The Grandmother and the Berries Back Home

My grandmother had a fat bulldog whose jaws drug the ground. It laid outside in the sun by the sliding glass door and grunted and shuffled in the pine needles. There, once, that dog drug up a chicken leg swiped clean off a fresh chicken. Grandmother showed me how to pull the tendons to make a chicken’s claws move individually. She accepted the offering from her yard dog, and sent me out to work.

A walk outside was sleepy hot and smelled a little like stolen chickens, kitchen soap, and a thousand rotten pears dropped from the tree.

I stayed out there in just my underwear, conscious of pine cones and fire ants on pears, and Grandmother would pull her car around back and set out a pot full of hot water, Palmolive, and torn-up t-shirts. The water from the hose was always freezing after the first few spits of what the sun had warmed. I made that water brown with driveway dirt off the tires. Long blades of chiggered grass would break off and stick to blond-haired skin, like beggar’s lice on a winter coat.

With pruned fingers, once, she let me eat strawberries from a basket, and they were red straight through, and my elbows were sticky, and I wasn’t so sleepy – the sweet louder than the whole crow-cawed backyard. I prayed and said “thank you Jesus for Strawberries.”

And I remember saying that prayer many times over. I think, too, that my grandmother was a Summer Girl like me, always bragging about what used to be her red hair. I’ve seen pictures of her gorgeous legs posing from a majorette suit.

I need to call her, Alabama girl, where my Mama and I got our green eyes, need to tell her thank you, too, for the berries. I sure wish I had some right now.


Tomorrow I drive to Alabama. My daddy has venison waiting. I’ll soak it in buttermilk before frying the game out of it. It’s not strawberries, but it’ll eat, and my sons will record a million smells there. One winter, twenty-five years from now, they’ll sit down to get some work done, and they’ll remember it all out of the blue, and they’ll want it back.

About me


Wild in the Hollow Book Club: an Introductory video
August 28, 2015
How Right Living Was My Brokenness: a guest post from Kelly Smith
August 11, 2015
Marriage Letters: On Home
July 06, 2015
A Final Haines Home Companion: a Secret I’ve Kept
June 06, 2014
On Broken Parts in Regular Towns: Alabama, Arkansas, and Haiti
April 03, 2014
On Losing Place
September 05, 2013
How the Light Peeks Through
August 26, 2013
A Haines Home Companion: A Little Eden
March 13, 2013
Cursed Be the Woman
March 06, 2013


Reply January 21, 2011

Beautiful! I can just see it, smell it, taste it, hear it.

I miss my Paw-Paw and the way he made venison. His was never gamey. I miss his pinto beans, his gravy, and his "fruit," which was always an applesauce-like mixture of whatever fruit he had on hand.

Enjoy your time in Alabama. Sounds like heaven.

Reply January 21, 2011

i love that you treasure.

Reply January 21, 2011

You write beautifully. None of the wasteful words that I spew out. That was beautiful. And real. Thanks for sharing.

emily freeman
Reply January 22, 2011

I want to read a whole book full of these.

Reply January 22, 2011

I once wrote a poem called "Eating a Certs" in college. My Papa always gave me Certs to eat (do they even still make those?) and as the mint dissolved in my mouth, I gushed too of memories from every sense. It's amazing to me that we attach so much to what we taste and smell. My Papa passed away my senior year of college, like that Cert before it dissolved to nothing he became weak, fragile. It was so difficult to see. His last hug and smile is etched in my heart forever. Enjoy your time in AL. I, too, love the way you treasure. . and you treasure what you should. . not stuff, but people wrapped in beautifully written sentimental memories. Joy to my heart. :)

Reply January 22, 2011

Lovely memory. Call Grandma. :o)

Reply January 22, 2011

Seriously. Amber, you take me back to the exact moments. Grandmother will LOVE this!

Reply January 22, 2011

This is my kind of writing! You remind me how things most simple are most dear. I am encouraged to do as my heart bids and push in closer to those smells and tastes that defined and do still define the world for me.

Glad to share you sweet home, Alabama.


So glad to have found your writing!

in the hush of the moon
Reply January 22, 2011

A walk outside was sleepy hot and smelled a little like stolen chickens, kitchen soap, and a thousand rotten pears dropped from the tree.

please write a book. please.

Kelly Jeanne
Reply January 22, 2011

Hey Amber, when you publish a book of your beautiful writing, I'll be first in line to buy it.

Katie @ Imperfect People
Reply January 22, 2011

I think this takes everyone back to summers at Grandmas. Oh what treasured memories!

Ann Kroeker
Reply January 23, 2011

Oh, how I wish I had such crystal clear memories and a sweet southern accent that would flow through my writing as I retold them. How do you recall all that sensory detail from so long ago?

Then again, you're much younger than I suppose one advantage is that it's not that long ago! :)

Reply January 23, 2011

I have the same memories from childhood, summer at Granny's house and on our "farm" where the pears and blackberries were taken for granted. Thanks for reminding me of those precious times with my long gone mother and grandmother.

Elizabeth @claritychaos
Reply January 23, 2011

I love it when you write about the South. And yes, please -- write a whole book of these southern memories.

Reply January 24, 2011

i'm with these write a book people.
but only if you want to.
only if it feels like remembering and makes you woozy in a good way.
your boys (and the next little one) would like reading it and remembering.

Josh McFadden
Reply January 24, 2011

Tabitha showed me your post. She thought I would appreciate the nostalgic writing. I can totally identify with those types of childhood memories . . . in a kooky So. Cal. Boysenberry kind of way.

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