Water can be clear or murky, powerful as the ocean, or powerfully subtle as the formation of caverns. Water creates life, yet can be destructive. It covers our earth. It fills our bodies. Water evokes mystery, and moodiness. Unpredictable as water is, it is useful, and it cleans things up.

That pretty much describes what I want to say and how I want my posts to be.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010


Sometimes you get a feeling, that nagging duty feeling, the feeling of being drawn back to a task that while necessary, was something your interest had passed on, but needed to be finished to get on to better things. This left me plodding along behind Chin back to the hens.

They were drained now so the next thing was the feathering.

We went to the shop and as instructed Gus had the kettles boiling. He and Chin carried them out to pour into two large buckets, one slightly larger than the other. Gus maneuvered the wash tub of blood waste away and stationed the smaller bucket under the baking hens.

Chin had gotten two full front aprons we put on, they were stained with all manner of what I did not know. She managed to adjust mine for my small stature.

Then to the feathering…Chin plunged a hen into the bucket and hanging it on the nail began to pull the larger feathers off the wings and tails. She let me help a bit here and there. Then we repeated it with hen #2. She let the feathers land in the water, “so as not to make a mess.” Then we both took turns plunging and feathering all the smaller feathers into the larger bucket. When the hens were about naked we washed them off with the hose and hung them back on the nails.

“Now for the feathers,” Chin added. We took what seamed a good amount of time ladling the smaller feathers out of the bucket and onto the screen box and covering it with the other screen to dry out for use later.

Two things they used a great deal in southern Louisiana, for stuffing things like pillows and mattresses were chicken feathers, and Spanish moss respectively. My mother used to tell us a story of how they once were washing out their pillow and mattress covers, a biannual job, for re-stuffing with fresh feathers and moss. And for three or four months or so you would have plump pillows and full mattresses that you could just sink into, in time they would become flat. This particular year as they were throwing out the old feathers, they found some of them sewn together in an x with black and red thread. This meant a hex had been put on your household, especially the person’s pillow it came from. But they didn’t know who’s as they had already dumped all the pillows out.

The people had old ways and old beliefs, and her mother was very alarmed. Being a poor widow, she got help from relatives and found a way (beg and borrow) to pay some ugly old man 50piastre (fifty dollars) which was a fortune in those days, to come make good gris gris (gree, gree) by throwing a pouch under the porch and spiting all over the top of the it. My mom, though young at the time, was appalled at the waste of money on superstition.

Going back to the chickens though, soon we had them cleaned up fairly well. Chin then shaved the pin feathers with the long skinny knife. “Any is left we will burn off inside later.” She explained.

After we rinsed the hens again with the hose Chin got out the wire and using the end like a needle sewed and tied up the anus area of each chicken. ‘Oh my God’ was all I could think, ‘what in the world is she doing that for?’ but I kept it to myself and didn’t question. Then she took the pink sharp little knife and cut a triangle around the place she just tied up. She cut a base of the triangle along the inside of the tail (the tail is called in Cajun the croupier, but pronounced croupiyon) which I found out later first meant the person riding behind the rider on a horse, or on the tail end, before it was a gambling attendant. Anyway the cut was along the inside base of the croupier and like a triangle up either side meeting just above the sewn closed place.

Then pulling the wires all of the innards came out in one blob, to be dropped into the blood waste tub. All except that is the gizzards which she snatched up in her hand before they fell in.

“We save the gizzards you see from the stomach and guts.” She snipped of the line of innards tube, and the gizzards were placed in a little bowl.

“Smells king of stinky.” I observed

“Yes it does but not so much as if I hadn’t tied their butts closed.”

I don’t know why this struck me so but I exploded into laughter. The phrase “tied their butts closed” sounded somehow so funny to me that I couldn’t stop giggling “tied their butts closed” I howled. Aunt chin didn’t see the humor at first but my giggling was contagious and soon we were both belly laughing soo hard that Gus came to see what the deal was.

“Why are you laughing at?” he came out and asked

“Tied their butts closed.” I spurted out. It took Gus a moment at the French explaining from Chin to catch on to the reason for my laughter. We all had a good guffaw. And even later in the house I heard Chin and Gus in another room laughing, and speaking French except the phrase “tied their butts closed” they had gotten the idea of my childish laughable comedy of it all.

After that incident all tension melted away and I saw the hens as food we were preparing now, without any trepidation of the animals they recently were.

Next chin cleavered the heads and sent them to the waste bin, as well as loosening the tubes that led to the guts, the crop, windpipe and such got cut off, the esophagus veins and such were pushed through, holding the neck she ran her fingers in down the neck cavity loosening the other vital organs to come out the bottom. We saved the livers and hearts and added them to the gizzards and removed the necks to keep. Then she ran the hose through the inside of them.

Lastly she cut off the feet just at the leg joint and she set them off to the side. Then she cut open and cleaned out the gizzards showing me the little rocks and such. She took the yellow skin off the feet and snipped the nails and she cut off the pointless end of the wing.

“Why are you saving the feet and wings?” I asked. I knew what the livers hearts and gizzards were for.

“Well I’m goin to add them to the backs I cut from the fryers and boil up some chicken stock…broth,” Chin explained. “unless you want them feet for a lucky ju ju?”

“Naww…” I pshawed, giggling

“Don’t laugh.” She added, “Some folks take it serious and it seams to work for them.”

“You can just boil them, thanks anyways.” I said. I could just picture my mom’s face if I wanted to bring home some chicken feet for luck. And I could picture them being pitched out the window of the car on the way home, as she would be mumbling something about ugly old men spitting on the porch, and fifty dollar superstitions.

Lastly, another washing and the two hens were placed in the rectangular pan looking as though we just bought them at the store.

“So my sweet, thas all there is. Whad’ya think?” Chin looked over for my evaluation.

“I’m glad I helped and watched.” I told her. “ It really wasn’t bad.”

“And you got to see chicken butts get tied closed!” Chin burst into laughter again, and I along with her.

“What do we do with all this stuff now?” I motioned mostly to the waste tub.

“Well that’s what husbands are for.” She chortled. “Actually we gonna take our hens, and that bowl of goodies inside and finish clean up, then I will be back out here for the mess. But I do believe you will be startin some artwork for me eh?”

“OK.” I agreed excitedly. Chin took the tray of chickens and asked me to bring the bowl of ‘goodies’. Off we marched like a parade with an offering back to the house. I realized it was really beginning to get hot outside, especially with the apron on. Looking down at what I was carrying I felt like a hoodoo apprentice, with a bowl of chicken feet , necks, hearts, livers, gizzards and wing tips.

Inside we set everything down and took off our aprons. The fan felt good. I could see Chin was sweating too, as she took our aprons off to the laundry. I was instructed to go start washing my hands “from the elbows down” in the bathroom sink. Chin joined me in a moment and did the same.

As we returned to the kitchen we both sat down to fan and cool off. I had to run and get my fan from the living room. “You want some ice-coffee?” Aunt Chin asked. Not sure what she meant I was about to ask but she saw my expression and volunteered more information. “Just like ice-tea, only coffee.”

“Oh, OK.” I wondered if this would be nasty tasting though. Chin took two glasses to the coffee pot and poured each about a third full with left over coffee. Then she took some ice trays out and took them to the sink. She plugged the sink dumped most of them in, but reserved enough to fill each glass. The she refilled the trays and put them back. To our coffee she added sugar a tad of milk and filled them the rest of the way with water, stirring, and returned to sit by me and serve me my first glass of ice-coffee. I tasted it and was surprised, and I’ve been a fan ever since…and this new generation thinks they invented the cold coffee drinks, latte, frappe, whatever.

“You rest here while I finish these hens.” Chin said as she sprung up and went over to the stove. She burned off any little feathers on the burner then washed them again in the open sink. Then tossed them on the ice and filled that sink with water. It was the opposite of the thaw we did earlier in the same sink, now it was rapid cool down. Later we would wrap them in butcher paper label them and take them to the freezer, in a sort of reverse of the steps we took with the earlier hens. I watched her quietly sipping my coffee. The box fan cooled me from behind, the counter fan still blowing sort of reached one side of my face and my peacock, I used to cool the other.

Chin piddled around, sorting the hoodoo goodies, some in a stock pot and others in the frig. Chicken backs I assumed went from the frig to the pot, the fryer parts in buttermilk went to the frig. The pot went to the sink to fill then back to the stove,…I felt like a person watching a tennis match back and forth, Chin was to and fro. washing her hands in the sink, back to the pot with salt and seasonings, and turning on the fire beneath, top on, slightly askew.

