Every summer of my childhood, my brothers and I spent two weeks at Deenie and Grandaddy’s house. They lived in a simple suburban ranch style home in Dallas. It had a small backyard set into a steep hill where my grandparents, both children of West Texas farms, found enough time to grow green beans and okra. I remember summer nights in the kitchen, learning how to snap those beans and wash them ready to cook.
We always did the same thing every day of those two weeks in their home: mornings outside before the temperature rose into the hot and sticky 90’s, peddling our bikes and rolling scooters down their steep sidewalk, joining my mother and grandmother in their near-daily treks to malls or shopping centers. And sitting in the afternoons to watch Deenie’s favorite talk shows.
She had a rocking loveseat and I can still see the way she held herself in it: chest up, shoulders straight, knees together and ankles crossed. She sat on the right side of the loveseat, rocking and reading the book in her lap, or staring at an 80’s Oprah on the screen.
When I think of Deenie, I think of her simplicity, a sort of contentment in the patterns of daily life. Makeup applied the same way at her table each morning. Carmex, then lipstick. Morning ironing. A lunch of sandwich and Lays potato chips. The bright Dallas sun streaking the round kitchen table set with vinyl placemats.And always, her place on the right side of the rocking loveseat, her knees together, ankles crossed, reading or watching, reading or watching. The left side of the small sofa was the most coveted spot in their living room, at least among my brothers and me. Deenie was, in our opinion, the world’s best back-tickler/scratcher (depending on your preference). The seat beside her guaranteed a spot for us to sprawl our upper bodies across her lap and, once in position, ask Will you scratch my back? She never said no and we never stopped asking.
When I wasn’t draped across her upper legs, I would sit to her left and stare at her hands, hands I somehow knew—even as a child—would belong to me one day. I had her lean body and her eyebrows, and I hoped, her beauty. Her hands were thin, her wrists small. And her veins were raised up, almost resting on top of her skin, like magic, like roads that led to somewhere beautiful. I held her left hand between mine and traced the blue roads, sometimes using a childish finger to press into them, feel them fold beneath the weight of my fingers.