The fondest childhood memories I have are of the yearly trips at Thanksgiving made to my grandparents’ farm. As the weather turned a little cooler and the cornflower skies appeared indicating autumn had arrived, anticipation grew exponentially. My own childish excitement was so great (as was my mother’s patience during the eight hour drive), that I couldn’t help uttering that same old question all kids do… “Are we there yet?” at least every half hour.
Oh, I definitely looked forward to seeing my grandparents, aunts, and uncles (all of whom I loved tremendously), but the absolutely best part was seeing my cousins. There were many in number, and several of us were fairly close in age. There was an older group, a middle group, and a younger one- Lana and I fell into the middle group and it was the best. Thoughts of all the fun we would have- horse rides, playing hide and seek in the barn, sneaking into the hayloft, climbing trees, tractor rides with Grandpa, “helping” Grandma milk the cow-made that long drive seem as if it lasted forever. As we passed by cotton and sugar cane fields, my young mind would process that we were finally indeed getting closer. At last we would make the turn onto the dirt road comprised of Louisiana red clay and I knew that the big green barn with the white trim would soon be in sight.
As time passed and we outgrew (for the most part) childish things, I still looked forward to seeing my cousin Lana every year. We stayed up late and talked for hours about school, boys, dreams we had for the future, boys, places we wanted to visit… boys. Though she may have felt differently being two years older, I couldn’t get enough of her and never tired of her company.
One morning, the ‘older’ group of cousins and adults took a trip to the field to harvest turnip greens; I think Lana and I were 13 and 15 years old then. My job was to scrub the many bushels of turnip greens being brought in by the truckloads. (So, maybe there weren’t many bushels or truckloads, but it seemed that way at the time.) I worked for what felt like hours to a lazy teenager, unaccustomed to ‘hard’ labor, and finally sat down for a break when Lana arose from her luxurious slumber and meandered into the kitchen to have a gander at the freshly scrubbed leaves drying in the sink. It was at that moment when my Grandpa entered the room.
Famous in our minds for his hugs, endearing term of “honey-bunch”, strong work ethic, and long tractor rides, Grandpa was well respected by us all. He looked at me, looked at Lana, then looked back at me, scolding, “Now why are you sitting there while this poor girl has done all the work? You need to get over here and start helping her.” Imagine the betrayal felt when my darling cousin said not one word in my defense, but instead shrugged and had the nerve to smirk! I went back to the kitchen and the darn turnip greens while she poured her coffee, shamelessly yawned and stretched, and returned to her room for a little nap.
Though time and physical distance has separated us, when we speak on the phone it is as if nothing has changed, our souls reconnect, and we can again talk for hours. The turnip green story always comes up.