From Roots to Fruit
Soft dirt—squish, squish—beneath tiny, milky feet. They will never find us. Sandpaper, prickly cucumber leaves break my tiny, fattened legs out into rashes. Itchy. Warm Tennessee red clay, broken and cultivated into soft, plowed ground bursting open with corn rows and green beans and squash lay before me, a fairy-sized-barely-four-year-old. What would it taste like to the lips? Small eager hands continue to search. At last, purple has been found. Yummy. Mustering all the might a small force of nature could, I lift this glowing orb from the ground, and after taking a moment to triumph in the success of my hunt, sink my teeth into layers—dirt, skin, turnip. For a moment, this sits on my tongue, and then in a violent retch, it lays before my feet. I thought I had a good idea.
This failed attempt at feeding myself would propel my curiosity forward throughout the years, but never lessen my love for foods that grew in the earth, particularly the foods that grew in my grandfather's garden. Curiosity and exploration were the marrow of a life spent behind the confines of the chain-link fence on Snodderly Drive. Each day moved forward similarly—we all load up three doors down in the cobalt Super Beetle. Mama opens the door, carries me in, and lays me to fidget in the squeaky brass bed of my grandma and grandpa's home. And while I waited for my grandma to wake up (she truly never rose until 11 o' clock in the morning due to tired nights of watching The Jay Leno Show), I would toss on restless seas of chenille quilts, and imagine creating.
Thump, thump, drag, thump, rattle, rattle, sizzle. Those were the alarms of a grandfather emerging from his cigarettes and coffee in the basement. Quietly and carefully, he would stir up quick, creamy pots of gravy, and large platters of glistening sausages and buttery biscuits. I'd pretend to sleep, and then I'd hear the soft door of the tiny room lightly press open and I'd hear him call my name. Breakfast is ready. He needn't say it in a ring, like my mother said it to me; he merely would say it as a matter of fact. Choice. I would hobble up to the tall, tall counter, and grab my plate full of the savory breakfast (the only one I've ever enjoyed). But as we would eat together, I could feel a promise ensuing—today we were going to learn something as we did everyday, but what today?
It could have been simply loading up in his burgundy truck and searching for old dresses in yard sales. It could have been visiting JohnGray and Ruth and Tootie. But one day, on a day the June bugs buzzed and would fall to the ground and smoosh beneath your feet, and one day when the sun beat down on fallen fruits on the ground, and one day when grandma's pressure cooker whizzed and buzzed, we sat beneath a pear tree and he handed me a tiny, wooden hook and a cotton ball of twine.
Any other child, who hadn't grown up in the company of sages and mountains, would've thrown this down out of impatience, but I had been in a world apart from quickness, a world apart from computers, a world not modernized, not yet conquered, and I took the hook and he slowly taught me how to crochet. Careful, sunburnt, hairy white hands moved awkwardly with the hook, and then passed the tools onto me. Stitch one. I struggled. Stitch two. He smiled. Stitch three. Six years pass and I'm in middle school, throwing up every morning out of anxiety. Stitch four. I learn how to knit as well, and carry my love into a knitting club in high school. Stitch five. I am knitting my grandfather a red and navy striped chemo hat. Stitch six. He passes away. Stitch seven. I accidentally knit myself a pair of pink baby socks; they still are in my closet. Stitch eight. Pain drives me forward in a world where my chain-link paradise is lost to a new kind of fence: anxiety and mania. Stitch nine. I look into the mirror and realize that I have breasts and hips and I am a woman—it's the day I graduate. Stitch ten. I wake up, in a rattling dorm bed to this rhythm, the stitching, and I wonder where time goes to hide when you discover you enjoyed the moments you lived in.
This sound, this rhythm, perpetuating my curiosity, sustains my desire to learn and instills the belief inside of me that there is never a bad exploration, and that no matter what, impermanence is real. Time moves on, like the stitches on my lap. Time moves on, never to be unraveled like the velvety green bean vines that tug me back into these moments. Time moves on, but moments pass away like the sleepy dust that has settled on the plot of land that was my grandpa's garden. Time moves on, and I rest here, amongst the wispy brown cornstalks and the bone-dry hay, waiting for spring to come back again.
Kiyah Moore is a student at Berea College in Berea, Kentucky. She grew up in Lenoir City, Tennessee—a rural, small town brought to its knees by factory closures during the recession. She is the aunt of nine children at the age of nineteen, and in her spare time she enjoys knitting, riding on the back of her father's motorcycle, working with children in Berea's community, and sinking her feet into her garden in her back yard. She is majoring in English and Education, and hopes someday to become a teacher, and to return home to her dog, Boots.