by David Cecelski
Last week we gathered next to the old millpond, on a little rise between the orchard and a field of purple clover. My cousin had been on the river the day before and came home with several bushels of oysters, probably the last we’ll have this winter. We stood around the fire, old men mostly, and opened the oysters as they came out of the smoke and steam.
I have known these men all my life. They knew my father before me and my grandfather before him. Some of them are my cousins, mostly descendents of my grandfather’s brothers and sisters. Others are neighbors and friends. When they were young, they all used to visit evenings at Mr. Lionel Connor’s store, like everybody did before the war. Now they’re in their eighties: bent and bowed, but full of wry good humor and cussedness.
That morning I had finished pruning our grapevine, so we talked about grapevines, tending them, and making wine. Scatter oyster shells around the base of the vine, they told me, when I asked about fertilizer. “That’s what the old people did.” Inspired by the warm weather, we talked about tilling our gardens and planting new fruit trees. The sun felt good on our faces and the oysters were salty and flavorful, the best that I have had all winter.