Everyone should have a place to go where they can be alone to ponder and sort things out, when burdened by problems of the day. As a child I had such a place I went there to find comfort after being punished, which was often or when I felt hurt or sad. When I wanted to get away from the world, my family in particular, I ran away from home I went straight to my special, secret, thinking place, my Jerusalem artichoke* patch.
When we lived in the Cannon house at 212 South Walker Street, in Marion, Kentucky, there was a big artichoke patch beside the wash house. Artichokes became a staple food in my playhouse. After I dug them, all I had to do was brush the dirt off with my hands or dress-tail and they were ready for the table. The patch was on an ash bank, which made it easy to pull up the young plants to clear an entry and a room in the middle of the patch, for my special thinking place.
The two years, 1930 and 31, that we lived in the Cannon house were sad and troublesome times for my family and frustrating for me. Two months before my tenth birthday, my sister, Willie died from complications of childbirth. Never before had there been a death in my family; therefore, I didn't know how to cope with death. Willie was my big sister and I loved her so very much. I spent a lot of time in my artichoke patch thinking about her and death. I just couldn't understand why I could never see her again.
When Willie was on her deathbed Mama promised that she would take care her children: Betty, age four, Dottie, two and Patty, the newborn. In retrospect, I'm sure it was a big adjustment for Mama and for me too. I had been the baby of our family for almost ten years. Then, overnight I became big sister to three little nieces.
As Mama was kept busy caring for my nieces, there was little time left for me. When I asked her to do something for me, she would say, "I don't have time now." or "Wait 'til later." Although I didn't feel deprived or unloved, I did have to learn to be independent and to take care of my own needs. I loved my nieces dearly and shared everything with them, except my artichoke patch, that was my special secret place and I shared it with no one except, Ras, my dog.
When I went to my artichoke patch I always took water in a little cruet-like vinegar bottle with a handle on it and a leftover biscuit. It was my pretending place, where I lived in Nova Scotia or sometimes Hollywood. I played with children who were famous movie stars, Shirley Temple, Mickey Rooney and the children of "Our Gang Comedies." It was a safe place, where Ras and I hid out from "Pretty Boy" Floyd and "Al" Capone, the notorious gangsters of that era. My artichoke patch was a wonderful pretending place.
Even today, there are times when I feel the need for a private place where I can go, to be alone, to ponder and sort things out. It is then that I yearn for the secret place of my childhood, my Jerusalem artichoke patch.
*Jerusalem artichokes are hardy course plants, which grow to be eight to ten feet tall and are cousins to sunflowers. They bloom all summer, have yellow blossoms and have edible tubers or roots, which are moist and crisp, somewhat like water chestnuts. The tubers can be eaten raw, used in salads, cooked like potatoes or pickled.