never remember him wearing anything but overalls, and he always carried his pocket knife.
His father was alive during the Civil War.
At Papa’s house, we played Dominoes, caught lightning bugs in pickle jars, and fished for crawdads. Grandma would give us a piece of string (she always seemed to have a supply of string she had saved) and some small pieces of bacon. We’d tie the string to a stick and tie the bacon to the end of the string. We would take our makeshift fishing poles and an empty coffee can for collecting our catch down to the creek and sit a while.
Grandma would fry up the crawdad tails for us, and we thought we had done something very important by catching our own dinner.
Papa made his own sausage, which he always had a fresh supply of, thanks to the pigs in the pens out back.
There were bottles of cold Coke in the “ice box” and we sat on the “divan” in the living room. If something was done on accident, it was said “she didn’t aim to” to do it.
There always seemed to be company over, usually one of the many aunts and uncles and cousins, so that meant plenty of good food to share. We washed and dried the dishes together by hand. Phone calls were made by dialing the rotary on the big black phone.
Every evening, Papa would have a glass of buttermilk before bed, so I would do the same, and we would talk. He once told me he remembers the first time he was allowed to wear long pants. Back then, boys wore knickers, and the men wore pants. I wish I had asked him to tell me more stories from his growing up years and stories he was told by his parents and grandparents about their growing up years.
I still love to drink buttermilk occasionally, and I always think of Papa when I do.