Reading List 2021

Friday, 17 July 2020

Memories : Cicadas

We had rain on and off all day yesterday and I can almost hear plants breathing a sigh of relief (and can practically see them growing!). Today is a return of this lovely hot weather we've been experiencing. I had just finished feeding some cut-offs of pineapple to the chickens and then intended to just wander over to the vegetable garden to take a peek, but of course, got involved in about half an hour of weeding instead. As I was about to make my way back into the house, I heard that familiar, distinctive sound of a cicada's call. That's all it took to take me back to my childhood and Aunt Jean and Uncle Earl's house.

Aunt Jean was one of my father's sisters. She lived in a small town which felt like a whole different realm, but was in reality about an hour away from my childhood home. The area in which she lived was a different zone, with sandy soil and long hot summers, perfect for growing tobacco. The drive to Aunt Jean's was always an adventure to see the fields of tobacco and the drying sheds which were like little barns. Now, tobacco is not a common field crop, but instead berries and ginseng have replaced it, grown under huge net-like covers. As well, fruit trees were abundant, fruits that could not be easily grown where I grew up, even though it was relatively close. Cherries were common and even soft fruits like peaches and plums.

When I think of Uncle Earl, I always see him smiling in my mind, but a wide, open-mouthed grin accompanied by a set of eyes that didn't line up properly, which was disconcerting to a young person. Uncle Earl had a glass eye. I don't actually know the whole story as to how he ended up with a glass eye, but it made him unusual and a wee bit frightening, although he was far from frightening himself. 

In the summer, but not always every summer, my father's side of the family would gather for a pot luck in Aunt Jean and Uncle Earl's yard. There were trees and tables and raspberry bushes. If the gathering was in early summer, sometimes the cousins would pick and eat raspberries while the adults visited and had drinks and smoked under the shade of the trees in metal lawn chairs with criss-crossed colourful webbing, pulled out of a trunk of an Oldsmobile or a Chrysler.

There would be potato salad and rhubarb pie or maybe "church lady cherry cheesecake" and if we were lucky, a gigantic roasting pan of Uncle Ed's homemade cabbage rolls. I've never had a cabbage roll since that came close to his! I was the youngest of all the cousins, so I don't have as many memories of family gatherings and don't know all the "stories", but I still remember the atmosphere and the excitement of seeing people that I would only see once, or maybe  twice a year.

And what brings me back to today, what twigged this memory, was the long raspy call of the cicada. Cicadas signal a real summer to me because they only emerge in the heat of summer. It wasn't until I was a bit older that I actually found out what made that sound. When I was very young, I truly thought someone was flying a small remote toy airplane in the neighbourhood. Cicadas are one of those interesting creatures with a story of their own, crawling out of their soil home after 13 or 17 years, only to live a short while, long enough for the males to call, then mate, and for the females to lay their eggs. It's a pretty wretched life in my opinion, but it's all they know, if cicadas have deep thoughts like that.




This is a picture of a cicada if you've never seen one. They are large insects, but it is usually the shed skin of the cicada that you notice, rather than the actual insect itself.

The days of gathering at Aunt Jean and Uncle Earl's are long gone, as the adults have aged and died, but Aunt Jean's daughter has carried on the tradition from time to time, inviting those now grown cousins to gather in her back yard in the same small town. There is a new generation of cousins, but there is still potato salad and pies and drinks,  and cicadas.

40 comments:

  1. Memories, memories - what a lovely post.

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  2. That sounds so lovely. A wonderful tale of life as it used to be. I could imagine you all sitting in those chairs under the trees eating potato salad and pies.
    I'm glad to hear you still get together now and again.
    And I learnt about the cicada. It's endless noise hear can be deafening

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  3. Not so sure I agree that this hot weather is so lovely!!! But, yes, rain last night, and things are jumping. What a lovely memory, and yes, little sounds or smells can trigger a memory. I always think the cicada is telling us that the raspberries are ripe.

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    1. I think smells sometimes trigger even more memories for me!

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  4. Good memories. They remind us of staying with friends in Whanganui.
    Just a small thing opens a door to a whole lot of memories

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  5. These are great memories to have....It made me happy to think of your family sitting together having a summertime feast and swapping stories...

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  6. Wonderful memories. 😊 I hope you get to go to those cousin get-togethers.

    Sammy Davis Jr had a glass eye too. I don't know the story of why, but maybe it is similar to your Uncle's.

    Isn't it interesting that cicadas live most of their life underground hibernating? How strange. I wonder why that is.

    "feeding some cut-offs of pineapple to the chickens"

    I did not know chickens eat pineapple!

