Tuesday, August 5

Sadie's Legacy

Sadie Catherine Hammond Liere Pohl...a long name for a woman who stood 4' 10" in stocking feet.

A right of passage for her grandchildren was surpassing her in height. I should not have gloated the day I realized I could see the top of her head. Grandma had the last laugh when my vertical growth came to a screeching halt in the 6th grade, never to resume.

My grandmother is as present to me today as she was the countless hours I spent at the hem of her skirt, shadowing her every move. She died in 1997 on her 84th birthday. That she died on her birthday should tell you something about the depth of her will and character. At her insistence, I delivered her eulogy. A huge statement from a woman to a small farming community steeped in patriarchy.

One of the great gifts she gave me (and my mother) was a deep love and respect for the Earth. Daughter, sister and eventually wife of rice farmers, her whole subsistence was gleaned from the rich, sticky gumbo soil of South Texas. In addition to the rice and corn fields the men tended, grandma had a kitchen garden that yielded all the herbs and vegetables we needed to keep the family fed year-round. Grandpa also gave her space at the edge of one of the rice fields to grow watermelon, cantaloupe, pumpkin and the big squash that took up too much room in the kitchen garden. Tending to these gardens in the height of growing season was quite a chore, but I guess not too big of a challenge for her as she also had a corner in her living room, and eventually an enclosed patio, teaming with houseplants.

My favorite plant was one with variegated green and white leaves that turned pink in the fall, not a color you normally see on a farm. What fascinated me about this houseplant was during the heat of the summer, when all the other plants were gasping for air and water, it bloomed. Tiny red blooms perched on the end of long, spiny branches in clusters of 3 or 4. They look exactly like a cardinal in profile, thus the common name of this plant...Redbird.

Among the treasures my grandmother gave me when I moved away from home was a cutting from her Redbird plant. Since then, it has traveled many miles and witnessed my life's journey over the past 30 years. It is now thriving on the patio at Penuel Ridge, my home in Middle Tennessee.

It's blooming right now and if you've never heard of or seen this plant, here's your chance. I had intended to take photos of the diminutive, vibrant flowers, but kept forgetting. The other day, a blustery summer rainstorm was moving in, so I grabbed the camera and bolted outside. It was so humid the lens kept fogging up so the photos look a bit ethereal, but you can clearly see the blooms.

This plant also goes by the name Devil's Backbone, but I think I'll stick to the name my grandmother taught me...Redbird.

1 comment:

Deb Moore said...

"gumbo soil" . . . you are the master.