Monday, July 23, 2012

Memories of a Southern Childhood

 


Flowers, trees and shrubs hold special memories of childhood.  I realized this more than ever while working in the tree and shurb department of a garden center where customers would come looking for a certain specimen to plant in memory of a departed loved one or to give as a gift for a wedding or anniversary.  Or, they wanted a tree from their childhood for their own garden or their children's.

After moving to North Carolina last year I  have started to become re-acquainted with many things I had forgotten about from my Southern childhood.   On a visit to the North Carolina botanical garden I saw an interesting looking tropical tree and peering closer I saw it's unfamiliar name Asimina trilob and beneath it the common name :  Paw-Paw tree.    It brought back memories of the folksong we sang at school.



Where, oh where is pretty little Susie?
Where, oh where is pretty little Susie?
Where, oh where is pretty little Susie?
Way down yonder in the paw-paw patch.
Come on, boys [or girls, or kids], let’s go find her,
Come on, boys, let’s go find her,
Come on, boys, let’s go find her,
Way down yonder in the paw-paw patch.
Pickin’ up paw-paws, puttin’ ‘em in her pockets,
Pickin’ up paw-paws, puttin’ ‘em in her pockets,
Pickin’ up paw-paws, puttin’ ‘em in her pockets,
Way down yonder in the paw-paw patch.
—The Paw Paw Patch

 The Paw-paw is the largest native fruit in America .  Daniel Boone and Mark Twain were said to be big fans of the Paw-paw  which is sometimes called the " poor man's banana. " According to Lewis and Clark it saved them for starvation on their expedition and Native Americans consumed them regularly as part of their diet.

We didn't know who owned the property near the creek where the Paw-paw trees were but they seemed to be fair game for the first to discover their ripening fruit in the early Fall.  We'd load up our baskets and pockets with them, licking our lips at the thought of them mashed up with a little milk and sugar. 

Fall also meant searching for  ripe persimmons , hickory nuts and chestnuts, all special treats when the fruits of summer were a distant memory.

As I gaze upon the familiar crape myrtles, mimosa, dogwood, magnolia and hollies that grow so prolifically here I feel as I've truly come home to my beloved South again after so many decades away.

What trees, shrubs and flowers hold special memories from your childhood ?   Have you preserved a little history by planting some in your garden ? 




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