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Distant Voices

Updated: Oct 28, 2021

As I put freshly washed dishes in the drainer a voice whispers: “They’re water sweet.” My friend from childhood had a grandmother who visited annually from Texas with quaint Southwestern phrases that seemed to have sprung directly from our sturdy pioneer forebears. “Hark! Hark!” she’d call when we kids needed quieting. Of course, we giggled imagining angels on high unfurling their wings but, she got our attention. We’d run around hark harking for weeks.

My sister and I stayed with Aunt Hazel, Mom’s sister, on her farm every summer for a week. She had her share of pithy phrases. When thick foods like the chocolate fudge we’d make as a treat reached a hard boil she’d comment, “It’s making hog eyes.” “Waste not, want not” explained the slop bucket by the back door. “A stitch in time saves nine” described Hazel’s dresses mended and ‘let out’ as needed. When we got frisky “Pretty is as pretty does” reminded us to be ladylike. On finding true love, “A bird in hand is worth two in the bush” and for love gone wrong leaving a bruised or broken heart, “Time wounds all heels.” I once heard Hazel and Mom whispering about an acquaintance in common: “Why buy a cow when milk is free?” These strong women, long gone, live inside me and their voices conjure memories both vivid and faintly remembered.

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