This week's memoir prompt was to write a piece inspired by the color red - but you were not allowed to use the word "red" in your story.
The August sun bore down on my neck and shoulders as I stooped in the garden. Rivulets of sweat ran into my eyes, my mouth, my ears. I could feel my skin burning; later we would cool it with a cloth dipped in vinegar. For now, it was no use complaining. There were crops to be harvested.
Besides, my part of the work wasn’t nearly as hard as my grandmother’s. I crawled through the dirt, picking beans and peas as I went. They were then carried to her in the canning house. She took our baskets, face flushed in the tiny space, and emptied them into the sink before handing them back to us. Steam rolled from the windows into the Indiana summer. Humidity squared.
Hours passed slowly in that garden. I often found myself distracted by a ladybug, only to look up and see that I had fallen a half a row behind my cousins. Scurrying to catch up then, my grandfather would point out all of the tomatoes I had missed.
At the end of the day, we all moved slowly toward the house. Drained from the heat and sore from squatting, the kids all collected in the shade beneath the oak tree out back. It felt good to lie back on the cool grass as the sun dipped below the horizon.
This is the part where we learned about reaping what you sow. Us kids didn’t help with the planting, but we saw the fruits of our grandparents’ labor and we looked forward to helping ourselves to the goods. Tired as we were, we were anxious for our mothers to emerge from the house to deliver our dinner.
Soon the picnic tables were laid with a feast to delight every sense. Crunchy, fresh veggies. Tender fried chicken. Soft, home baked bread. For me, though, the best was always last.
At the end of the meal, out would come the warm, ripe watermelon. My grandfather laid it on newspaper spread out on the table. I can still hear the sound of the knife slicing through the dark green skin. My greedy eyes still take in the fresh juice rushing from the cut. He would cut out large half-moons; they always reminded me of a big, seedy smile. We waited as patiently as we could until he had cut it all up. Then it was our turn to get as slice.
Some of the kids dug in as soon as they got their piece. Not me. I went to the salt shaker and dashed the lightest of coatings onto my fleshy prize. This helped enhance the sweetness. I then carried this, the best part of my day, back beneath the oak tree. I sat off by myself a bit, my back against the tree. Closing my eyes, I slowly took the first, big bite. The warm juice ran down my chin. The salt bit my tongue in contrast to the sweet, sunny fruit. Now this was worth the wait.