The “Morning Table” in my home appears to be ordinary furniture. It is a small round table that sits on a lyre pedestal. The morning table is positioned by a window and holds things I need to write, books I am reading , a lamp and a coffee cup. I watch the light change at the morning table, while Cash and Christopher Robin sleep close by. I write what is laid on my heart at this little second-hand table. The morning table is like an old friend that knows your dreams and keeps your secrets.
I have had the habit of writing for a very long time. I have journals of letters written to each of my children as they were growing up-and with five children, that is a lot of writing. I can only write truth, I have learned-and I can only write what I find ” good”. In this way, I have ended up with a collection of little celebrations and records of things that I love. I find myself looking, at any given moment for things to add to my accounts-and I have found this a good practice. It seems we often find what we are looking for, I think, so it may as well be something pleasant.
I have learned to find great delight in kind words, sometimes spoken by strangers as well as the cheerful boasting of a mockingbird singing in June. I love the hushed sound of children playing in the snow-well, I just love snow altogether, it falls so seldom at the rabbit patch. I love the smell of woodsmoke in October. I love rain and Thanksgiving. I really love the Christmas season-even wrapping the presents. I love the sky at all times and I love poetry. I love a lot of things and I am always realising more beautiful things to love –out of habit.
The night was foggy when I went out tonight. I could see but a few stars. The night choir did not offer a song and the air had not the slightest motion. Now, I know there is a beauty in silent stillness. There was more life in those moments than I had expected and I will remember that too, as part of my collection.
Living on the rabbit patch has humbled me with its’ extraordinary simplicity. I do not have to live in a frantic state for I have seen the Hand of the artist, and It never rests or ceases in generosity. The “morning table” is the place I remember these things . It is from the “morning table” that I send my love letters out for the world-my account of things I find “good.”
The rabbit patch in August, is not as tidy as it was in July. Grass grows unhindered where it ought not to-and the garden is almost abandoned. Vegetables are in the pantry now or packaged up in the freezer. There are no sightings of bunnies in the evenings and the nests of the summer birds are filling up with leaves. The songs of the night are hushed-and last night, I smelled the corn drying in the heavy air.
If summer was a book, August would be the last chapter-the one read hurriedly, the conclusion of all that happened before it-But August has a story, all its’ own and it is a story worth telling. There is too much to do and see in August, than to just spend it waiting for pumpkins. There are the morning glory flowers, after all. They are a cheerful lot-especially if they are the blue variety. Many consider them as lowly as violets, but I love violets too. When the yellow butterflies of August flutter around a morning glory vine, it is an affair to notice. Morning glory, true to its’ name, makes a “big production” of the morning time and it is over by noon. The butterfly knows this and heeds the morning light as an invitation to attend,with great haste. The other flowers in the rabbit patch do not impose such consequences-and the butterfly knows this too.
The “Quiet Garden” in August, is going slowly about its’ business these days. New roses are more seldom now and there are barely enough of them to fill a vase these days, yet the serenity remains. The “Quiet Garden” is as steadfast as a sister.
The flowers in the rabbit patch bear certain colors at certain times. Now , the landscape is shades of purple, yellow and blue. The lantana sums it all up with its’ clusters of little flowers that are delightful combinations of these colors of August.
I went out last night, in to the heavy air of late summer. It was a still and moonless night. I smelled the corn drying in the fields . Just before the harvest, you can do so but only if the air hangs thick. The thought “dawned upon me” that I spend a good deal of time, in August, thinking about September. I so love the time when chrysanthemums and pumpkins are scattered over the rabbit patch. I love the world when you need a sweater in the morning and a light blanket at night. The next thing I know, I am thinking of the first soup I will make and the first fire Kyle will build in the wood heater -and then I am well on the way to Thanksgiving and lighting candles.
I must remember that August has a story to tell all its’ own. While the roses rest, sapphire blossoms are growing on vines. Evening comes a little quicker than it did in July, its’ heavy air filled with a soft melody and carrying the smell of corn in a field a mile away, ready for harvesting. Butterflies are on the wing like a silent commotion and make me remember that there is more to August, than just waiting for pumpkins.
