Going Down Highway 41 . . . Summer Lists

 

dad      Griffin, Barnesville, Roberta, Fort Valley, Perry. I recited this litany each time my family made the trip to Perry, Georgia to see my grandparents. The list was of the towns we would pass, once we had driven through Atlanta, on the way to my dad’s parents’ house. I’m sure it was compiled, in part, to eliminate at least some of the question about how much farther it was to Perry.

We didn’t go on the Interstate, not for many years. There was no I-75. We rode down Highway 41, the same one referenced in The Allman Brothers Band’s song, “Ramblin’ Man.” I learned from my mom to call it “The Four-lane.” As in, the four-lane, the only four-lane we had back then in Marietta. It took a lot  longer than it does today.

The list seemed to help. Fort Valley . . . almost there!

41

My conversation with my dad this week somehow again includes a list. Not a straight-forward list, but a kind of list that meanders, that stops to elaborate, or explain, or savor.

The list begins with tomatoes. Homegrown, vine-ripened, and especially heirloom tomatoes. Tomato sandwiches, with mayonnaise of course, on some kind of bread that isn’t really all that good for you. Bread that gets kind of soggy so that the whole thing seems to melt in your mouth. BLT’s, too, the bacon crispy.

tomatoes   Butter beans, crowder peas, lady peas. Vidalia onions, so sweet you can almost eat them like an apple. Fried chicken, the pieces smaller in the past than they are now, more flavorful, and rice and  gravy. Creamed corn, only we called it fried corn. We are making a list of summer foods we love, most of them things we ate in Perry. The list seems to call forth the memories, or maybe the memories call forth the list.

Peaches. Here we elaborate, reviewing how the Elberta peach, which helped the peach industry thrive, was developed near Perry. My dad’s first job was in a peach packing shed, where he packed bushels, pecks, and quarts, learning to put the best peaches on top. He was twelve.

peaches From there it is an easy segue to homemade ice cream, peach or vanilla. My grandmother’s recipe called for her to actually cook it first, like custard. It was indescribably good.

When we get to fish suppers, we pause again. Remember how Katie, my youngest sister, even as a small child always caught more fish than anyone?! Bream and bass, fried in cornmeal, hushpuppies, homemade slaw. “Ooooh,” my dad says, closing his eyes in blissful recall.

I remember my sister, Patty, and I sleeping on the living room floor on a palett. I liked the ritual of my mom and my grandmother laying down quilt after quilt, then a sheet,then another sheet, and then the pillows. Finally all the grownups came in to kiss us goodnight. Mom, Dad, Grandmother and Granddaddy Ryle, and my great-grandmother, Mama Watson.

A drum-shaped fan close to us whirred all night, moving the air around during the heat of a  summer night in middle Georgia. Outside, the cars and big trucks rolled down the highway that ran in front of my grandparents’ house. The sounds were like tree frogs or cicadas for me, soothing, the background music from a childhood memory.

This memory leads to a question and another list. “What was that highway?” I ask. “Was it Highway 41?”

“No, 341,” Dad answers. “It went to Clinchfield and Hawkinsville and Jesup.”

My dad is getting sleepy. His eyes are closing as he lies on the sofa. He will probably nap now.  My mom has gone to play bridge, and I will stay here until the wonderful caregiver comes at four.

My dad can’t get around by himself anymore and needs help for many things. But his memories are sharp and clear, his personality, his humor, and love the same. He is good company.

I love that he appreciates things; that he, and my mom, instilled that in us. I’m glad we can still appreciate things together.

I hope lists comfort him the way they do me.

“So where did 41 go?” I ask. “After Perry?”

“Cordele,” he says. “Tifton . . . Valdosta . . .”

 

 

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About Dixie Minor

A wife, mother, former Teacher, and the author of Winter Wish
This entry was posted in Family, Memories, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

12 Responses to Going Down Highway 41 . . . Summer Lists

  1. Randy Simpson says:

    Great memories! Thank you Dixie!! Randy

    Sent from RP’s phone

    >

  2. Dixie Minor says:

    Thank you, Mr. Randy! We are so looking forward to next weekend! 🙂

  3. bkpyett says:

    What a lovely post, Dixie, so full of reminiscences. I wondered what are hush puppies? We have a shoe we call hush puppies!! Those tastes and sounds bring back my own childhood! It’s wonderful that your father can still remember and share with you.

    • Dixie Minor says:

      Hi, Barbara! Thank you so much! Hush puppies are made from corn meal, egg, onion, and I’m not sure what else 🙂 -I’ve never made them, just happily eaten them! -but the saying is, you give them to your dog when he is begging for the fish he smells, while you are trying to enjoy your dinner, and you say, “Hush puppy! ” 😀 They are really good! We have the shoes here, too, soft and comfy. I am sooo looking forward to reading your book; maybe this afternoon I can enjoy doing that. We have both had birthdays and our son, Gary’s angel date gathering, and have visited relatives in South Carolina, and so many other things lately. I think that’s how summer is. Thank you again for sending the book pdf! 🙂 🙂 ❤

      • bkpyett says:

        Thank you Dixie for your refreshed follow! I shall look forward to seeing more of you online when the summer fades. ❤

      • Dixie Minor says:

        Hi, Barbara! I was trying to figure out how “Reader” works these days, pushing different buttons! :/ I never did figure that out! That is why the Follow looks refreshed; it was on “Follow” always, but I kept pushing things trying to see how to navigate in Reader. I think I was on the wrong page; I couldn’t figure out how to get to “Blogs I Follow.” FINALLY I figured it out! 😉

  4. FRED W & BARBARA W HOOD says:

    Dixie, this is such a wonderful blog!  How poignant, with so many memories to share with your Dad.  It is so great that his mind is alert to all these things.  What a rich heritage your family has.  Thanks for sharing these precious moments! Barbara

    • Dixie Minor says:

      Barbara, thank you so much! You are SO sweet to encourage me! 🙂 ❤ It means so much to me! I do love to go backwards, down memory lane, and recall those precious memories. Something about it is so reassuring to me. Love you! ❤

  5. Genie Byrd says:

    Thank you, Dixie, for taking me along on your trips. Everything you mentioned are favorites, yes fish fries, ice cream, variety of peas, peaches, the drive, pallets . . . all great memories. Love your easy style and the way you reach into our memory banks and soon they are wide open. Keep them coming.

    • Dixie Minor says:

      Genie, thank you so much! I am so glad you related to it. Thank you so much for your very sweet comments! Those bonds from childhood seem extra strong these days. I am thinking about all the teachers this morning, as I know you are! Returning to work, already! Love to you, Genie! ❤

  6. Aunt Beulah says:

    Oh, how I loved this post. I am new to your blog and am so happy I found my way to you. I’m going to store away the idea of casual lists to spur the memories of my loved ones when we are together. They are all story tellers and I know they will respond. I admire your writing skill, particularly, in this piece the way you brought the story full circle and also the love and appreciation you expressed for your dad. Thank you, Dixie, for the rewarding read.

    • Dixie Minor says:

      Thank you so very much for your kind and encouraging words! I am so glad you think the lists will be helpful! That is wonderful that your loved ones are storytellers; I love sitting and listening to those stories! Thank you so much!

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