Chin sat for a moment, only a moment, sipping her coffee and fanning, and dabbing her head of sweat. “I need to put them pies in the frig prally (probably) now.” Chin felt the bottom of the pans to see how cool they were, then poof!--up again she was in the frig making room and putting the pies away. And bam back down in the seat fanning and drinking a long sip of coffee. We were making small talk that led back around to my art work and… pop, Chin was up again getting a roll of white butcher paper and some scissors. She metered it out and asked me how big a piece I wanted to draw on, then she cut it off trimmed the edges more evenly, wiped the table of condensation moving my coffee, and laid it in front of me. Soon it was joined by a can of pens and pencils “There,” she said, “you’re all set.”

“I don’t know what to draw.” I told her again.

And her response was the same as before “Pick up a pencil and the idea will pop into you head,” but then she added “draw something big and grand.”

As I picked up the pencil, it happened…How did she know?! I thought of the chicken feet and wondered if she had done a little gris gris to me along the way somewhere. Ole Chin had a bit of magic or something ‘cause just as I picked up the pencil something indeed big and very grand popped into my head.


Wednesday, June 23, 2010


It is less than a week until the 41st anniversary of the “Stonewall Riots” in New York City’s Greenwich Village. A marked point for the beginning of the gay rights movement, on June 28, 1969, the homosexual community finally fought government sponsored persecution.

This is also Gay Pride weekend coming up in many cities around the country. And June is national LGBT month. As proclaimed by the president of our country. A lot has changed in the last 41 years. And true a lot still needs to change.

But there is a development in this generation, absolutely unheard of when I was young. I’m speaking about openly gay students in school.

Here is a timely story about a sweet brave young girl who is not willing to pretend she is anything other than her true gay self. And she’s standing up to do it, not in some metropolitan city used to diversity but in a tiny one high school town in Mississippi.

Ceara Sturgis, who is openly gay, has attended school in Wesson Mississippi for all 12 years. She is also an honor student. And she also was completely removed from her senior yearbook. Not only was her picture not shown, but any reference to her name her academic honors, list of graduates… all of it was removed.

I have four children, and If it had been my child, well I could hardly bear to see her crying that way. The complete cruelty of it all is unconscionable
But all in all ..they tried to "remove" her, "erase" her, pretend she did not exist in their school,.. and they succeeded in showing her to the world. Bringing her and her sexuality, and their ugliness OUT for all to see. I have to think that's pretty good karma.
Blessings to you Ceara. May your life be full, and Happy.
Another thing I've noticed with my children and many their friends, to a lot of this younger generation, this gay is thing becomming less of an issue. Yes there are still the sad stories of bullying and cruelty, but there are also stories of young openly gay students in High Schools who are accepted by their peers. That would never have happened in my high school. there's hope if the GROWN UPS would quit polluting the young. It's unfortunately mostly our generations lead, like the fat-assed principal, and school board who commit this bigotry. And Im sure in Wesson Mississippi, these fine citizens still have their white robes and pointed hoods, pressed, and hanging proudly in the back of their closet.
Also "DISHONORABLE MENTOION" another Mississippi town, Itawamba, goes to the trouble to put on a "FAKE" prom for Constance McMillen, her girl friend, and a few other undesirable students, while keeping the true prom for the rest of the school a secret. Good ole Mississippi.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010


The power of the ocean,

It stings a good bit when it sprays you in the face.

When you catch sight of your true reflection, in the pool between the rocks, between the breaks…

And you see this old man who you thought outgrew these childish self centered daydreams. And it always happens when you are alone, with no reprieve for at least a confession.

Who do you apologize to, or is it everyone?

When in the splash in the face, you see a certain ugliness reflected from your soul, showing in your features only made worse by age.

Sunday, June 20, 2010


In Honor of Father's Day
Our Father who art in heaven,

Our Mother who art the earth,

I who am born of both of you,

I the child …

God the father,

God the mother,

God the brother,

God the sister,

God the spouse,

God the child,

God the friend,

God the ocean,

God the mountain,

God the sunset,

God the moon,

God the stars,

God the planet,

God the galaxy,

God the universe,

God the all,

We the children,

who look to Our father,

and art in heaven this day

this moment, For we are always

with Our father

who is always with us

Saturday, June 19, 2010

MY DAY WITH AUNT CHIN part 8 "chicken demise"

One of the Queen of hearts little playing card soldiers was pulling at my foot. He was the size of an actual playing card but with a great big normal sized hand on my foot. “Pitou.” he shouted and pulled. “Pitou, Pitou,” I opened my eyes to see Aunt Chin pulling my toe trying to wake me up.
“I fell asleep,”  groggily I explained, blinking.

“I see that.”

A thought suddenly roused my mind… “Did you kill the chickens?” I blurted out.

“No Pierre, I tole you I wouldn’t do that. B’sydes you only been sleeping for a few minutes.” She used my full given name instead of Pitou, which made me feel like maybe she was finding my chicken commotion a bit tiresome. That being the case or not, I resolved to quit making a big deal out of it. Plus I was half asleep so some of, …well…actually a lot of the anxiety was gone, even though I had just dreamt about it.

I sat up rubbing my face. “C’mon bebe,” she beckoned, “I could use your help hanging out the laundry.”

I was slow to wake and my mind was all over the place. “Are the pies finished?” I asked trying to picture the finished peach pie with the lemon.

“Yes they are, and coolin on the table.”

I looked in the direction of the kitchen and yawned. “Can I keep my peacock fan?” I asked

“Yes, sweet.” Chin was giggling at me again, “I gave that to you.”

Her giggling made me feel better and more awake. I hopped off the couch and started to follow her lead to the laundry room. At the steps down to the garage room I stopped and sat to stretch a minute, while Chin took out the wash and put it into a the large wicker basket.

“You wanna stretch?” Chin asked. I nodded “Her (here) cher, this is somthin my PaPA used to do for me when I was juss woke up.” She took me by the wrists and held me up high as she could, hanging from my wrists. “Now, juss hang loose and get all the stretching out.” Which I did and it felt great. I wish I had a giant person around now as an adult to hang me by my wrists when I can’t seem to stretch enough upon awakening.

After the hanging, (I ponder now what chiropractors might say about this treatment, is it good for the spine or bad for the wrists) Chin went to the big basket, hoisted it up, and I followed her out the garage/basement/laundry room door to the side of the house where there was a clothesline. It took a while for us to shake out the sheets and table clothes and hang them on the line. I also was handing her clothes pins. When we were done she asked me if I wanted to play “laundry tag.”

“I don’t know. I guess.” I had no idea what this game was.

Chin explained, “Well, I will go to the end of the line her and close my eyes and count to ten. You have to hide somewhere in the laundry. Then I catch you. But I can’t go under the sheets, that’s cheating, I have to run to the end and go back in the row that I juss saw you feet in, but you can run too and keep changin rows at the ends. You can’t go under the laundry either tho’. Sheets on the line is the best thing for this game.”

Why had I never heard of this game? “LETS DO IT!” I exclaimed. We had total fun while we played two times. First she was it, and outsmarted me by being observant and surprising me at the end of a row. So she won. Next I was it, and won just because I was smaller and faster, or possibly ‘cause she let me win. Humm, laundry tag, see what electric clothes dryers have taken from us.

We were laughing when Chin got quiet and with a sterrn cock of her head reminded me of our next task at hand. With a small amount of trepidation I agreed and was ready. The short nap seemed to have taken much of my dread away. Still I thought … ‘let’s do this, … this chicken killing thing, before I change my mind.’

I really didn’t know what to expect, and I didn’t know how totally unexpected it would all be.

We went back into the garage room and she explained to me that we would need a few supplies. There was a little laundry basket in the corner, a smaller replica of the one we just used. “We need that.” she pointed out. Then she got a stack of rags and old towels and some aprons out of a cabinet and put them into the basket. Off we marched through the house and into the kitchen where she, opening a cabinet there, asked me to get the big rectangular pan from the bottom and carry it out for her. She also grabbed an old plastic bowl. As we exited I could smell the peach pie and tried to glance back at the table to see it…but we were busy and Chin wasn’t waiting for anything.

