Sweeping the Yard
My father’s family lived in the Deep South … a rural southeastern Alabama farming, cattle raising, sawmill running family. His mother was a tiny little thing that I barely remember. She was dark-skinned, black hair and brown eyes that ran true through most of his siblings and many of us grandchildren. No one really talked about our heritage, but according to Aunt Laura who ran the family with an iron fist and my grandmother’s older sister, they were French Indian. Their surname, Bodiford, was not a common one then or now, but my father’s surname Fuller is wide-spread in the US as it was in England and Wales before my ancestors found their way to the states.
I was maybe 5 years old when my grandmother died, but I do remember her morning ritual of sweeping the yard. The side and back yard as well as the yards of various outbuildings were hard packed sand free of any vegetation. She used a fat straw broom that was hand-tied without a handle. There were several of these brooms inside and each had different uses. The outside broom was kept by the kitchen door but never used for anything other than sweeping the yard. We always had one of these brooms in our home and I loved using it to sweep when I was given that job.
She used a side sweeping flicking motion as she worked through the yards. I watched her as she worked sitting on the cement steps of the kitchen door then moving round the house with her as she continued sweeping and creating distinctive patterns in the sand. She sang as she swept, but I have no recollection of the words. I do know that the patterns were important and somehow necessary to be done early each morning and I was warned with an ass beating not to disturb the sand and the patterns she swept into them.
Being a half-wild Texas child, I ran barefoot most days in the summer. However, when we visited the family in Alabama I was not allowed to remove my shoes inside or out. When I asked my father why I couldn’t run through the sand and squish my toes in the dirt the only answer with no explanation was, “I would get the itch!” … whatever that was.
I wish I had been older when I watched my grandmother sweep those intricate patterns in the sand and questioned her about not only the patterns but the song she sang while sweeping. I have done brief internet searches about yard sweeping in the south and not come up with anything close to what she did each morning. One explanation was to look for traces of snakes in the sand and then sweep the yard clean for the day. Another was based on African American lore that was spiritually based to prepare the outdoor area each morning for family use. Neither seemed to fit what my memories of my tiny grandmother doing each summer morning while we visited.
So many unanswered questions. So much to learn about the past and family traditions. No one left to lead me in the direction of why my grandmother swept the yard each morning and the significance of those intricate patterns she created each day.
Copyright © 2016 Annie Original NonFiction
Always…I wish you peace, joy and happiness, but most of all I wish you Love.
As Ever, Annie