Summer in the South has a whole host of visual and tactile images and memories for me. Fireflies at dusk. Those sometimes deafening cicadas. Heat and humidity to beat the band. Playing hide and seek in the dark with my cousins. (I always had to go to the bathroom and got caught because of it.) Vegetables from the garden. And blackberry picking. (If you’re imagining my voice going soft with southern twang, you’d be right.)
My grandparents had a wild blackberry patch a few steps away from their house, and my grandmother (probably to get us out of the house) would send us with containers to find as many blackberries as we could so she could make a pie. Funny. I don’t remember ever eating any blackberry pie. You can guess what transpired on those steamy afternoons. Grubby little fingers picking a multitude of berries — a quarter of which made it into the containers. We would gleefully gorge on those often tart little berries — exclaiming as those who found gold when we found one that had gotten enough water to be plump, juicy and sweet. Nearby was a small wild plum grove that we would occasionally plunder. It’s a wonder we never saw a snake.
As part of our huckleberry finn inspired tour of summer culinary delights our own yard had honeysuckle blossoms, figs and scuppernongs. I never much cared for figs because of the skins, but my mom made a fig jam that tasted just like strawberry. I can remember eating those early, sour scuppernongs and having almost a battle of wills with my brothers as we attempted not to spit them back out due to the almost painful grab of that tartness. Then we would spend hours it seemed picking honeysuckle blossoms and attempting to find that stingy drop of sugary nectar on the inside of the flower.
Summer hours seemed so different then. Long, hot, with no end in sight. As I think of them, it gives me a feeling of swaying back and forth in a hammock. Are those cicadas I hear?