Who knew ammonia cured all?
Leada DeVaney, Hartselle Enquirer
Greg, my ever-patient and long-suffering boyfriend, took me home this weekend to visit his family in Mississippi. It was there, sitting in his grandmother's kitchen, that I learned I know absolutely nothing.
Greg's grandmother, Genelle, is in her 80s. She and her husband, Walter, have lived in rural Mississippi – somewhere between Canton and Kosciusko – all of their lives. We were sitting around playing cards when Greg's mother, Mary, said something about the marks on my legs. The lower parts of my legs were covered in red whelps, the result of marching around in the tall grass in shorts and sandals – not exactly hiking attire.
"Do you have anything on them," Genelle asked.
"No, m'am," I replied, tucking them under the table.
"Ammonia," she said. "You should put ammonia on them. It will clear them right up."
Ammonia? On your skin? Just the thought made what little hide I had left tingle.
I tried to change the subject. It didn't work, though I did stop scratching my legs, if only to avoid having household cleaner applied to the sores.
Later, Greg's son, Derek, was stung by a bee just below his knee. We were recounting the story to his grandmother when she asked another question: "Did you put some gasoline on it?"
Gasoline? On a bee sting?
"Takes the pain right out of it," Genelle said.
I didn't know. It turns out I didn't know a lot of things.
I didn't know that you were supposed to wear long pants if you were riding a four-wheeler through the woods.
I didn't know you had to search your skin for ticks when you came in from those same woods.
I didn't know that sandals weren't proper foot attire for muddy ground.
I didn't know the sound I heard at night were locusts, not crickets.
I didn't know the sound a frog makes when its sitting by a pond talking to other frogs.
I didn't know the difference between a turtle and a terrapin.
I didn't know fresh corn and vine-ripe cucumbers could taste that good.
I didn't know the stars would be that bright out in the country.
I didn't – and still don't – know how to can, blanche or freeze much of anything.
I can learn, though and I think I know a few people that will probably teach me.
When we were leaving Greg's family reunion Sunday, Genelle gave me a big hug, the kind only a grandmother can give.
"You come back and see us," she said.
"Oh, I will, I replied. "As long as you promise not to douse me in ammonia."
She just laughed.