Out the back door we went to the gate and through the fairy-tale village to the garden shed. There we stopped for a smaller metal pan with a few items in it. It seemed sort of like a surgeon’s tray. There was a pink handled little stout sharp paring knife, the sister of the turquoise one she had inside, only dingier. In addition was a big cleaver (oh my) joined by some wire cutters, another very long thin knife, some twine, some wire, and a wide slotted ladle.

We took these things around the chicken run to a place on the other side of the coop. there was a little wooden bench/table, a wooden rack, with nails for hanging things, some buckets and a galvanized wash tub and some screen bottomed wide boxes, made of 2 by 4 frames. We set our stuff down and went to Uncle Gus’s shop.

“Well it’s the tyme.” Chin announced. Gus looked up from his work.

“So you tink you got de bravery to do dis eh?” he addressed me.

“Don’t mess with our child her (here),” she said hugging my shoulder, then added some words to him in French. Chin was on a mission, no nonsense. She went over to the side of the room to a big double hotplate. Removing two of the biggest tea kettles I’ve ever seen, the spotted porcelain camping kind, she motioned for me to follow. “We need to take these out to the hose.” Chin placed one of them in my hand. We went out and filled them from the hose and carried them back to the shop. This was a heavy load for a six-and-three- quarter year old child. Chin put them on the hotplate, “We will need hot water for later.” She explained.

“For pulling out the feathers?” I asked, having remembered this from a time before.

“Yes,” Chin answered looking a little surprised, “So you do know somethin about some of this.” I was happy at the seaming confidence she felt with me now. I was also happy that the fear of this whole thing had not yet returned since my nap and tag. Chin asked Gus to turn on the hotplates “In ‘bout an hour.”

“Well then,” Chin paused a good while, “it’s tyme.” She said again

The anxiety raised a notch, well, many notches. Gus clasped my shoulders slightly giving me a squeeze and said something in French to me that I didn’t understand or try to.

Out Chin and I went to the chicken run. She was being a bit stern and serious about it all. I wasn’t sure if this was as usual …or for my benefit. Chin explained that the laundry basket was to catch the hens easily, so she emptied it and grabbed it. Then she pointed them out. “See those two ones, the bigger is the red one and then that fat white one. They is older than the rest and not laying eggs nomore, so it’s time they got to be bakin hens, not fryin, ones like we thawed. No sense keeping them alive and feedin ‘em until they is too tough to eat.” I understood this …and was intrigued.

“Why can’t you fry them?” I asked

“Good question cher, you want to learn eh?… these hens is as I said already too tough to fry. You need young ones for that.” Chin paused then continued to explain, “Sometymes you raise a few not to lay but just for eatin, and kill’em young to be fryers. Sometymes you just get some hens, that just aint lay-ers, we call them pullets when they are young. I don’t raise the chicks, thass a huge amount a’ trouble an this aint no chicken farm.”

“Like your daddy had?” I threw in.

“Uncle Gus tell you that?”

“Yeah, he said you grew up with knowin about chickens.”

“Guess thass so…anyways sometimes you get pullet hens that just aint lay-ers and my-as-well eat them, get use from them, kill’em young and make fryers. Sometymes they isn’t even a hen at all, especailly if you buy them too young and cheep without lookin good first, which I’ll admit I do from time to time if I don’t got a lot of piastre, so then you can got a young rooster by mistake, and never have more than one rooster in your hen house, so kill’em young and make a fryer.” I didn’t know all this stuff and was enthralled with learning it.

“Now we catch one, cher.” Chin suddenly told me. She was speaking softly. We went into the run by the gate. “I want you to mind this gate. Open it and close it as I need without letting out any of my girls OK?” I got my assignment and was ready. Chin went to the brood of hens and suddenly slapped the basket over one the big red hen. Then she reached under the basket and had grabbed the hen by her feet. This was a difficult task for her as she did it with out getting down on the ground but with just bending over, and straightening up to stand I could see was hard on her back…only this time there was hardly an audible groan. I understood that this was now a QUIET time and restrained my galloping mouth. Chin picked her hen up and carried her asking me quietly to open the gate for us and close the gate behind us. The laundry basket was left in the yard. We went to the place she had shown me… the chicken killing place I figured you could call it.

I watched expectantly and quietly, but my heart was beating rapidly and loud. Damn tell tale, I hoped she couldn’t hear it. I was truly frightened at this point, but putting up a brave front. And I think hiding the fact well that I was trembling a tiny bit.

Chin carried the hen to the little bench and set it down never letting go of its feet. Then she had one hand on its back seaming to sooth it as it stopped trying to flap its wings and settled down. “Pitou,” she cooed, “can you please open up one of those towels on the bench next to me here.” I got a towel and laid it out on the remaining end of the bench.

“Like this?” I whispered.

“Perrrfecttt.” Chin answered in a cooing whisper.

The most amazing thing came next. Chin was stroking the hens back and it was calmed down a great deal, then she turned her hand palm up to stroke. The other hand was still holding the hen’s feet. She gently slipped her hand up the hens back opening her fingers in the middle with two fingers on either side as she continued to where her fingers were on either side of the chicken’s head.
  Snap, it was over.
  Chin had quickly grabbed the chicken by the neck, letting go of the feet and flipped the body down and the head forward and back breaking the chicken’s neck. And just as quickly in the same motion she laid the flapping body in the towel and wrapped it around the hen to hold it still. “Ummmmmm.” she said slowly looking away, with one hand holding the chicken’s body restrained in the towel “Thank you sweet, you been a good hen… given us good eggs… and I think we will enjoy you deliciousness” She kept her hand in place until the chicken’s body stopped twitching and the legs stopped moving.

There was something Chin had just done… just a little action… that I realized as I got much older, made me see death differently. When she spoke the words to the hen after its demise, she didn’t look at the chicken’s body in the towel, she looked out and up. What ever you may think of animal souls or spirits, the hen’s body now was just a body to Chin, its essence was moving elsewhere. Well at my age I have had to say good bye to many a loved one who has passed on, and this perspective of death and the body, has always been with me sinced

I was so astonished to this day it has,… well, prompted me write a story about Aunt Chin. She looked at me when it was over and all I could respond with was a solemn, quiet, long, “Wooowwww.” Chin had a slight respectful smile on her face. It was like she wanted to say to me... “you got it” and I wanted to say back… “ yes, I get it.” Chin also explained that by holding them in the towel, you didn’t get broken wings and sometimes legs from a thrashing around dead hen, which was not only violent but unnecessary.

“Leaving them to just run around, well you couillon (stupid) if you do that. ‘specially if you chop the head off ‘cause ever-thing is bloody mess after that”

Hen number one lay in her towel not moving now and we repeated everything for hen number two. When it was all done, Chin looked to me and said, “Now you see, no bloody mess, no running around dying chickens…it’s just no need for all that.”

At that moment I hugged Aunt Chin’s neck without reservation. A flood of relief and pent up anxiety and emotion came out. I felt sort of like crying or laughing… or… but it wasn’t the bad feeling I had expected, but a sense that I had shared a solemn moment with her and indeed I had. These hens as she said were “her girls” but the cycles of life are things farm people just do and accept

“We still have some not so pleasant things left to do you know, cher.” She added

“I know …like cleaning a fish.” I noted, “and feathering them hens.” Aunt Chin’s eyebrows raised on her face which nodding to me as if to show me that I knew more than she gave me credit for.

We moved on. She took the hose and asked me to turn it on, to which she rinsed her hands and the chickens off some. Then she tied each hen’s feet together and hung them over the wash tub upside down, by the twined feet. Pink paring knife in hand she instructed me that I might want to turn my head. I started to for a moment but curious to see I turned back around as she was putting the knife into the second hens beak and cutting something (the juggler vein) from the inside the hen’s mouth, to which the hens started draining blood into the wash tub. Chin did not let me linger very long looking at this. She rinsed her hands again and turned to me, “Now we leave for a bit” she explained taking me by the hand and leading my back towards the house.

We went in and both washed our hands in the kitchen sink . All the dishes we had dirtied earlier were drying in the drain board. The counters were wiped down clean, and cleared except for the two large bowls again. The blue one still contained flour, the pink one had a towel over it. I picked up the towel and peaked in not sure of what I was seeing. Chin clarified. “That’s those two fryers cut up and soakin in buttermilk, and finishin thawin juss a bit.” The oven was off and the box fan was again blowing into the kitchen. Honky-tonk music was still playing on the radio. I looked around and on the table were displayed two prize pies cooling. I could just see the blue ribbons sitting in front of them, and Aunt Chin dressed with her red dress and top knot hair, with her hands clasped at her bosom, state-fair-fan in one of them, bowing and smiling to the applauding crowd.

