The glaring sun beat down on our blanched tin roof while my ma pounded the dirty clothes into steamy submission in her water tubs. She often said the unbearable heat inside was a cloud with a silver lining ‘cause on a humid, dry and dusty Georgia afternoon like this one, it made the washings—hanging precariously on the makeshift rope-lines stretching every which-way in the limited space of our two-room dwelling—dry very quickly.
“It shore is a big cloud today,” I thought, scrambling through the maze of crisscrossed clotheslines. They reminded me of the game I’d seen my sisters play as they passed complicated string creations back and forth into each other’s hands. Cat’s cradle, it was called, although why a cat would want to bed down in such was beyond me. The girls wanted me to try it once, but I’d refused, insisting it was for sissies. Really, I knew they’d laugh at me and call me “All thumbs Thatch”, a nickname I had earned early on in my life.
Ol’ granny was sitting in her favorite rickety rockin’ chair out on the sun-bleached porch lean-to, her gray hair caught back in a fat bun. From a distance, you could hardly make her out there, her coloring and clothing camouflaging into the gray, uneven floorboards. I liked to sit on the steps and listen to the rhythm of everything surrounding me, including the clunks and squeaks as she rocked back and forth. Ol’ pa said that likely one of these days, she’d wear those wooden slats so thin they’d break under her, banning them both to the stinky ground below. I almost laughed out loud at the thought of ol’ granny rockin’ away amidst the old bones and whatnot that Buster had stored there.
Instead, I busied myself with carting a pail of water from the creek to her side, its contents so cold I could almost catch a cool breeze when the motion of her rocker sent a breath of air across the top of the water into my face as I sat there beside her.
“What we gotta do today?” I asked, knowin’ all the time it was bean day, but wantin’ to make conversation first.
“Chil’, you know very well, and I’d thank ya to get me a dipper of this here water. My tongue’s so parched it’s stickin’ to my ol’ gums.”
I scampered to do her bidding, grinning because her speaking was so soothing to my soul.
“Hike up yer shoulder strap while yer at it so’s we can get started.”
How she could know my suspenders were dangling was always a comforting mystery to me, her blind and rheumy eyes not able to see a hand smack in front of her face. I plunked a deep basin on ol’ granny’s lap, careful to guide her hands to its contents before seating myself at her feet.
“Can’t do much no more, but I sure do like beanin’!”
I laid a clean, but dingy, towel beside me and we commenced our familiar chore-game.
“Snap, snap, pack-a-rat,” I chanted as her fingers flew from one green bean to another.
“Splish, splash, take-a-bath,” she sang back as she tumbled each bean over the side of her chair into the bucket.
“Rinse, shake, lay-them-straight,” I called back as I tossed the baptized offerings onto the cloth.
And that was just the first verse! The second went something like this:
“Snap-e-ty, snap-e-ty, lip-i-ty, lap-i-ty,” followed by,
“Dive-five, to ar-rive”, then,
“Pods, clods, rinse off sod!”
On and on, faster and faster, until we were both breathless, ending the job when the bowl was empty with,
“Snap, snap, lick-i-ty snaps. Snap your pap on the back! Snap, snap, snip-i-ty snap. Snip-i-ty, lick-i-ty, pip-i-ty, SNAP!”
Mama’d steam those snappy beans with onions and a soup bone and we’d join ol’ granny on the porch with full bowls and a platter of tender biscuits.
Well, ol’ granny’s long gone now, and that ol’ shanty, too. But her ol’ rocker I’d kept. Once a year, without fail, my grandchil’en and then, great-grandchil’en come to visit, and we repeat the beanin’ day ritual. My oldest great-grandchil’, Rueben, he done set our song to somethin’ called “Rapmusic”, and he says it’s number ten on the charts. Don’t know exactly what that means, but it makes him and his friends real happy.
Me? Well, I just like sittin’ and listnin’ as I rock in time with their ‘rappin’,
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