Memos from the Middle

Smack-Dab in the Middle of Living

Remembering Yesterday’s Summer

“I gat one for ya.” His eyes twinkle with nostalgia as his gray hairs glisten in the late afternoon sun. He pulls his readers out of his breast pocket, slides them carefully on his face, and searches precariously through the book of CDs.

“Well, how long is it going to take for you to find it, Ol’ Man?” The crowd roars with laughter as Uncle Jay pulls one after another out before putting them back a few more times.

Putting the chosen CD in and turning the volume up a couple more notches, Uncle Jay snatches his glasses off with his left hand, sticking them back into the breast pocket of his flowered button-down. “Whachu know ’bout that, Young Blood?” The faint thump of drums before the rest of the music oozes in washes over the yard. He closes his eyes and sways with fists clenched to his chest and elbows counting out the rhythm.

“Aww, shit!” In seeming choreographed recognition, lawn chairs rear back as vaselined black bodies lean as perfectly poised plastic cups full of gas station ice and corner store Budweiser allow no drop to spill.

Though you may not drive a great big Cadillac
Gangsta whitewalls
TV antennas in the back

Ponytails fly in the breeze as little girls run from little boys playing shoot ’em up. They weave carelessly between the knees of grandfathers and uncles, trying to avoid spritzes from neon-colored water guns.

“I said, ‘bring the rest of that potato salad out here!'” Mama yells to one of the teenaged girls putting on lip gloss near the door.

“I heard you!” she snaps back before Auntie slaps her hard in the back of the head for getting smart with her sister.

“You better get her, Girl! She gon’ make me lose my religion out here!”

The bounce of the basketball in the alley and bodies slamming hard against garbage cans send a flurry of profanity into the air.

“Foul, fool!”

“What?!? This street ball, nigga. Ain’t no fouls out here!”

“Whatever, man,” as the bounce of the ball resumes and t-shirts climb up to wipe away sweat from foreheads.

“Take this plate across the street for Miss Mabel, Suga,” Mama tells one of the boys who stops chasing his cousin to tie his shoe. “Tell her we’ll bring her pound cake over there once it cools off.”

“Yes, Ma’am,” he says, running toward the front of the house with the foil-covered plate guiding the way.

Daddy slides up next to Mama, patting her on her backside and kissing her on the neck as he slides a rib from the pan.

“I see you, Boy! You ain’t slick!” She giggles as she shoos him away from her unblessed food.

“I love yo’ cookin’, Baby! I can’t help it,” he says as he two steps back to his lawn chair to hold court in the middle of the yard.

“I got three and a possible!” sounds from the card table in the shade. “Y’all ain’t ready for us!”

“Whachu think this is? I’m gon’ whoop yo’ ass in Spades, and if you act right, I’m gon’ whoop yo’ ass in some Dominos, too!”

“Daaaammmnnn!” The we-got-next-ers croon into their fists.

In anticipation of the chorus, the yard slides into quiet with only the clink of hair beads, the slapping of cards on the table, and the bounce of the basketball in the alley supporting the backdrop of the music.

Diamond in the back
Sunroof top
Diggin’ the scene
With a gangsta lean

And backyard choir sings.




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