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Happy Juneteenth!

I Remember When...

I remember when butter cookies were two for a penny and when taken from a big plastic see through canister with a set of tongs, were put in tiny brown paper bags. I remember gazing at big fat kosher dill pickles that sat on the counter at the corner store. They looked like miniature submarines swimming in a sea of their own juice, and they only cost a nickel. I remember when a bag of potato chips only cost a nickel too and if you would smash them up before you opened the bag; those chips would last a long time. I remember moon pies covered in chocolate with the creamy marshmallow center. I also remember RC Cola and how it just didn’t go down right unless you added peanuts to it.

I remember jump rope, playing chase the fox and double dutch for hours without getting tired. I remember marbles with names like aggies, and shooters. We had our own language for the game… knuckle down, fudging, dead duck and for keeps! I remember playing ball and jacks with a dark pink rubber ball and steel jacks on the hard kitchen floor. Back then, we called them bobby jacks, and no one corrected us.

I sigh as I sit at my window gazing out at the park across the street. There are never very many children out there playing anymore. There is seldom anyone on the swings or going down the slide. There is seldom anyone on the monkey bars or the merry-go-round. There is hardly ever the sound of our little people laughing and shouting as they whirl and spin to their heart’s content! My how times have changed, and sometimes it just makes me sad!

They call me Hurdy Gurdy. Yep, they named me after a musical instrument. My daddy named me, and my mama allowed him to. Why he gave me that name I will never know. Hurdy Gurdy Malone; that’s my handle. They have always affectionally called me by my middle name and I thank God for that at least. The Malones were a family of four; daddy, mama, my brother Billy and me. We had good times and bad times. Our family was close knit, and we enjoyed life.

They say that it is not good to live in the past because living in the past does not allow us to move forward. But I believe that sometimes it does a soul good to just go back and linger awhile. I love sitting in my easy chair thinking about things that make me laugh. And believe me, as old as I am, I have a lot to remember. Like the time my little brother took a jar of bumblebees to church and just when the preacher said, “let us pray,” he opened that jar and set ‘em free. People started running and ducking and I got tickled and could not stop laughing. Some people thought the Holy Ghost was manifesting, and that made me laugh even harder. My brother got the worst whipping of his life that day when we got home. He took it like a champ because afterwards we talked about who did what in that service and we laughed until we cried! He said the whipping was worth it.

We were always doing something that we were not supposed to and usually got in trouble for it. Like the time we were at the bus station waiting with mama for our cousin Jane to arrive from Tennessee. My brother saw an elderly man talking loudly because I guess he was hard of hearing. Billy, being only four years old walked up to the elderly gentleman and said, “Shut up old man!” Mama was mortified. She asked Billy, “What did you just say to that man?” My brother turned to her and said, “I said, shut up old man!” My eyes got big, and my mouth opened both at the same time because I knew what was coming next. With one almost seamless motion mama grabbed my brother so hard and so fast that his feet literally went up in the air. She apologized to the man and ordered Billy to apologize. The man looked at us like a deer caught in the head lights. I assessed the situation and started giggling. I saw the back of my mama’s hand coming and I knew to bob and weave! By then my giggling had turned into knee slapping laughter! The elderly man never heard Billy nor mama. His hearing aid was not exactly working too well that day. Some things are just worth remembering.

One Sunday we were in church and our grandmother was visiting us for the first time in a very long time. Mid-way through the service she asked where the bathroom was. My brother, like the true little gentleman he was, offered to show her. And show her he did! Now the door to the bathroom which for some strange reason that I have never understood, had a lock on both the inside and the outside. The light switch was also located on the outside. Grandma turned on the light and entered the bathroom. I cannot imagine what came over Billy that very moment. But in a court of law he would have probably been accused of premeditation to describe the crime. He locked the door and turned off the light! We heard grandma calling Billy’s name all the way in the sanctuary; just as the pastor said, “God has a plan and a purpose for your life!” Some things are just worth remembering.

My grandmother had a fear of caterpillars and where we lived, they were native to our neighborhood. They were gypsy moths and at a certain time of the year they suddenly appeared black, huge, and prickly. If you just happened to step on one of them, they made a sickly snap sound that gave you the willies! One summer grandma was visiting, and Billy overheard her say she hated caterpillars and she refused to go outside. Well, I guess Billy was of the mindset, if you will not go to the mountain, I will bring the mountain to you. I believe he searched for quite some time to find the biggest, blackest, prickliest caterpillar in the yard. I watched him put it on a sick and carefully open the door. Grandma was sitting at the kitchen table with her back to the door. I made motions to my little brother to not do it. But as I looked at his face, I knew that my pleading was in vain. Then it happened as if in slow motion. Billy tapped Grandma on her shoulder and as she turned around, he stuck that caterpillar so close to her face I knew to try to get a prayer through at that moment would be useless. Grandma let out a scream so loud that I know it shook the rafters! Billy dropped the stick, and it landed in her lap. She jumped up and moved like I had never seen her move before. It was a cross between the twist, the shimmy and the cake walk! He took off and ran for his life because she threatened to kill him, and I thought she just might do it! My how remembering the people we love and things that they did can make our present circumstances that would otherwise weigh us down lift our spirits. After all laughter is good medicine and sometimes, we just need a good dose!

Mama, daddy, and grandma have all gone home to be with the Lord. Billy is a grown man now with a wife and children of his own. He is also a pastor who loves the people whom God has entrusted to him. He is serious when it comes to matters that concern the Lord. He preaches the word of God without compromise. He is a man of great faith and integrity. But now and then I see that little boy with the bumblebees, the bathroom, the caterpillar, and I smile, snicker and breakout into knee slapping laughter! I remember when…

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