Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Sweet Potata Girl

Photo by Wally Hartshorn

"My roots go back all the way to slave trade," she said softly. "I don't be knowin' all 'bout what that was like, but I knowed 'bout hard times in my days. I learned 'bout makin' it through 'gainst all odds."

Swollen crippled feet had propelled her through the market. Her arthritic hands dropped a 2 page shopping list as she struggled to move a box of produce.

I picked her list up from the floor and moved the box.  "Could I fill your list for you? I'd be glad to do that," I offered.

"Oh, my, no, sweet potata girl," she laughed. "The good Lord gave me 8 kids and more grandkids than I can be countin' any more so I guess He'll just keep me spinnin' on forward. It's a long line of hungry folks I need to be feedin' and you got your own work. God will get me through."

She was collapsed with exhaustion on a bench, her cart piled high with food bags when I left the store. Rubbing stiffness from her hands, eyes closed, her silent tears trailed down wrinkled brown cheeks.

"I care about you," I told her, sitting down on the bench beside her. I handed her a handkerchief.

"Oh my, sweet potata girl! That's a lovely old hanky! Now I'm just fine. I'm too tuckered out today is all."

As she wiped her eyes she shared her life. Divorces, custody battles, drug addictions, prison heartbreak and little children with no place to go but to their old broken-down granny. She told me how grateful she was for a country that helped with food stamps, prisons that helped folks get straight, teachers that hugged learnin' right into kids and for all the blessings found in loving people.

I helped her into my car, loaded the piles of groceries into my back seat and phoned her neighbor who had not yet shown up to give her a ride home.

"Why do you call me sweet potata girl?" I asked, once she was settled into her house.  She rested at the table taking some medicine while I put away the groceries in her kitchen and created an impromptu tea party.

"Been a lot of times with nothin' to eat but a sweet potata. It was a blessin' from the Lord on them days. You can live a right long spell on a sweet potata.  Lotta people don't see the blessin' in hard times. I learned from my own granny that hard times is blessin' just like good times. You been a blessin' to me, sweet potata girl. I was plumb done in and set to frettin', but God sends help ever' time to me. Ever' time. Ever' time. Ever' time. Ever' time. Now you be rememberin' that from an old woman, sweet potata girl. Ever' time."

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