Freefall Home

It was a long time ago in the 1950s, and I was visiting Great-Grandma in Freefall. I watched her peel and slice apples. I must have been pretty small; I stood on a stool to see what she was making. She nodded at me; her eyes were quick behind the thick lenses of her glasses. Grandma rolled out dough, filled it with apples, and put it in the oven to bake. Then I went out back on the porch to watch an orange-black garden spider, her web a zigzag of silk, right above my head. Having Webb for a last name gave me more reasons to notice spiders. My legs were long and thin, and the cousins called me Spider Web. I imagined myself a spider sitting in my parlor awaiting visitors.

In the little town, Freefall, on the edge of the reservation, laughter comes in handy.

Every Sunday mom and dad took me to my great grandparents house. Understand, I was an only child until I was 10 years-old and I loved being in a house filled with relatives. It meant cousins to play with. The uncles talked politics shouting out their rock bottom opinions, while the Aunties gossiped and the kids played together like a pack of wild pups.

Since Great Grandma and Grandpa and dad and I, and all of the aunties and uncles and cousins, were all Indians, I thought it was rather funny that the black and white movies on television showed Indians sitting on horses at the rise of a hill, with their faces painted and living in tipis. All of the Indians we knew drove cars and lived in houses, like we did.

A sweetness of cinnamon and steaming apples brought the uncles into the kitchen. “Grandma’s making apple pie.” Somebody said. I’d never tasted apple pie, but felt positive it would be the best dessert ever.

A few minutes later more relatives arrived. Nobody ever went away without eating. The aunties, apron-bound, brought out platters of fried chicken, biscuits crusty on the outside and soft inside and broiled cracked corn, and everyone gathered around the big table. So much food was pushed onto my plate. Afternoon sun poured through the window onto the table. Tiny dust particles were floating in the sunlight.

“Child, you eat like a bird.” Grandma said. “If you don’t eat more than that you’ll never get fat.” My older, round-faced cousins always cleaned their plates. My family thought it was necessary to eat lots of food to grow up the right way. But I couldn’t eat more, so I plainly could never hope to be normal and healthy.

Finally the pies were brought out.

“There won’t be enough pie to go around.” Someone hollered. I smelled sweet, browned piecrust. My heart pounded. I wondered since I hadn’t eaten very much, if I would get a smaller piece. A clatter of plates was passed, with a bunch of forks, sugar and cream stirred into coffee. I grabbed my napkin by two corners and shook it out onto my lap and sat on the edge of my chair, my back bony, my elbows sharp, waiting. The little dust particles swirled wildly.

Before anyone else, Grandma, all smiles, lifted a large triangle sized piece of apple pie onto my plate, I took a bite, tasted its warm crusty apple goodness, and I felt lucky and special.

First published at Freefall Home.
Reprinted in Wordcraft Circle of Native Writers and Storytellers, Native Realities.