“Hey litta’ Pete,” no one had ever called me that before and I kind’a liked it. “what’s say we pick some vegetables for supper.” That sounded splendid to me.

“What vegetables are we going to pick.” I came back with.

“I think that should be your department to decide,…” she said eliciting a puzzled expression from me. “you will be the decider of our vegetable menu for supper.” Suddenly I had a responsibility.

“What do you have growing?” I asked.

“You been to the grocery store, yeah.” She offered braggadociosly, ‘Well that’s about what we got in the garden.” I eyed her with a bit of doubt and she grabbed up the basket we had used for the fruit which had been set on the sideboard. “C’mon… you’ll---see.”

I couldn’t wait to see, and we were on our way to the veggie garden on the left side of the back property. In no time we were there. It was all fenced in and had a sketch of a flat stone path leading up to it. Chin opened the gate and we entered. A fragrant shrub right next to the gate bushwhacked my nose with delight as we both brushed against it when we entered.

“You see now… well you smell now anyways… this is the best of all the herbs I toles you about, but it gets so much bigger than the uthers so is planted here.” I cocked my head in question.

“You know,…,” though I didn’t, “they say ‘always plant rosemary by the garden gate’ …know why they say that!!”

I wasn’t following all of this but I did vaguely remember that little saying.

Aunt Chin explained, “You always plant rosemary by the garden gate because you will brush agin it when you enter the garden. And juss like now you can’t help but be smellin it like running your hand on the uthers.” True enough this smelt wonderful, and made me feel …well…hungry.

“Smelling this helps you want to cook good things from your garden.” She explained and I totally understood though I had never cooked anything. “It’s the Virgin Mary’s herb you know.”

“Virgin Mary?” I looked up at Aunt Chin.

“Well it makes little blue flowers, in the spring and fall too sometimes. They aren’t exactly roses but we say they are, and that’s Virgin Mary’s color you know...blue, plus it smells like heaven…sooo… roses for Mary, it’s called rosemary.”

‘AHHH’ I thought, and brushed my hand across it again, smelling my hand, this was much nicer than the onions, (chives) but just like them it made you think of good tasting food.

Their garden, which I was told that Uncle Gus mostly tended, was everything she had bragged it was. Between sodden sawdust paths were practically weedless rows and beds of all variety. Some plants like the corn with lima beans growing up the stalks, and the okra, tomatoes, and others, were planted in the ground. Other shorter plants like squash cucumbers and melons and rows of various greens, turnip, radish, and carrot tops were in 12 inch high wooden boxed beds. Green beans crawled along the fence, with half-vineing pea plants just below them. And at the very end of the center path, looking like the altar place in this garden church, a white lattice arbor laden with grapes arched over a gate leading over to the chicken place. You just needed a little linen covered table, with a loaf of bread and a communion cup under the grapes to make it complete. I almost felt the need to genuflect.

“Ok baby, whad’ya think we should eat with supper?” I looked around not knowing where to start. “What does your family like?” I was walking by the tomato and okra plants and on the other side were rows of greens.

“I like tomatoes picked fresh and sliced with salt and pepper on them.”

I was still perusing the place.

“So do I.” Chin agreed, “So tomatoes…” she was picking some nice big red ones.

“My parents like okra, and well,… we kids do too if you can cook it not slimy.” I added.

“I can do that. What about fried okra?” that sounded real good to me and I nodded enthusiastically.

“Irene likes green beans, but she likes to just eat them raw off the fence.” I told her how my sister had at times angered my mom by eating up all the green beans before they got picked.

“Do yall like’em cooked?” Chin giggled.

“Do you got mayonnaise to put on them?” I asked.

“I do indeed got my’nase, a big new jar”

“My mom makes the mayonnaise special with pepper.”

“Pepper my’nase, humm sounds good. I shall have to have her show me when they get back. So its green beans, then, some raw for Irene. And special pepper my’nase to put on the cooked ones” She twittered.

“I thought we decided fried okra.” I returned

“Well do both, maybe somebody doesn’t like the okra.” Chin concluded.

We went over to the fence and picked green beans. I noticed some of my green beans looked brighter green and were short and fat. “What’s wrong with these green beans?” I asked showing them to Aunt Chin.

“Well sir, nothin if you’re lookin for peas. Those aint green beans.”

“Uh oh.” I mumbled.

“Not a problem, I’ll add them peas to some I have in the frig already picked. Just pick the darker ones that’s higher hangin right on the fence, these are the green beans….do you like raw green beans too?”

“Not so much.”

“Did you ever try a raw pea pod?” I shook my head no. “Let’s see here we need some small ones.” Chin was bent down looking for immature pea pods. She had about three picked an a second. And offering me one, she also popped one in her mouth. Bite down silly it’s good.” I did crunch into it, mm crisp and wet, sweet and green tasting.

“It’s almost, it’s like salad.” I said smiling

Chin suddenly had an idea. “You know,…pick a bunch of these small ones, the peas, and I will concentrate on the green beans,” I was looking at her questioningly, “You’ll see it will be good!”

After the green beans we went back over to the okra. “We should have sleeves and gloves for this.” She paused looking at the huge plants, they were a lot taller than me, well i think taller than her as well, and filled with okra pods pointing up to the sky, and they still had many pretty blossoms on them. Okra plants make lovely large white five petaled, cup shaped flowers, with a dark purple center. Sort of like a rose of Sharon ornamental shrub. “Well t-man we will just do our best with these itchy bushes. I’ll snip the okras and let them fall, and you pick them up from below, ok?” which is just what we did. Chin with some little clippers snipped off the right sized pods and I gathered them from below. Still, however we got itchy arms and hands from the fuzzy plants.

“So now what other yellow vegetable do we pick?” I realized years later that they all must have read the same healthy menu cook book, ‘cause every dinner my mom ever served, and this supper of Chin’s, and my other Aunts too…each meal had a meat, a starch, (rice or potatoes or macaroni/pasta) a green vegetable, and a yellow vegetable. I remember my mom telling me that they (green and yellow) had different nutrients needed at your evening meal. And habits die hard, though I’m not sure this is a bad habit. I still feel I need a meat, starch, and two vegetables yellow and green, plus a dessert to “help your food go down”, at every good supper.

Regardless we decided on yellow squash… which I did not really like when all boiled to death, and told her so but at supper that night Aunt Chin braised them slightly with browned onions, sprinkled with seasoned bread crumbs, instead of boiling them to death. And I found that tasty.

From the vegetable garden we went to the “cool shed”. We dropped off a few veggies and got a few others, and Aunt Chin showed me how it worked. The “hutte froi” definitely had a draft sucking into the door and top windows and out the top, and it was I bet a good 15-20 degrees cooler in there.

From there we went back to the kitchen and washed our hands and the veggies. We set them aside and sat for a short fan break waving our paper fans.

“Well are you ready to go finish cleanin out those chickens so we can get to havin some lunch?” Chin proposed.

Lunch sounded great so off we went to return to the chicken task at hand.


Sunday, June 13, 2010


It doesn’t always follow that the ugly little caterpillar will make it long enough to become the butterfly. Sometimes she’s told. “Ewww, you are green, you’re ugly,” or he’s told, “You crawl around eating ravenous all day. You’re a little monster.” Some can pick themselves up to the challenge, but others not. Life and souls are fragile, and easily damaged.

Some caterpillars lose their way and end up struggling inching along in barren spaces with no green food around, only to dry out in the sun or be squashed by some larger creature. Some need to be nudged along to a shady green glen, so they can eat and withdrawal into a cocoon to become their true self. The caterpillar needs to believe it can be beautiful, for it to become so. It needs to believe it can be healthy for it to become so. It needs to believe it can soar for it to do so.

All God’s creatures are we. Am I in touch with my own divinity? Am I the angel that nudges the caterpillar along to a green place, who see’s its beauty so it can see itself? Am I denying my own divinity? Am I a bitter blamer of others and hating the caterpillar’s ugliness and grossness, or worse just squashing it? Or am I the ignorant little caterpillar scraping along for a better existence, wanting to believe and doubting and fearing all at the same time? Dare I try? Dare I hang myself out there on a limb? What karma will my actions weave?

