Doing Corn!

Stuart - Richmond, Virginia
Entered on February 19, 2009
Age Group: 30 - 50
Themes: nature, place
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Doing Corn!

I believe that memories empower and remind us of forgotten victories.

I reminisced with coworkers about childhood experiences we longed to relive . One said “Oh, I want to do Italy again. The sights and sounds!” Another said “I want to do Paris again. The shopping!” When asked what summertime fun I wanted to have again, I whispered, “I want to do corn…”

Nannie, my grandmother, had a garden which was summer’s focus for me as well as my extended family. We anticipated nothing more than CORN. Excitement began when Daddy hooked the planter to the tractor! Weeks later, we pulled suckers in the hot cornfield. “Straighten the stalks up as you go”, Daddy said, wiping his face with a handkerchief. Nannie checked corn by pulling shucks back just enough to stick a fingernail into a juicy kernel. “If we’d get rain it would go on and make” Mama predicted. “You could get enough for supper now”, Aunt Noody insisted. Weeks later, we got word from Nannie, “Y’all want to do corn Tuesday?”

Tuesday morning, aunts started “before it got hot”. Yawning cousins gathered by the barn with lawn chairs, buckets, pans, and knives. In the field, cornstalks jerked and we heard “sca-runch!” as an ear was pulled. “Lord, it’s snaky in here”, Aunt Helen declared. “Sca-runch!” we heard again. One by one aunts came from the field pushing wheelbarrows piled with corn. They made it to the shade, wiped sweaty faces, and sat down to shuck. Shucking style was important and if we didn’t get all the silks off, we “just well not shuck”. Wormy ears were passed to aunts who flicked away offenders and cut off damaged

kernels with surgical precision. When a pan filled with shucked corn, one of us ran it up to Nannie’s kitchen to be blanched in huge pots of boiling water.

Nannie hummed and plopped steaming blanched corn to cool in ice water in

the old ceramic sink while cousins giggled and cut corn off cobs. Aunt Dessie asked, “How many pints y’all reckon we’ll get?” as cousins packed corn into freezer cartons. “I still got some of last year’s so don’t count any out for me.” Aunt Jenny demanded. We ate mouthfuls of corn while we cut but we didn’t need to;

Nannie saved “pretty” ears for lunch. Cousins ate on the porch, leaning over plates, butter dripping from chins. After lunch we did more corn until Nannie announced, “It’s just too hot”. The steamy kitchen was cleaned, sticky hands washed, and freezer cartons full of corn were divvied up. Mama and the aunts stacked them onto trays and walked home across the field to their freezers. We had done corn.

My coworker’s childhood memories may be of Italy or Paris where shopping, sights, and sounds made summers special, but not mine. A hot summer day with sticky hands, a chin covered with butter, and giggling cousins is what I long for again. I don’t need to go to foreign cities to hear the sounds. I want to go home and hear Nannie hum and a “sca-runch” in the field.

I want to do corn…