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Sandra Seaton ~ Home

Sunday din­ner in Columbia, Tennessee: fried chick­en, mixed greens— turnips, mus­tard, and spinach, pan-fried corn, twice milked then stirred with flour and water, can­died sweets, chow chow; plates of sliced toma­toes, onions, and cukes, fresh-picked that day from the gar­den around the side of the house. Only four or five years old, I still remem­ber my Aunt Gladys, Superintendent of the Sunday School, going out in the back­yard, non­cha­lant­ly grab­bing a chick­en by the neck, and eas­i­ly send­ing it to heav­en. Years lat­er she told me about the first time she had tried to cook chick­en. It was a stew. She was sev­en. As soon as she brought it inside, she had plunged the chick­en into a pot of hot water, feath­ers, innards and all only to hear my grand­moth­er yell, “Gladys, where’s that nasty smell com­ing from?” 

Our house was in town, but we didn’t have indoor plumb­ing when I was a lit­tle girl. None of that seemed to mat­ter. Sitting next to my grand­moth­er, lis­ten­ing to her recite Paul Laurence Dunbar then mem­o­riz­ing a poem that I would prac­tice for her, over and over again until a vis­i­tor stopped by and polite­ly lis­tened to me. Those words won’t go away. In the win­ter, the smell of kin­dling when I opened the wood stove would fill the house. My job was rolling up pieces of news­pa­per and stuff­ing them down the open­ing at the top. As soon as the paper caught fire, I would quick­ly close the stove and go back to the chair next to my grand­moth­er. I still have a can­dy box with her comb, hair pins, and glass­es. In a larg­er box, I have a pair of her Daniel Green Comfies and a fad­ed flan­nel night­gown. If I close my eyes, I can still see them, my Aunt Gladys, my grand­moth­er and a few friends, sit­ting near the fire after Sunday din­ner at our house. 

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Sandra Seaton is a play­wright and libret­tist. In January 2020, the opera Night Trip, her new com­mis­sion with com­pos­er Carlos Simon, will pre­mière at the Kennedy Center. Her oth­er works include From the Diary of Sally Hemings, her col­lab­o­ra­tion with com­pos­er William Bolcom and her plays The Bridge PartyMusic History or A Play About Greeks And SNCC in 1963Estate Sale and her Civil War play The Will