School started back today for me. Soon bells will be ringing and children will be singing. There will be schedules and clocks for me-and Friday will not seem as ordinary as it was last week. The days have even cooled a bit as if nature itself is propelling me in to a higher gear.
As I was driving home today, I saw butterflies in shades of yellow, all along the drive . The sky was a very bright blue and provided a lovely contrast to the golden wings fluttering about. When I got home, there were all sorts of butterflies at the rabbit patch. I checked the ginger lilies again, but they show no sign of participating in August. I will hope that by September, they will have changed their mind.
I got in a mid-week visit with Jenny and Lyla. Mama cooked supper for all of us, the night before school started. It came about at the last minute, but you couldn’t tell as it was a wonderful meal that ended with “an apple roll” like my great-grandmother made. Recipes defy time, I realised. They are big pieces of a familys’ history-passed down like precious relics. Most often, they are served with a story. It has been about a hundred years ago, that Carrie Hodges, the belle of three counties, made her first apple roll, I bet. Six generations later, we are still talking about it around the supper table. That is something to consider.
After supper, Lyla wanted to go outside. She prefers birds and sticks over toys. She loves a swing, too. She and I sat together on the front porch and were quite content. Of course, I know a song about swings and I always sing it at such times. Lyla would clap her hands at the finale and give me the smile that melts my heart. It was her way of saying “thank you”, I thought. It sure was a pleasant way to spend a Wednesday evening and I imagine that grandmothers have been doing this same thing for as long as they have been making apple rolls.
We are surely in the twilight of the summer season. Colors are changing in the rabbit patch. The fireflies left a while ago and the “autumn joy” flowers that Miss Susie gave me a few years back are full of blossoms. The apples are gone from my trees, and the grapes are turning dark purple by the moment. It will be just a little while, before a ripe garden tomato is hard to find. The rabbit patch does not consult a calendar on when to herald in a new season and I am not inclined to do so either. Summer may meander , for all I know. . .and the ginger lilies may bloom after all.
Yesterday was an especially beautiful day at the rabbit patch. I spent most of the day outside mowing, so I saw the bright and clear sky and I felt the slight coolness in the air. Dry leaves are starting to fall and float so gracefully in the breeze and late summer flowers are blooming. I saw the springs’ bunnies, now agile young rabbits and I listened to secrets-told by the trees.
Seasons do not come and go with mystery. They do not sneak up on you with surprise but instead give long farewells, Summer is doing that now. The loosetrife is coming in to its’ glory. The pale lavender spikes remind me of watercolors while the rudbeckia blossoms are so bright they seem to make noise. The ageratum seems shy now. I found more of it yesterday, hiding out by the proud rose-of -sharons.
The grass grows as it always does. It matters little that school has started, to the green grass of the rabbit patch. It grows fiercely til the frost comes, sometime in mid October.
The trees are just beginning to drop leaves now. Yellow leaves were floating here and there yesterday. They float with such grace until they find their destiny. It is like a ballet in the air and it is beautiful to watch. A tree will tell you secrets of the spring at this time. Nests built with diligence in April are showing up now. They are quiet places and filled with all sorts of litter. I saw one yesterday with a single leaf in it and it seemed like an abandoned house to me. I wondered who had lived there and where did they go? As I saw another one and then one more, I started to feel lonely! The song of birds no longer wake me up, I realised suddenly. When did the morning get quiet at the rabbit patch, I wondered.
When I mowed by the pecan trees, I saw they were bare. Pecan trees are like that. They are apt to take a rest ever so often. They are doing so this year. I don’t blame them a bit, though Kyle will be disappointed. He picks up pecans in the fall and sells them. It is hard work to pick up pecans -and it is slow work .
When I got to the grapevines yesterday, I noticed some of the grapes had ripened. It is a habit of country dwellers to pick a few while mowing. It may seem an odd practice, but everybody I know does it. I will not need a basket anytime soon,but it is good to know that at some point I will. When the grapes ripen, the air smells as sweet as it ever does.