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    1. True - but that's where the similarities between Uncle Earl and Sammy Davis Jr. end! Ha ha. My chickens get all kinds of kitchen scraps. Some they like, some they ignore but then it just gets scratched up with the dirt and detrius of their chicken run. They go nuts for mashed potatoes.

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  7. Such a lovely memory shared. I would say potato salad is definitely a summer memory. Cicadas are certainly the sound of summer. ... Mary-Lou =^[..]^=

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    1. You know, I never, ever make potato salad in any other time of the year.

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  8. I sometimes wonder if our memories of childhood happenings are more vivid than the memories of occasions that take place as adults. If that is so, maybe it's because our lives as children were so much simpler and lacking the responsibilities and jumble of "busy-ness" we have as adults.

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  9. I also have a memory that's similar to yours. My dad's sister married a farmer in Mississippi and they had horses, cows, chickens, etc. - not to mention planted crops, etc. When I was 8 - 9 I would spend a few weeks of my summers with them. I loved it there! The home-grown food was great, sleeping in a big feather bed was fun, riding horses, helping with the crops, drinking water out of a big tin bowl with a metal ladle! I also remember my aunt giving me her big sears catalog to cut up and make paper dolls... Thanks for reminding me of this.

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    1. I grew up in the country, but my memories of being at my uncle's farm are particularly nice (different uncle). I also cut up the catalogue to make paper dolls! Isn't that funny!

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  10. My worst childhood memory involves sitting on an ant`s nest at a family picnic. If you`ve heard the expression ànts in your pants`...I`ve experienced it!

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    1. Oh dear!! Never had that experience, thank goodness.

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  11. What a great childhood memory! Church potlucks always meant ladies brought their best. Mention rhubarb or strawberries, then I am there. And the cherry cheesecake--Mom made that, too.
    Cicadas, every 13-17 years, boy, they were loud. Great times.

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  12. What a wonderful memory! In my case, it was my mom and dad who were the hosts for family events on the farm. But we didn't have cicadas, instead as evening fell the frogs in the nearby slough would start singing.

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    1. Oh, nice! We always listen for the spring peepers to signal the spring weather finally arriving.

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  13. And raspberries. They start turning red down here about the 4th of July. Another childhood fact from my father.

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    1. And those home grown raspberries really tasted like raspberries, unlike the raspberries I buy in the store in those clear plastic containers. They barely taste like raspberries. (But they also don't have those little black beetles with white dots that you had to be careful of, either!)

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  14. When I have been driving down roads at night in a hot country,I have noticed that every single cicada sounds exactly the same. It is as if there is one cicada following you for miles, right outside the car window.

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  15. Lovely memories. Cicadas will always remind me of hot, French summers.

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  16. What wonderful memories. We didn't have large family picnics when I was a kid, but Daddy did take us for a ride in the family car every Sunday afternoon. Sometimes it would be to the beach, sometimes it would be "point the car in a direction and see where it goes." You have a wonderful day, hugs, Edna B.

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  17. What a beautiful post, Jenn. Isn't it amazing how sound (or smell) can just sent the mind on a retrospective road trip of past experiences? I haven't heard cicadas here this year but have in the past and know the exact sound you mean! It's a wonderful piece of writing and memory. (And I love that you feed your "girls" pineapple!)

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  18. what a beautifully written memory - I could almost hear it myself!

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  19. Oh, a perfect trip down memory lane! You were fortunate to have a large extended family growing up. Interesting that the tobacco has been replaced by "health foods" ... It's been ages since I had a cabbage roll. Such delicious things they were but such a palaver to make.

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  20. What lovely childhood Summer memories.
    Here in Australia We have a variety of cicadas which are quite beautiful.
    My Summer memories as a child is beach camping with 2 enormous canvas tents, my family and my Mum's 2 sisters and their families. The sight of the cars and a little truck loaded up with all the gear was pretty much like Ma and Pa Kettle,we travelled in convoy incase anything fell off the loads....good memories, happy days.

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  21. Funny how scents and sounds can bring back memories like it was yesterday. I enjoyed your story.

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  22. I had never seen or heard cicada until I was in my 20s and moved to FL. Their sound is one you never forget once you hear it.
    So glad you had such a wonderful aunt and uncle. You were blessed to have that time with them.
    Now I am hungry for potato salad. lol xo Diana

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  23. Oh that was nice to read Jenn...makes me want to stop by for some drinks and potato salad! We've been hearing the cicadas all weekend too. It's always a great sign of hot summer weather.

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  24. What a lovely post. How I long for simpler days like this again. Cicadas always signal summer to me. I remember as a little girl sitting in the big lounging chairs in our yard under the bid cherry blossom tree after getting out of the pool I would hear them and know it was going to be hot. At fifty I still say outloud when I hear one, well, it's going to be a hot one today...

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