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The World Turns

Using Granny’s ancient knife -- the handle worn thin and the blade sharp as a razor -- I sliced big ruby tomatoes. Drops of red juice and seeds dribbled onto JFG mayonnaise spread over white bread slices.  

Betty and I balanced paper plates and cold Tupperware glasses in our arms, carefully stepped out the back screen door, and headed to an old card table set up under the cool shade of black cherry trees.

Dressed in Mama’s 1950’s netted hats and faded print dresses, we nibbled our sandwiches and sipped grape Kool aid.

Birds sang in the tree tops, and dark blood-red fruit dangled in small beaded clusters. Juicy tomato seeds slid down our arms, and wet rings of sweaty glasses spotted the table. We pushed up trailing dress cuffs. 

Sheltered by leafy boughs, I presided over luncheon, slipping into the role of soap opera society matron as easily as the old musty dress flowed over my thin shoulders.

Hazy images flickered through my mind of plots and subplots I’d watched on the black and white RCA, as Mama ran an iron over our daddy’s work clothes: Bert’s drunken husband’s latest dark act, her daughter-in-law’s cheating ways, the light-haired son’s gambling problem, and her friend Mata’s hush-hush brush with cancer.

All this electric drama, we swallowed as innocently as we did our sandwiches and Kool aid, accepting stories whole, lamenting and shaking our heads at the folly of that grownup, messed up world.

For a few more years, we remained unaware that adulthood edged ever closer, as we tasted the sweet fruit of each year’s harvest, covered by a safe canopy of trees and wrapped safely in simple, gauzy dreams.

Too soon, the savor of August tomatoes faded, as did yesterday’s summer pretending. The winters came. Gone was our shady corner, as quickly gone as the half-hours of Mama’s soap opera. Our young selves became exiled from under the sheltering cherry trees, and our innocent inward turning slowly turned outward with forced change. We -- unable to make-believe anymore -- died to ourselves and thrust into unrehearsed roles in a bewildering world of grownup. Our eyes opened to deep sorrows that could not be resolved by simple black and white stories.

And then one spring a soft easterly breeze came up and blew from the cherry trees a shower of frothy pink masses of blossoms. Hope -- the last vestige of our dreamy childhood -- floated down, too, and we caught hold of it and held on.

After a few more cycles of seasons, we grew strong enough to spin our own stories. They are bittersweet -- unlike those fragrant August tomatoes -- but clearer and wiser than the soap opera’s ever were. We continue to write and rewrite our lines until they feel right in our mouths; we grow into characters that feel right in our bones.

The black cherry trees died years and years ago, their beauty vanished as the past always does, but my sister’s life and mine remain like slender, pale green branches reaching ever for the sun through sometimes dark shade and watery clouds.

Susan H. Evans lives in Baltimore, Maryland, and am published in Daily Inspired Living Magazine, Journey of the Heart, Glint Journal, Avant Appalachia, and Pensive Journal.

Photo credit: Kelly Wright via Midjourney

1 Comment

I love this. Thank you

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