The hot summer sun beat down on the back of our necks as we moved along the rows of okra with a knife in hand stepping inch by inch between each stalk and cuttin’ off the pods from the bottom up and placing them it in our tow sacks.
My mom was up ahead in the next row and dad was a few rows over as we worked to harvest the pods before they grew too hard to eat.
Cuttin’ okra was never one of my favorite things to do largely because of the itch brought on by the hair of the deep green leaves of the plant but it had to be done every few days.
As the day sun was high in the sky, my mother moved towards our light green Chevrolet truck opening up the door to the camper and pulled out a cooler she had prepared the night before.
Inside were chicken salad sandwiches, fresh tomatoes, some deviled eggs and ice-cold bottles of grape and orange Nehi. She spread out the red and white tablecloth on the ground and set up a picnic calling us from the rows.
We didn’t need any coaxing to drop our tow sacks and make our way to the sound of her voice.
As we pulled up a piece of ground and gathered around the cloth, we bowed our heads to pray, the prayers echoed in the wind reaching towards the sky and before I knew it we were feasting on the items spread across the cloth.
I don’t know what it was about eating outside, but it always seemed like the flavors in the food were more satisfying. Perhaps it was the labor that intensified the taste.
The grape in the Nehi seemed to be so good as it washed down the food.
I can still hear my mom’s laughter as my dad told a joke or pulled some free time shenanigans in the shade of the tree. Her smiles were so big they almost invited the breezes to blow past to dry the sweat the sun placed in our garments.
No matter how much fun we shared in those few moments, we knew that more work was to be done and we soon placed our hats back our heads and walked back amidst the rows.
As I write today, I can still feel the heat from those days on my skin, and the thought of cuttin’ okra makes an itch that is more than skin deep, but I long for those moments when worked was shared and lessons were taught.
As I see the ills we face in our country and the dysfunction of families, I sometimes think that is more families were working together, toiling over the dirt in the heat of the day to put food on their table, there would be less energy to argue around the table, and more ability to share understanding.
I pray your world is filled with moments of shared experiences and great joy that brings a love beyond understanding.