Thursday, June 10, 2010


Does anyone else think it would be the decent thing to do to let this poor girl Katie Kranz, who's father died in a tornado that ruined her town and home only hours before her, would be graduation, alone. She has been in all the headlines today at her actual graduation in  tears and grieving over her many losses. She was valadictorian, and bravo for her, but have some heart... she is not a headline but a human wanting to live her grief in private.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010


We were finally getting to the pies. Though I was enthused, the back of my thoughts were creeping closer to the chicken assignation which would come after the pies. Maybe I SHOULD go help Uncle Gus later. Blrlrlrlr… I shook it out of my mind as we entered the kitchen, and set our chicken parcels on the table. Chin filled one side of the sink with warm water then beckoned me to the table and I sat down. “Here mon cher,” she said, bringing me the peaches, a big plastic tub, a little tin can, and a table knife. “I think you can do this, and this knife is sharp enough to cut peaches without cutting Pitous.” A kiss was deposited on my forehead. She showed me that all she wanted me to do was half each peach, take out the freestones, put the halves into the tub, and the stones in the can. I got busy.

Aunt Chin then took the hens from the table and though my back was to her now I could hear her tear open the paper and plop the chicken’s in the water. I knew what she was doing,… my mom thawed chickens the same way.

We were humming along now. Chin was actually humming. My task certainly being easy enough, I turned to see what she was doing. A wide screen of chambray house dress blocked my view. “What’s that you makin?” I quizzed.

“It’s crust for our peach and lemon pies.”

‘Come again’ I thought. That’s the first time she mentioned peach-LEMON pies. “I’ve just had plain peach pie, not peach and lemon.”

“Child, you do make me smile…” she tittered, “that’s two pies, one peach and one lemon.”

“Oh, so that’s what the lemons are f…” suddenly it hit me. Was she talking about my true grand favorite of all summer pies.

I jumped up and turned around to face her so fast and noisily that I startled her. I saw her jump a little and have a disturbed look in her eyes when she turned around… the words were already flying out of my mouth. “Do you mean lemon MERINGUE pie?”

“Yes sweetie,” her reply was tentative, and almost a little aggravated for having alarmed her, “Is that good or bad?” wondering about my reaction.

“That’s good, OH THAT”S sooooo good, it’s my favorite, favorite, FAVORITE pie!” I was actually shouting.

“Whoa there t-man, I’m so glad that we is makin your favorite, favorite, favoritest pie.” She put her floury hands on my shoulders to calm me down. “So now tho’ you get back to them peaches and we can do all this in a minute here.” She moved her hands off me and saw flour on my shoulders, “AW heck now, look what I gone and did.”

She turned to the sink and rinsed her hands, then grabbing a towel both dried her hands and began to dust off my shoulders. “Sooo, Lemon pie huh? I thought you tole Chin your favorite was peach.”

‘Was she doubting me?’ I thought. I HAD gotten a little dramatic about the peach pie earlier. “No,” I corrected “I said I really liked peach pie…it’s my sort of favorite…but lemon meringue pie I like better than anything, it’s my most favorite,… ‘cept maybe pecan pie, but that’s only at Thanksgiving and Christmas. Nothin, nothin, nothin I want to eat more than lemon meringue pie.” I exclaimed waving my hands. I was being dramatic again, but this wasn’t completely an exaggeration. I did then and still do love lemon meringue pie. It absolutely tastes like summer. She looked at me as though she wanted to say ‘ok child get a grip. It’s only pie’ and though she was too kind to say it…I realized it.

Part of me was genuinely excited about this whole day but part of me just kept plopping out over exuberance everywhere in a nervous reaction. I wanted to show Aunt Chin how much I was enjoying myself. Then again, I began to feel there was something nervous in me, something a little ill at ease. Hummm…Knowing what it was, I knew once it was over I’d be more myself.

I was so intrigued with how Aunt Chin kills chickens different than anyone, that I didn’t think I could pass it up, and yet, I was just plain scared, partly of having to participate, and partly of having to put forth the intrepid act while doing so.

I calmed down and sat back down and halved the next few peaches. I closed my eyes and said a little silent prayer… ‘Please God, help me be like a grown up.’ I took a deep breath and decided to get on with other more the fun stuff at hand and in no time…“I’m done.” I announced.

“Are your hands sticky, cher?” She asked making me wonder why.

“Not so much I think.”

“Then I think we need some music, how ‘bout you?” she motioned with her head toward the dining room doors. Her hands were already back in the dough and she had out a rolling pin. “See the radio over by the toaster, turn it on for us?” I looked in the direction she was showing me, and on the other side of the frig, where the counter continued to the wall and bordered the dining room, was indeed some small appliances, including a radio. My hands were too sticky for this however so I rinsed them off and dried them first.

As I went to the radio I noticed an adapter in one of the plugs that had plugged into it, a fan, a little green bankers lamp, a big electric mixer, and the radio. The toaster was in the other outlet. I thought to myself ‘I hope my dad doesn’t see this’. “How do I turn it on?” I called over to her.

“Right in front under the clock is a dial that says on-off.” I found it and turned it and it clicked on playing some honky-tonk country music. Aunt Chin immediately knew the words and was singing along in surprisingly good voice, “Crazy…crazy for feelin so blue…” she stopped to ask me “Isn’t that just the saddest thing about her? I loved her songs so much and will miss her.”

I didn’t want to seem dumb and she thought I should know what she was talking about, so I played it off. “Yesss,” I said long and slow shaking my head, in a complete acting performance. I wouldn’t find out until years later who the woman was, and that she had died in an infamous plane crash just that previous March.

Before I knew it Chin had two crusts in two pie pans and was headed for the box fan. “Well she said our coolness is over for a bit, I gotta turn the oven on,…and the fan around.” which she did. Then she got one of those little metal scraping flint contraptions and lit the gas oven, which involved her getting down on her knees. She grabbed the stove and pushed up with a big groan. She then walked quickly past me to the other side of the kitchen, and turned on the little fan by the radio. It was only then with the flap, flap of her steps that I noticed she was now wearing flip flops. When and where she had put those on I did not know.

“Now were cookin’, cher.” Chin grabbed one of the crusts and put it in the oven, along with a cookie sheet of pie crust scraps dusted with cinnamon and sugar. Another thing my mom also did that I liked.

“Oh, do I get to eat those scraps?”

“Well you will share’em with Aunt Chin no?’

“Sur’nuf.” I answered. But I was also thinking that she had accidentally put an empty pie crust in as well.

I wondered if she noticed, I wondered if I should tell her.

Not wanting to be rude, but not wanting to ruin some pie either, I mentioned. “You DID notice there’s nothing in that pie crust yet, right?”

Chin threw back her head and chortled, “Yes pet I noticed there’s nothing, but there will be before it’s all over. Why don’t you get your chair and pull it over here to watch me.”

I did as she said and soon was standing on the chair next to her between the sink and the stove. “What’s this flour for?” I asked her seeing the big blue bowl still there.

“That will become Chin’s famoouse biscuits for our supper Pitou. And it’s there as, in case I need a tad her and ther for things” I was off again in fantasy with that statement. We had tasted her coffee and beignets, so I could only wonder how good all her other food would be. And now homemade “famoouse” biscuits, the dinner scene in my mind distracted me for a moment. Fried chicken, biscuits, other stuff…fresh vegetables…peach and lemon meringue pie, I could see it now, we would all be eating this incredible supper, and my mom, dad, brothers, and sister, would all be so happy they decided to return for supper. Aunt Chin would tell them all that I helped, and Everyone would be happy with me.

As I watched Chin from my little supper reverie, her hands became a precision machine. The experience of years of good cooking were obvious in the way she did it all. So second nature was the preparation that it was on auto pilot. Aunt Chin was singing with the radio while her hands swiftly peeled and sliced the peach halves into a bowl. She was using a short stout little paring knife with a turquoise plastic handle. “My favorite knife” she said, “but it’s sharp so’s I don’t want you touchin it ok?” A moment’s pause and out came the cooked pie crust and scraps to cool on the table. Then in typical swift Chin style, she had another bowl, and to some sugar, added a handful of flour, a smattering of spices, pinch of salt, blended it and threw it over the peaches and was tossing them in it. Then an egg gets cracked into a little bowl, poof…a splash of buttermilk, a smidgeon of softened margarine, vanilla, and almond, squeeze from a lemon, whip, whip with a whisk, and thrown over the peaches it is mixed all together and voila…it’s all going into the remaining uncooked pie crust. “Now we weave a basket eh?” Chin looked to me.

