I signed up for a block of the month kit from my favorite quilt shop. For the last nine months a package has arrived with a pattern, fabric and directions. The blocks are floral, representing the flowers that grow in each month. I am not a flower expert, nor do I usually do appliqué, but the designs were interesting and challenging so I signed up in a weak moment. I love getting a package in the mail every month, but I have to admit I have not kept up. I have had one waiting to work on for several weeks, and I am sure the next one will arrive this week.
The “flower” for August was not a flower. It was a watermelon and a pear artfully designed to fit in with other blocks. As I stitched around the seeds, a wonderful memory came back to me.
On the Cape in the summer, when there were a lots of friends and relatives visiting, the rules were relaxed. No school, no homework, and no neighborhood kids. I think of it as being in a grown-up world because there were more grown-ups than kids on the weekends and often during the week. The kids consisted of my sister, two kids and a baby sitter for the youngest child of my mom’s friend, Marge, and Richard who spent the summer on the Cape rather than New York city with his Aunt. This was arranged by my grandfather who lived near to the aunt.
My mom cooked for this crowd, often 25 or more people. I have recently marveled at the work she put in for all those people. Marge was in charge of the clean up, a role they worked out between them. Clean up consisted of rallying this crew of kids and assigning tasks. (My favorite was to sweep down the back stairs, because it was dark and no one would know if you didn’t do a good job.)
One annual friend was a lady we all called Ken. Ken would arrive full of ideas of places to go and things to see. We all loved Ken, especially when she declared it was time for watermelon night or rather fight.
Watermelons don’t have seeds any more. What fun is that? I saw one in the grocery store, cut in half and not a seed in sight. It was also small and round. That would never do for our watermelon fights .
The meal was normal, as normal as possible with bread being tossed and food going round and round the table, seating 20 to 25 people. (see my entry about summer rules) My grandmother would arrive dressed in a slicker with a hat. When the main meal was over, we all helped clear the table of everything but a spoon for each person – no place mats – everything.
The water melon arrived on a tray cut in half with the bowls to serve it in. Not one of those measly small round melons, but a huge oval mound of watermelon, seeds included. The people around the table, having been forewarned, were dressed in old clothes, or turned their napkins into bibs. The watermelon was spooned by my dad into the bowl and passed to the right. This is another Cape rule. The food was passed to the right and went all the way around the table ’til the serving arrived to the left of the server. We often thought a train track around the table would make sense to send food around but we never devised that.
Then the fun began. Granny would make sure her rain hat was on her head and she would put a seed or two on the spoon, hold the spoon ready to flip the seeds, and the seeds began to fly around the table. Granny had exceptional aim, but we all got pretty good with practice. There was laughter and groans as the seeds flew around, hit the right spot or didn’t. One summer Ken grabbed the scooped out half of the watermelon, and plunked it on the head of Marge. A huge guffaw and Marge rose from the table and grabbed the water pitcher and proceeded to dump that on Ken. The kids were all ready to join in the fray when Momie put a halt to it. We were all teenagers and slightly younger that summer and seeds and water would make more of a fight than she wanted. One year, probably because of the water dump, we held the fight outside at Momie’s request. It was not the same, and the following summer it went back inside.
Clean up, you ask? Of course we all cleaned up. With that many people and with Ken working with us kids, we swept and scoured and removed every water melon seed we could find. We all loved the hilarity when she came to visit.
We have sold that house and I am quite certain when they redid that room, they found watermelon seeds stuck to the ceiling or in some corner. (They would also find grease spots on the ceiling because my dad told of making slings out of the linen napkins and catapulting butter balls toward the ceiling with the hope they would stick.)
As I stitch around the seeds in the pattern, I thought of all those watermelon fights and the people who came every summer and the family that made my summers so memorable.