When I was a little girl, we lived in a small town in Massachusetts. Our house was colonial with eight rooms with a fireplace in each room. Before we moved, several additions were made to the house, including the apartment where my grandparents lived. My grandfather had a stroke and they could no longer live on their own.
Grandfather was restrained and quiet. My grandmother was just the opposite. She talked a lot. My mother called it “grandfather’s jaw”.
Grandma seemed tall to me, maybe because she was wearing “grannies”, black heels with lacing. She always wore stockings and a dress. She had long white hair, which she wore in a bundle at the top. I can still imagine her leaning over and combing the hair that hung in front of her face. Then I twisted it into a knot, fastened it with clasps on the top, then covered everything with a hair net.
My grandmother had diabetes, but she loved her sweets. She gave us money and we went to the local drugstore and bought Hoodsies – a small paper cup with a lid and a flat wooden spoon filled with vanilla ice cream. We put ice cream in a glass and Grandma smoked ginger ale. The soda had to be poured slowly, otherwise the ginger ale would have been sizzling. My sisters and I sat with grandparents on their porch and drank our special drink.
We had a big backyard. There was a small plot of Concorde grapes. I still love their tart taste. My grandmother made grape jelly. I remember the big gauze from which the purple juice flowed.
My grandmother also taught me to love eggs. I was picky about food. She used to cook omelets just for me. Before folding it, she added a little grape jelly. A splash of sweets in my mouth made me forget I was eating an egg. She taught me to knit my left-handed sister. She loved her grandchildren, but sometimes talked too much.
We played softball, slept and listened to fictional stories. We played hide and seek. Our playful shouts obscured the sounds of the street.
We saw, not heard the truck. Suddenly the street and our backyard were covered in fog with DDT.
Every summer in the evening a big truck drove through our city and sprayed DDT. The spray was supposed to prevent mosquitoes in our city. In the 1950s, it was believed that mosquitoes transmitted polio, and it was the city’s way of protecting us all. Polio was a real fear of parents for their children. It was a strange sensation to see a foggy cloud that appeared behind the truck, and it was a little hard to breathe.
A few years later, in 1955, a polio vaccine was found, and we all lined up at the school to get a little sugar cube with the vaccine syrup.
And DDT? It was banned in 1972. This not only did not prevent polio, but is also dangerous to health. It has been found to be carcinogenic and affects the nervous system. It is also very toxic to both aquatic animals and wildlife.
Pesticides that have been used for years have poisoned our land and waterways. No more mistakes that were actually good. The decline in insects, in addition to being a tragedy in itself, has affected all terrestrial ecosystems, such as the diet of birds, reptiles and amphibians, pollination of plants, etc. Declining insect populations could be a harbinger of the collapse of terrestrial ecosystems.
Our childhood continued when we played outside, growing up in the carefree 50s. I warmly remember my grandmother and sat with her on the porch. I remember our town and summer nights. Now that I am sitting on my porch, I look forward to the fireflies flashing in the fields.
The author lives in Leola.