Rousing from my mesmerized state, “Huh?” came out, but before I had the chance to even register, Chin had gotten a plate from the cabinet with a pie crust rolled on it. This one was cut into strips.

“Here sweetie,” Chin laid a strip on the pie top, then a second, a space away. “Now you do one across the other way…”

I was just realizing that I was to be doing something, and what it was we were doing.. “Oh…(blink, blink) ok,” I picked up a strip and placed it perpendicular to the others. We continued taking turns, her warping to my wefting, until the lattice pie cover was built. Sharp little knife in hand, Chin trimmed the pieces of the weave off to edge the pie, and pinched them into place.

“Now is that not purtty?” Aunt Chin stood back for us to admire our handiwork together. I nodded,… and whoosh the pie was off into the oven, and Aunt Chin was winding a kitchen timer.

“And NOW…?” Chin was looking at me, hands on hips, awaiting an answer.

In a fraction of a second a sudden terror hit me… it was all too fast, I was ill prepared, It was thrust upon me…CHICKEN DEATH…. Searching I fumbled for response. Avoiding eye contact with Aunt Chin I glanced around the kitchen. An empty pie shell and pie crust scraps were on the table to my left. The counter was to my right with the bowl of lemons and the one of eggs. The veil was lifted just as I lifted my eyes to Chin’s again…relief…and now…

“LEMON PIE” we both said in unison.

“Jinx.” Chortled Chin.

It wasn’t the chickens yet…but I knew it was coming. I turned back to the counter, still standing on my chair, and tried to compose my thoughts, shaking off the chicken scare, and return to the fun of pie baking.

Chin was humming to the radio again as she pulled out a sauce pan and set it next to the bowls on the counter. “Three and three.” She remarked to me holding up three fingers. “I find three eggs, and three lemons, to be just right for this pie.” Sure nuf that’s what was left in the bowls. “Do you know that three is a perfect number?”

“What does that mean?” I quizzed.

“To be honest I’m not really sure.” She laughed. “Gus told me that. He said if you gonna’ make a little stool, better to make it with three legs than four cause three is perfect and the stool can not wobble… and IT’S TRUE! I had never thought about it till he taught me that. But I think three is perfect for lemon meringue pie too.”

In a moment she had separated the three eggs, whites in the bowl, and yolks in the saucepan. Aunt Chin leaning on the counter took a lemon and held it up to me. Tap, tap, tap, Attention students… I suddenly felt back in school, “Lemons are the most wonderful thing. They are so pretty a color you can decorate you food with pieces of lemon, with parsley, and red radishes. And …” she added, “ you can use lemon to add a little sumpin, sumpin, to almost any kind of food or drink. A good cook always wants a few lemons in her icebox. You take this one, Pitou, and roll it here whiles pressin down hard. You’re squishing it insyde, but don’t press too hard you split it open.

While I was squishing the one lemon she started grating the zest from the remaining ones into the bowl. We traded, and squished and grated until all three lemons were done. Then with the same little turquoise knife she slit in each lemon a tiny hole and squeezed all the lemon juice into the bowl. Spoon in hand she was fishing out the few seeds that fell into the lemon juice and zest.

Whoosh again a cup of sugar was thrown into the sauce pan, along with some water from a measuring cup, and she spooned some cornstarch from a box into it as well. Frap, frap, frap her hand was whisking the mix together. She looked at me with a smile and went around from my left to my right and set the sauce pan on the burner, turning it on. Slowly she whisked frapped, whisked frapped the mix as it heated.

I was amazed at her efficiency but at the same time my mind was back at my pre-mature reaction from moments ago. I couldn’t get the chickens off my mind. I balled up my courage to say something… “Aunt Chin…” she looked my way still frapping, “The chicken thing…”

“Baby,” she immediately responded before I got it all out, “This has been on your myne all mornin’ eh? And I can see it’s spoilin’ your fun. Hold just a minute whilse this is almose ready.” Chin was whipping the mixture when all at once it thickened into a lovely yellow pudding. Walking back around me she grabbed a potholder and sat the pan down. The lemon mix went in and she never missed a beat of the whisking, “Can you open this for Chin?” she handed me the little bottle of almond extract. I opened it and handed it to her while she put a few drops into the pan and finished the mixing. “Smell!” she held the pan out to me to smell the lovely lemon filling, while on her way to the table to pour it into the baked pie shell. “Perfect.” she noted. “Pull your chair back over her mon cher, and have a seat.”

Having sat the pan on the counter Chin was off into the dining room and back in a jiff with a tall can of long thin items. “What color do you like?”

“Blue,” was my response to what I did not know. She reached into the can and pulled out a blue thingy handing it to me

“This one can be yours bebe. Open it up I can see you are sweating as much as I am.” I realized then as I looked at the little plastic clip at one end that this was another paper fan. ‘My God,’ I thought as I opened it, ‘she has a whole can of fans.’ Mine was a peacock picture which pleased me greatly with my choice. I clipped the handle around to hold it open, and began to fan myself. Chin having returned the can-o-fans to the dining room, stopped off at the frig and took out the water pitcher again. Holding it up to me and raising her eyebrows in a silent question, I nodded in response. In no time we had glasses of cold water on the table, and the pitcher had been refilled and returned to the frig. Aunt Chin sat down and grabbed her fan and hanky.

“My, my it is gotten hot over by that stove huh t-man?” Chin observed and I agreed. “Let me show you some fun,” she continued. Reaching over to a pie crust scrap she showed me to dip it into the pie filling and take a bite. “It’s like potato chips dip in the dip…eh…only sweet.”

This was fun and for a moment we sat drinking our water, fanning ourselves and enjoying crust chips dipped in lemon filling. But then it got serious. Chin put her fan down and looked me right in the eyes.

“This whole chicken thing…I think it would be good you watch TV or help Uncle Gus next thing whiles I take care of the chickens…and not another worry for you. Settled?” she asked. I nodded relieved.

We went on with our water and snack, but after a bit Aunt Chin took the lemon dip away as the pie needed to cool a bit in the frig. “So I her you is a good drawer.” Chin was making conversation.

“How did you know that!” I asked, surprised she had heard that.

“Your momma tole me. Will you draw me a picture later?”

“Sure, of what?”

“Oh I don’t know honey, what ever take your fancy. I would like to have a Pitou original.” This made me feel great. My mom had bragged on me, and drawing was a sure way to impress as it was something I did well and enjoyed doing.

“You want me to draw right now?”

“Less finish up this pie mess first. Then you can draw her whiles I go kill them chickens”

“You need to make meringue on the pie, huh…with the rest of that egg stuff?” I was feeling good now….for a second anyway

“You are so right, smart guy.” Aunt Chin walked over took the egg whites bowl and set it on the other side of the frig by the mixer. Then she went back for the bag of sugar and something off of the spice rack. “This electric mixer is a great invention, when I was a girl we made meringue by hand. Pull your chair over her bebe.”

“How did you make meringue by hand?” I was dragging my chair over to the mixer when it occurred to me that what I had been curious about all morning… “The right way to kill chickens” I would not find out about.

“You beat it and beat it with a whisk like that one over there, until your arm was gonna fall off.” I heard her answer but my mind was back on the chickens.

“Could I just watch you kill the chickens the right way? and…” Chin turned and glared at me. “And then I wouldn’t have to help, …and I could go see Uncle Gus if I decided I didn’t like it?” Chin was visibly exasperated. She stared at me until I averted my gaze. There was a long pause. I looked up she was still staring… “I could just see how it is and then go do something else.” ‘Alright, already Aunt Chin’ I was thinking ‘please answer.’

Chin put her hands on her hips. “Child, child,…OK, but if I think its not good for you, or you don’t like it you go to your uncle.” She cautioned

“OK.” I agreed. Chin slowly turned back to the mixer to start the meringue, maybe waiting to see if I was yet to change my mind again. She put the whites in the mixer bowl with a scraper, and In short order she had it done with sugar added and a smidgeon of cream of tarter.

It was cooler over here away from the stove and by the little fan on the counter. When Chin opened the frig to get the slightly cooled pie out, a swirl of cool air hit us. “AHHH” we both had the same reaction. “That feels good don’t it?” Chin observed holding the door open for a moment. Then she closed it and asked me to join her at the table to add the meringue.

I was looking again at the many items plugged into one outlet. I thought I’d warn her. “My dad says that’s not safe, plugging all that stuff in there.” Aunt Chin had walked over to me to get the bowl of meringue, and I was showing her what I meant.

