I had a memory earlier this week of my Gramma Rovina. It was just a short little snippet of her sitting at the table chopping radishes. Now I’m not sure why, but Gramma Rovina always had special radishes in her fridge. She’d cut up radishes in a special pattern, place them in a bowl of ice water in the fridge and then magically overnight the radishes would “blossom” into these pretty little radish roses that she’d place on top of macaroni salad.
Gramma Rovina was my next- door neighbor and between our houses there ran a little dirt path. Every day during summer break I would wake up and run the little dirt path to Gramma’s house. We’d sit around and watch soap operas together, sometimes she would sing me songs or teach me how to cook something, and eventually we would sit down to eat.
“Nahnda, do you want some scone?” she’d ask me. “Yah,”, I would typically reply. Really, what bush kid says no to scone?
Now everybody down the bush knows that longhouse ladies make perfect scone. Okay, maybe that is a bit of a generalization but in my experience it is true. Somehow the longhouse ladies of Six Nay can take a hot pan, some Crisco, and morph these soft little delicate rounds of tangy buttermilk dough into fluffy fried clouds of happiness. “Do you want it with onions or jam?” Gramma would ask me. “Try this jam. It’s good. I made it myself. Didn’t put too much sugar in it this time either, it’s just right.” she boasted proudly.
“You made jam? How did you know how you do that? ” I asked her with the kind of child-like wonder that only a seven year old can. Gramma just smiled at me. Late summer always reminds me of Gramma Rovina. The first thing I always think about when I remember her was her hands. Her dark fingers were deeply wrinkled from a life’s worth of endurance. She always smelled amazing; like a mix of cigarette smoke, powder, and stuff frying in Crisco. It might not sound like a pleasant smell, but to me it was the smell of love. Her hair was usually in rollers and more often than not she’d be drinking a cup of Red Rose tTea.
Gramma Rovina always had homemade stuff,; pickled beets, chili sauce, jams, and peppers. She had a small apple orchard right in the backyard and my ‘cousints’ and I would always be hanging out in those trees gwissing right out on green apples. “Git down outta those trees right now you kids. You’re gonna make yourself sick! Them apples are green yet!” she’d scold us. Then we’d get called in to supper and she’d have something delicious for dinner like three sisters soup with lemon pie for dessert.
Later on, when it would start to get dark out, us kids would just be running around outside getting all bit up by mosquitos and playing flashlight tag. The adults would be inside playing cards and laughing too loud. Sometimes listening to uncool music they called “the blues”. This was late summer in Hillville on Sour Springs Road. And for a number of us growing up down the bush it was similar. Late summer meant every kid would hear the corn ripeners calling out and wonder what the heck it is that makes that noise. Late summer meant freshie bags and purple fingers. Late summer meant riding to the store on your bike and getting chased by bush dogs, your scabbed up legs just pedaling hard trying not to get eaten by Cujo.
Finally as the summer days come to a close lots of us would end up running around at the Three Fires Pow Wow on New Credit or checking out the Fall Fair where all the Gramma’s would enter their homemade jam or chili sauce to win a ribbon. It’s fair to say that no matter what side of the bush you are from; the Upper End, Down Below, or the Village – late summer is Six Nations heart of hearts.