Memories springing up

Published 4:59 pm Tuesday, April 14, 2009

The last few months have been filled with blessed re-discoveries of so many things from my childhood in the South.

After spending most of my adult life in Michigan, I am at home in Shelby County and am enjoying getting to know again the things that make life special here.

Big things, like a winter that includes 70-degree days and sunshine in January, or churches that still have choirs that wear choir robes, are obvious.

It’s the little things that remind me that I’ve come home.

There’s the voices of children talking with distinct Southern accents. I bust out in a big grin every time I hear a child speak here.

Or, having a man hold a door open for you. Southern men still do that and I for one appreciate it. And I love being called “Miss Jan.”

Nothing, however, has taken me back in time like seeing again the blooming trees and other foliage of my youth. Shelby County has come alive with mimosa, magnolia, dogwood, azalea and gardenia, honeysuckle, spirea and fig trees. Ah, memories.

Mimosas were great trees to shimmy up when my little brother and I were younger. A clump of spirea grew just outside our fence at my childhood home, and I convinced my brother, who is just 18 months younger than I am, to climb over to get me some of what I called “the wedding flower” because they look like little wedding bouquets. My mother came outside just in time to see his diapered bottom topping that chain-link fence.

I remember my Aunt Minnie’s fig preserves, put up with a little slice of candied lemon rind on top of the figs in each jar. I would “help” her pluck the figs from the tree in her yard, plopping more in my mouth than made it into her preserves.

I was in Montevallo earlier this week and visited with Johnny Stephens and his son at Cedar Creek Nursery. I marveled at his plants and we started talking about my favorite — tomatoes. I told him when I was growing up in the South, we would set our tomato plants out on Good Friday.

That was something that always amazed my friends up north. I tried several years growing tomatoes in Michigan, and not once did they ever ripen. However, I think that was my fault, rather than a problem of geography.

In Shelby County, Stephens said, most hold off on setting out tomatoes until April 15, and doing so then may still be taking a bit of a risk.

I’m going to plant tomatoes this year, fry ’em up when they are green, make sandwiches when they turn red and eat them like apples when I pick them from the vine.

It’s good to be home.