The summer has been long and busy and hot, but now that the kiddies are back in school I can actually take a moment to relax...a little...and think about getting away for a long weekend.
When I was growing up in the swamps of Louisiana, my mother created a summer time routine that never varied until I was in my late teens. Every year mid summer she would get an urge to visit her brother and his wife in Oklahoma. Aunt Betty and Uncle Elmo owned what I would call a farmer's market/souvenir shop on the outskirts of the Cherokee Reservation.
I can remember her coming into my bedroom in the middle of the night to wake me up just so I could wedge myself between my parents in the front seat of our old car and go back to sleep while my siblings crammed themselves into the back seat. My father drove all night and most of the following day while my mother read the maps and dangled her feet out the window. There was always fried chicken and bologna sandwiches to munch on so the long trek from the Louisiana swamps to the hills of Oklahoma was never interrupted by sightseeing detours. Our destination was our relatives' house and since my father wasn't fond of driving all that way in the first place, he wanted to arrive in the shortest amount of time possible.
Once there, I knew I would get the chance to see some real, live Native Americans as they frequented my uncle's store almost daily. To a young kid from the swamps, it was like seeing aliens dropped down from the Mother Ship and I would hide behind the counter and then peek out to see what they would buy. Eventually, as I got older, I would help weigh the fruits and vegetables on an old timey set of scales before bagging the produce for them. My uncle treated everyone the same...all were welcome at his store...and this was during a time when others might not have treated their neighbors from the reservation so kindly.
There are many holes in my memories of those trips but there is one memory so vivid all I have to do is close my eyes and I can summon both the sight and the smell of it. On every return trip our trunk would be loaded down with fresh apples and oranges as well as other produce to help supplement a poor man's dinner table. My favorite part about those apples was the fact they were packed in cardboard boxes with slits in the tops and on the sides. If you lifted the top lid and quickly pushed it back down while holding your nose really close to the top slit, you could drink in the delicious aroma of crispy sweet Red Delicious apples picked fresh from the orchard just a few days before. To me that was one of the most heavenly smells on earth and if I had the chance to smell it again today I know it would bring back flashes of those lovely summer vacations with my Oklahoma kin.
I think it might be time to go grab me an apple and reminisce ...