A journey back to stories

Published 7:35 pm Friday, March 4, 2022

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Mama could have marched me straight home switching my scrawny legs with every step, but she didn’t.

If she had, I might not have fallen in love the way I did.

Amos and Eunice lived in a house right behind ours. Eunice kept the leftovers from dinner, usually a baked sweet potato with crispy skins, a pone of cornbread or a biscuit, in the oven. But whatever it was, I was welcome to it, Eunice always said.

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Then I would go out on the porch to talk to Eunice, Amos and Lizzy until dark and Mama threaten a switching to get me home. It was there on that porch that I developed a fascination for the spoken word and fell head over heels in love with storytelling.

When I got to be a teenager, most of the girls liked to gather at the drug store after school. I liked to go with Mama to the little grocery store behind town and listen to the folks sitting around sharing stories of the simplest things. Mama and Papa Nick and their “regulars” could keep me entertained all afternoon long.

When I had a family of my own, my laughing place was Black’s Grocery on the backstreet of town.

Sometimes I would pull a stool up to the counter. Other times, I’d pop open a short co-cola, pour in a bag of salted peanuts and join the gathering at the drink box where something interesting was always going on.

Many times, I would be invited back to help myself to whatever was on the stovetop in the back of the store. Grace cooked dinner back there and she always cooked more than she and Mr. Noah could eat.

“Get you some of those peas. The cornbread’s in the oven.”

If things were lagging a little, all somebody had to say was, “Grace, tell us again how it was that you made Noah stop farming.”

Grace wouldn’t get two words out before Mr. Noah would come up out of his chair. “Now wait just one dang minute. Grace ain’t never made me quit farming …”

We would all laugh and settle in because the stories would gush like a “busted” water pipe.

Stories. They have been such a huge part of my life and continue to be.

When the rooster crows at 5 a.m. (today), I’ll journey to Georgia where I’ll stay all day and late into the night listening to stories being told, just as I did so long ago on the front of Eunice and Amos’ house until Mama called me home.