Chin was certainly patient with me. “Ok, I will take that under consideration.” This was her simple answer case closed. “Do you want a taste of this meringue?”

I pulled my chair over to the table and Chin had one of the few remaining crust scraps dipped in the meringue for me to taste. “Good?” she asked

“Good.” I answered.

And with that she piled the meringue on the pie and started to spoon it around until the pie was covered. Then she pushed the topping towards the middle away from the edges making a little trench all around the meringue’s sides, a trench she then filled with more meringue. “Why are you doing that?” I had to know.

“Well when the meringue cools it shrinks and this keeps it from pulling away from the crust so much.” I didn’t quite understand but pretended to. She then used a spoon and spread and sealed all the openings in the meringue and around the edge, and using a fork made little whip designs evenly all across the top. “Like a cloud eh” she smiled over to me and I nodded. She pointed back at the pie “Oh look there’s a little angel sitting right there in the cloud.” I looked down at the pie again. “Woops, she’s gone.” We both giggled as she put the pie in the oven “Five minutes.” She reported, just enough time for us to sit and finish our water.

“It only takes five minutes for the lemon pie to cook?” I was surprised.

“Oh it’s all cooked baby, just have to brown the meringue then it cools to set.” Chin explained as we sat down with our water and paper fans.

“Oh, ok” I pretended to understand again.

“You know I will still expect you to draw that Pitou original you promised.” Chin finished her water, as did I.

“I will. I promise.” I was trying to think of what to draw. I wished I could draw her, but knew it wouldn’t be very good. “I still don’t know what to draw.”

“Don’t you worry when you get the pencil in your hand the idea will flash in your head.”

“It will?” I wondered if she knew something I didn’t.

Moments later it was time to take the lemon meringue masterpiece from the oven and set it to cool on the same trivet it was on before. We picked up everything else and wiped off the table. The single pie left gleaming in the middle almost seamed to say “TAH DAH!”

“You know,” she said, “ole Chin has a bright idea. Come with me.” And she led the way to the living room. she pulled out a fan from the corner and faced it towards the couch. Then she turned on the TV. Switching around channels she found a game show. “You like this?” she asked and I affirmed. “Good, why don’t you rest in her whiles I finish clean up the kitchen, and that peach pie be done real soon. Then I come get you for our doing a’ the deed with them chickens OK?”

“Will you really come get me?” I was a little suspicious.

“I promise tit-pette, I’s not tryin to con you.”

Satisfied with her suggestion I nuzzled into the soft couch to watch TV, while Chin returned to the kitchen. The show on TV was “Concentration” with Hugh Downs… which I dearly loved. I started to watch and began to stretch out a bit, eye lids becoming heavy. The puzzle being uncovered on "Concentration" had a queen with many hearts... and something  I sleepily remember about tarts. Pretty soon my head was close enough to one of the pillows that I just let it rest there…and all she wrote, a dream state gently took me…I was in Uncle Gus' fairy-tale village again with Alice from Wonderland and we were skipping along the path when we heard “Off with their heads!!” we turned to the chicken coop only to see the Queen of hearts had all the chickens lined up to meet their maker.


Tuesday, June 8, 2010

PREJUDICE this is MY sin.

There is a dirty word I learned at a young age. I grew up during the days of the civil rights movement. So at a very young age I was taught the word “prejudice”, what it meant, and that it was an ugliness not to be taken part of. My dear mom was sharp to pick up subtleties of it, and quick to put them in their place. In her own way she was probably the most un-prejudice person I’ve ever known, having grown up in a poor Cajun family in southern Louisiana back in a time when Cajuns were still looked at as the bottom of the barrel. But a history lesson later. Even with my Mother’s good heart, the truth is there is probably no soul unscathed by the sin of prejudice. Is there anyone among us who can really throw the first stone, who at some point or another has not pre-judged someone, because of their fears, or past experience, or just because they didn’t like the way person’s appearance, or attitude, or the group they belong to?

Now while honestly knowing our own glass house might mean we should not throw stones, it doesn’t mean we should do nothing. I propose there are at least three things we should do. First certainly speak up against prejudice in any form. Do not let it go by un-exposed for the evil that it is. Just remember to condemn the SIN not the sinner, because if you start to hate the sinner(s) you are creating a new group to be prejudice against.

And this sadly… is just what I must confess here… I do all too often.

That brings me to the second thing. I have to stop a moment, anytime I find an incident that brings up bigotry, hatred, esoteric exclusion, infringement of rights, etc… Let me stop myself long enough to see past my indignation and emotions, so I might speak clearly and fairly, and make a well stated point. Emotionalism does not teach others to see, it only incites reaction.

And lastly, at times like this, when I can calmly reflect on my own condition, let my prayer be that I can see myself honestly, and in the light of day find and clean up those dark corners of my heart through education and understanding. I do not want to take part in that dirty word “Prejudice”.

Sunday, June 6, 2010


I went to wade down the stream but it was uneven and some of the rocks were slippery. So after a time though I needed to proceed, I sat on the bank and watched the water go by. A voice told me to go on.

“You are my child and as such you needn’t fear.”

“How can I be your child? Am I bone of your bone and flesh of your flesh?”

“You are bone of my earth, and flesh of my universe, blood of my sea and spirit of my spirit. As my child you must have faith. It is your power to venture forth. Power I’ve given to you by birthright. You will slip and fall. You will stumble. You will get up and go again. And you will keep going, and you will live and become. The stream is life. It mustn’t pass you by. The water is love. Do not be afraid to immerse yourself in it. And you are as divine as all of these things. You are my child.”

Friday, June 4, 2010


I was lost in day dreaming, staring at Aunt Chin’s paper fan and hanky on the table. Next to it was a dry cloth she had used to wipe up the condensation that had puddled under her glass. She had left it there I assumed for me to use when I was done. The faint smell of freshly washed peaches wafted over on the breeze of the fan, which was massaging the back of my neck, and relaxing me. I smelled my hand. Yep still onions. A buzzing bug of some sort was perusing the screen looking for a mar to gain entrance. Beyond the buzzing, in the far distance…the chicken’s small noise was reminding me…reminding me…reminding me. I suddenly felt a little less relaxed. I could hear off in the house somewhere Chin’s soft cheerful humming, which was a tad reassuring. Just as I was finishing my water which didn’t taste as wonderful anymore, I heard Chin calling me, “Pitou, come back here.”

I wiped up the table and deposited my glass next to hers at the sink and laid the cloth on the counter. Then off I flitted to find where her voice was coming from. I had not really seen the house, through the motivation of breakfast smells when we had arrived, or had half seen but not paid attention. I knew the little hall and the bathroom at the end of it. I had used it during breakfast, and I had walked in through the parlor, but not taken it in. Now though, I ventured through the living room, which from the halls entrance, was to the left where the kitchen was to the right. The living room as I expected was a large gracefully pleasing room. The welcome of it made you want to go “Ahhh” in the same way her coffee had that morning. The exquisite wood furniture made the table Gus was building look common. I wondered, and bet, and would have been right, that he had made all of this for her. Including an elegant cabinet the TV sat in, two imposing book shelves on either side of the front window, and some etageres, tables etc… The happy upholstered sofa and chairs, were as plump and inviting as Chin herself. Embroidered pillows and some figurine finery accented around the place, intermittingly mingled with all variety of family photos. The room really was filled with furniture, as Uncle Gus had said.

One photo of my grandparents, that I knew well, hung on the wall in a lovely oval frame. And next to it in a carbon copy of the frame, another couple looked out at me. I stopped to look and realized this must be her parents. They both resembled her. Her mother was plump, not nearly as much a Chin, but she had those same long eyelashes. The carving on the frames caught my notice and I bet, and I would’ve been right, that Uncle Gus had made these frames as well. The corner of my eye caught Chin in a doorway across the living room. “Those were my parents, bless their dear selves.” The fondness in her voice lilted across the room. I was still viewing the photos and frames as she walked beside me and took my hand. “Mon Pere has been gone almost ten years now and MaMA left me two years ago, same year as your grandpa died. It was a hard year and a hard Christmas for Gus and me.” I still hadn’t looked over at her directly when she pulled me along to the other door and just before we exited the living room she grabbed a framed photo and touted, “And THIS, this is my little baby sister Evangeline. We call her Lina. I call her Linapou when she’s being a poot.” And she erupted into giggles.

My confused perception was split between two sites. One being the woman in the picture hardly seemed like any sort of LITTLE BABY anything. She was as full-figured as Chin, possibly more, but did look just as happy.

