I had been waiting all summer for Miss Laura Mae’s dewberries to ripen. For weeks we had strolled down to check the progress of the berry patch right behind her barn. She said berries loved manure. It’s hard to imagine how anything loving something so stinky, but I couldn’t wait till they turned black. While I was sneaking a couple to sample, her old dog sauntered up and lifted his leg on the bushes, convincing me of the value of soap and water. I hoped they loved pee, too, ‘cause they’d just gotten a healthy dose.
Finally, one morning, she spread me two hot biscuits with fresh dewberry jam. “I kept these biscuits hot just for you. I wanted them to be just right for this jam.” I don’t know that I’ve ever had anything better than those hot biscuits and that heavenly dewberry jam so sweet and tangy it almost made my jaws ache.
“Oh, this is so good.” I licked the jam that spilled to my fingers.
“It’s my favorite. I’ll give you a jar to take home with you,” she promised. “Don’t let me forget!”
“I won’t let you forget! And no one else can have any of my special jam,” I blurted out in my greed.
“Well, maybe I better give you two jars so everybody gits a taste.” I could tell she was trying not to laugh.
That seemed like a tragic waste of jam, but answered. “Yes, ma’am.” In my gluttonous imagination, I’d envisioned myself sitting cross-legged on the kitchen floor, eating jam with a spoon straight from the jar. Mother must have read my mind, because those jars found their way to the top shelf of the cabinet with the honey, coconut flakes, and brown sugar as soon as we got home. I’d learned from sad experience, stuff on the top shelf was emphatically off-limits. Not two weeks ago, I’d nearly broken my molars chomping down on white rice straight from the package, thinking I’d found coconut somehow left in reach. When I was settled safely on the back steps with my messy snack, the conversation began.
“Well, how was your trip to Myrtle’s?” Mother began. “I sure missed having coffee with you in the mornings.”
“Ooh, I did too! It was fine, but I sure was glad to get home. Myrtle’s a good woman, but she’s got kind’a snooty since she married Joe Jackson an’ he’s got a little somethin’. Well, I guess she always was a touch snooty. Mama always said her mama had her nose in the air. I guess Myrtle got it from her. She sure didn’t get it from me. Anyhow, me an’ Myrtle didn’ coffee in the kitchen even one time. Wednesday, while Myrtle was a’gittin’ her hair done, I slipped out an’ helped Thelma, the woman that comes in to help a couple of days a week. I got to know her last time I was there. I cleaned the refrigerator an’ stove while Thelma was a’ironin’ so we had a fine visit. Then I made sure the back door was locked and me an’ Thelma sat a few minutes an’ had coffee. I probably wouldn’a had to lock the door with that yappy little dog o’ Myrtle’s, but I sure didn’ want Thelma to git caught a’settin an’ a’gittin’ in trouble on my account. I’d brung her a pound cake from home ‘cause I remembered how much she loved the one I’d brought Myrtle the last time. They are so much richer made with yard eggs and homemade butter. Yeah, I always thought a lot o’ Thelma. We had a fine visit.”