Seeds of wisdom bear fruit
By Angelina Bellebuono
For Annie Mae Chatman, growing watermelons this summer was as simple as putting out some seeds in the sunny spot behind her house in Madison, where flowers have prospered since she moved to the house in 1987.
"Flowers were raised there in that spot," Chatman says. "And I thought, if flowers grow, then I could plant food."
She looks at her daughter, Carole Binion, because she wants to be certain her observation makes sense.
Binion nods. "You're right," she tells her mother.
Binion and her mother are both proud of their small crop of watermelons, which sprouted and flourished after Chatman tossed some seeds she had saved into the bed in June.
"I just threw them out there," Chatman says, lifting her delicate arms in the air. Her hands, strong and weathered cut into the afternoon light.
Her shirtwaist dress, accented by a calico apron, hangs from her small frame, and when she rests her 92 year-old body on the rocks outlining the plant bed, she reaches down and nimbly adjusts the delicate lace of her slip, tucking it beneath the cotton hem of her dress.
"Everyday. Everyday," Binion says. "She dresses like this everyday."
Chatman explains that she added strips of fabric to her dress, length to the skirt, length to the sleeves.
She doesn't like short sleeves, she says.
But she does like her garden, teeming with watermelon vines climbing the metal cages and tendrils reaching past the confines of the rock border.
The two biggest melons, Binion says, look much like twins growing side by side.
A twin herself, Binion noticed the pair's close relationship immediately, and alerted her mother.
"Her granddaughter had twins," Binion explains, "and they were born just like these two watermelons -sitting up and looking straight at one another."
Chatman leans on Binion slightly as she climbs into the melon patch. She holds the vines up so the light shines down onto the fruit. She peers down at the still small melons that have securely fastened themselves to metal cage and seem to be growing straight up, into the daylight.
She poses for a photograph, face illuminated in the afternoon sun.
She reflects on her life.
"All it was was good," she says.
And the melons?
"Sweet as sugar," Binion says.