The second thing that had caught my eye was Chin herself. I had never seen her dressed this way before, and at once she seemed years younger. Her hair was down and shoulder length, filled with billowy shiny brown curls which were only restrained at the sides where she had fastened them back with blue barrettes with little butterflies on them. This, combined with those eyelashes of hers completed Aunt Chin’s own brand of beauty. Her garb was so unlike anything I’d ever seen her wear. She had on what was a sort of unfitted, very large, blue chambray, tent of a house dress, or was it a blouse, because she also had some baggy grey shorts underneath. And she was barefoot. She looked totally comfortable.
“C’mon Pitou.” she said still pulling me along, “we still have so much to do, and the sun is getting higher in the sky.” I started to realize at that time how aware these country people have to be about their day.

“What do you do for air conditioning on really hot days?” I asked her.

She cocked her head to one side curls bouncing, “We turn it on, she laughed.”

“You have air conditioning?” I popped out with surprise.

“Just one, and we paid a good penny for it too.” She spun me around by my shoulders and we looked back into the living room at a large window on the side that I had missed. And there was a BIG window unit. “We’ve had it three years and I love it, but it takes a lot of power to run it so we wait until we have to. We will be turning it on later today and have things as cooled down as we can for your sister after her hottt ride in that car.” She fanned herself with her hand mocking my sister Irene and chuckled again, as did I.

“Now…” she spun me around again. “I’ll quickly show you the rest of the house on the way to the laundry” Just past the living room door, we had just gone back and forth through, was a longer hall than the other with three rooms off of it. The master bedroom was nice and comfortable, fairly neat and orderly. That is except for many belts ties and other things hanging from hooks on the closet door. Pictures and a rosary, some just tacked to and some hanging neatly covered most of the walls. A vanity across the room was covered with all sorts of perfumes and powders and lady stuff, and a paper fan, and a mirror almost framed in snapshots tucked and taped in various ways around the edge. All manner of shoes were haphazardly lined up in pairs in a few various places in the room. It was a very lived in room. Next was the guest bedroom.

This room on the other hand was straight out of a home decorating magazine. Aside from a big white four poster bed, it was a bit more modern than the rest of the house. Straight lines and solid colored fabrics in dark and light blue, and white, and grey adorned the room. It had a very square, very dark wood, dresser and bed stands, so dark I thought them black at first. There was one large blue chair in the room next to a little reading table and lamp. All three matched in design and were marvelously different. Not knowing about decorating or anything as a child, I couldn’t have explained it, but now I would almost bet (but would be wrong) that Frank Lloyd Wright had designed them. Chin explained it, “Gus made that chair and table for someone who didn’t want it when it was done, so we made this room around it, I think it’s so fine a chair, yeah.”

“So do I!”

“Go sit in it,” she prompted, so I did. It had wide wooden arms of the same very dark wood, and just inside of the arms were soft rectangular cushions, atop a just as soft square cushion. The back was another upholstered rectangle slanted just enough for comfort and topped with a small rectangular head rest cushion. There was a small part of me that was already getting tired from the day, and would have loved to stay here and take a nap. The chair was that comfortable.

“Is that Uncle Gus’ job, building furniture?” I inquired.

“Now it is, but until he retired it was mostly a hobby.”

“What did he retire from?”

“Well, when we were just young he drove a steam shovel. But he retired from the refinery in Lake Charles.” Chin explained.

I had been through Lake Charles, and seen other refineries as well. “Those refineries stink like rotten eggs.” I exclaimed

“That they do, cher, or something worse.” She snickered, “as well as do the work clothes of any man who works there. I used to make Gus go straight to the garage, and strip his smelly duds into a separate hamper, then bathe, as soon as he walked in the door.” Aunt chin added that she didn’t much miss those days.

It was time to continue our tour on to the last room. This was a tiny little room that kind of slapped me in the face.

“This, Uncle Gus calls my silly room, but secretly I think he likes it.” I thought to myself … ‘she’s wrong’. It had all manner of feminine foo foo everywhere. And a rainbow of pastel colors represented in various forms of ruffles, frillys, lace, doilies, and more. “Gus would never let me fix the guest room in a girly way, ‘cause he said we might have a man guest some time. So when I got my sewin’ machine, and wanted a sewin’ room… we turned this into MY room, and I fixed it the way I wanted.” She said with conviction.

“What was it before?” I was trying to picture.

“Well it was meant to be a storage place, and we used it for that until we got a storage building outside. So we put in the window, and changed the shelves into a sewin’ center. And I got this big table from a laundry place for cuttin’ out patterns.”

Other than the big white table which had ruffles, and cloth storage satchels on the end, there was indeed a lighted sewing center with the machine in the middle surrounded by shelves drawers and cabinets. Many of the shelves had full bolts of fabric on them. Adorning the shelf top was a valance that matched the one on the little window. That one was over frilly curtains with lace sheers. There was a round table by the window, covered with a ruffled table cloth, and lamp with a ruffled shade, and a little electric fan that appeared as if she had painted the base pink with white flowers. The fan base matched the knobs and handles on drawers and cabinet doors in the sewing center. An overstuffed grandma looking chair sporting doilies on the back and arms filled out the corner next to the table. And a bag of knitting was next to the chair. The walls were a gallery of white ornate frames, around floral prints. But alone in another corner, looking totally out of place without ruffles, sat a black portable TV set. ‘Hummm,’ I thought to myself. ‘you know I bet she really likes sitting in here.’ And if she liked it, then it was good enough for me. Plus I had noticed from the fabric on two of the bolts that she had made her red dress from earlier, and this house dress she was wearing now.

The tour was over and we were at the hall’s end where there was one last door.

Outside the door was what was once a garage as it had steps down to a cement floor, and you could see one wall that had been where a garage door once hung. Now it had an outside exit door with a diamond shaped window in it, and two other windows on each side. “We call this the basement, though there’s no such thing in Louisiana.” She let out a snicker. “But it’s really just the little old garage we had before Gus and your Uncle Lawrence built the separate two car one on the uther side’a the house.”

“I saw it when we got here.” I mentioned. This room was used for all manner of things, including a washing machine and a chest freezer. Ole Aunt Chin had a few more modern conveniences, than I thought. Yet something she said was nagging my mind. What was it?

“Oh I love walkin’ on this cool cement floor on a hot day.” Chin happily tooted, in a sing-song kind of way. She was walking over to a big laundry basket full of what looked like mostly sheets.

“Why is there no such thing as a basement in Louisiana?” the nagging statement having been recalled, I now had the question.

“Have you ever dug very deep in the ground around here? Nuttin but water, cher, Nutttinn but water, same as reason for we can’t have root cellars. I remember my Grandmere hated that. She had come from Illinoize, and they had’em there. She always complained there wer’nt no place to put fresh pick vegetables and canned stuff.”

“Yours are out in that shed, Uncle Gus showed me.”

“He did?… did he show you how it works?” I looked at her totally puzzled… She was loading the washing machine. “He didn’t show you how it worked?” I stood there still clueless… she realized and elaborated, “It’s a “hutte froi” umm…it’s called a cool shed sweetie, it has a big fan on top that sucks out air, and on the sides a’ the roof is two big triangle windows covered with screens filled with moss from the trees. The air sucks in them windows and gets cooled... then goes out the top. Plus it has cement floors, like in here, and storage places made of bricks and cement. That cement it help keep it all cooler.” I sort of understood. “I’ll show you later when we out that way. But if we don’t get busy with nothing but flappin jaws we won’t get everthin done.” She finished putting a load of sheets, and the table cloth from breakfast, and more sheets, and table cloths into the washer, and started them washing. Then she went over to the freezer and pulled out two white butcher paper wrapped packages. “Can you take one of these bebe?” she motioned to me and I went to get one. It was a bit heavy and by the size and shape of it I realized it was a chicken. “Frying hen” was written on the paper.

The sudden possibilities of deliciousness lifted my psyche in the air ten feet “Are we having fried chicken tonight?” I excitedly questioned. I think every kid loves fried chicken, and I could only begin to imagine how delicious hers would be.

“Among other things.” She answered, “You’ll see, ….we need to scoot now, so grab your chicken and, how’bout let’s just get your skinny little butt and my great big b’hine back to the kitchen for pie makin’.”


Wednesday, June 2, 2010


                                 Bon Matin mes amis

                              Morning Blessings for a
                                     brand new day.
                                           M. Pierre