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.

quilt so far...

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9 Responses to watermelons

  1. MaryHelen says:

    “We all love the hilarity when she came to visit.” Love that line. I’m writing it in my notebook. I liked the way you connected the excitement of a package, the plunge of working, to a memory from the past. An excellent example of how to weave a memory. I have a fun picture of your Grandma and Ken and the watermelon fight.

  2. Heather says:

    *Sigh*. Great story. I love the connection between the stitching and the memory. As if each stitch is an event in the memory and with every in and out of the needle the picture becomes clearer yet again. I love how you retold this – the humor, the backstories, the people involved. The image of Grandma will forever be stuck in my head. 🙂 Such a quaint and charming rendition of your summer experience. Love it!

  3. Beth Rogers says:

    I love the quilt – it is so beautiful! I also love how you took the act of stitching and wove a story out of it. The watermelon seed fight is priceless!

  4. Tam says:

    Love your quilt. I’m glad it brought back some memories for you. You never know when or where memories will pop up. It’s good you’re blogging them, so your family will really know you as a person.

  5. Ruth says:

    Love this ending line: “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.”

    Thanks for writing,

  6. Number Four says:

    Always love your stories. Brings back my own memories of the Cape. My first reaction was to dig up a photo of Granny. She was quite a sight, in her slicker and rain hat, waiting expectantly at the huge big house table. Comments from your readers tell me that your words are painting a better picture.

  7. Tara says:

    I love your posts for this: an uncanny ability to capture the mood and setting of precious memories. It is no wonder that you love to quilt!

  8. quilt addict says:

    I loved you post…..I remember watermelon fights when I was growing up, but ours took place in the backyard!!
    I admire your applique…..I like to do piecing….not brave enough to tackle applique (yet)! Mimi

  9. Chip Carter says:

    Love the watermelon photo. I’m working on a special feature for the 100th Anniversary of the National Watermelon Association and would like to include it in a centennial photo spread. If you’re okay with that, contact me at carter@theproducenews.com to make sure we have names, date, that sort of information. Thanks — Chip Carter

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