I answered the door to let my grandparents inside, and Granddaddy said, "These are the longest days." It was a strange, yet not unexpected greeting. My retired County Agent grandfather measured life by crop schedules. “Hey honey” Grandmother added as they both hugged my neck. I took the paper bag of corn and a basket of tomatoes from granddaddy as grandmother carried a stainless cake carrier to the kitchen.
He was right. The third week of June felt like summer but was technically still spring. You could call it late spring, early summer, baseball season or hurricane season, but to a farmer, it was time for corn and tomatoes. Watermelon and okra were just around the corner.
Longer days meant more time to plant or harvest. He laughed when I asked why he didn’t buy land in Destin, just south of his house, when it was dirt cheap. “Sand’s too hot to grow anything,” he said. If only he’d thought about growing condominiums.
I was home from college for the summer and my grandparents had come to visit for the day and go out on the boat. We’d swim and eat sandwiches, and of course, fish. Daddy anchored on our favorite barrier island that had little scrub oaks for rare shade in the middle of the Santa Rosa Sound. Grandmother waded near the shore while we swam. She wore long polyester shorts with a matching top, usually pink, and granddaddy wore his swimsuit pulled way up over his waist.
Back at the house, we’d boil the corn and fry the fish. There was no doubt we’d have fish because Daddy rarely came home empty-handed. Salt water was his happy place, and the garden was my granddad’s. The two blended to form perfect June days.
There was plenty of time for my grandparents to make it home before dark. After all, the days were long. No matter how tired or sunburnt we were, there was never any question that we wouldn’t go to church the next morning. That’s how people along the Gulf Coast lived. Beach, fish, family, and church, with a menu taken from the garden and Gulf. They were the longest days of the year.
But not long enough.