I have spent many childhood summers under a grapevine. The shade of a grapevine is the coolest I know of. The branches hang low in summer and creates a playhouse or a fort ,if needed. Delores and I preferred a playhouse. We took benches from a picnic table, tea sets and dolls and set up housekeeping. We invented dramas that lasted for days. If one doll got sick, another would soon after. When the dolls were naughty, we blamed each other for not tending to them properly. Our dolls made good grades in school, won contests and said their prayers. Delores and I “cooked” leaves and sticks and served mudcakes decorated with small rocks. It was not unusual to remember a doll that had been left, and had to be rescued at late hours. We were sure they were scared or in some great danger and would convince mama of this as well. Those were sweet times and I remember them with great fondness every time I mow around a grapevine.
I am cooking Sunday Dinner now, but it is a slow cooked meal, and I have been able to linger around the “morning table” because of that. I plan to serve the cake while it is still warm, because mama and daddy liked it like that last week. Cash and Christopher Robin are sleeping by the window fan while I write. Jenny and Lyla are coming this week-so I am content beyond measure.
Tonight when I go out and stand under the last moon of summer, I will announce my gratitude-for I have seen a mid-air ballet, a world adorned with flowers and I have listened to secrets told to me by trees. It has been been a lovely time. . . and it all happened at the rabbit patch, in the last few days.
School started officially, for me today. I no longer linger at the “morning table” drinking coffee for as long as I please and watching the light change. As much as I love to rise early-it takes a while for me to “shine”. I especially do not like to rush in the mornings, so I plan accordingly, the night before to avoid any ruckus at the start of the day.
I like to get to work early, and I did so today. I have a beautiful drive to work down country roads and I take note of things-like the horses grazing in quiet pastures. I look at the large expanse of sky over the fields. I love the slanted shadows of the first part of the day. Morning is a beautiful time. I always “hope for the best” in the morning.
I am homesick for the rabbit patch, when school starts back. The sentimental Irish in me shows up every year and I wonder all sorts of things. I think about Christopher Robin, and Cash if he’s not with me. I think about Jenny and Lyla-and they just seem further away. I look forward to supper and comfortable “house clothes” in the evening. For a while, I feel like I am missing something that is very important. When the children come back to school, things turn around, or else I would surely be the first person to perish from “homesickness” just fifteen minutes from the house.
When my children were young, I heard a little boy play a violin in Church. He was a tiny , cute little boy and it was just adorable. I asked his mama casually, after church where he learned to play. She told me about a method of music instruction in Greenville, a larger town, with a university, just thirty minutes away. The method was intended for very young children and was called “Suzuki” as the Japanese founder was Dr. Suzuki. I loved music and played guitar a little. I was “home-schooling”, which in the early eighties, was considered radical-but it meant I had the time for Brant to have instruction. This method relies heavily on parents learning to play too-and so I did. I will not go in to all of the details, but I fell in love. Now, I teach over two hundred children, at our school.
I never planned on any of this. When my husband, died over a decade ago, I quit teaching privately and went to work at the school. As it turns out, the violin has fed my children and provided shelter, too, ever since. Looking back, it seems like a beautiful plan unfolded-in a divine fashion. I did not “make water come out of that rock.”
It is for this reason that I set a clock for early these days. When I was young, the adults used to wake us kids up with the words”rise and shine!” Their voices were always cheerful and sometimes mama would sing a “good morning to you” song, as well, with her clear soprano voice. It was always impossible for us kids to get up before the adults when I was growing up. Pop got up at all hours during the night, when he was “curing tobacco, so he could check on the barns, but he was up before me anyway. I remember waking up to the smell of coffee and bacon on dark winter mornings and hearing “rise and shine” ringing through out that little farmhouse. The little room I slept in was right off the kitchen and the heavy quilts that kept me warm, were the same ones that kept my mama warm, when she was a girl.
This happened a long time ago, but I can still clearly remember the voicesthat woke me with song and inspiration. . So I drive past the quiet pastures with horses grazing- and past the fields while the light is changing – with my old violin and some ” rabbit patch shine”. . . and I hear my mama singing “this is the way to start a new day”.
Tonight I will wish on the last moon of the summer. Already, I have seen dry leaves scattered about the rabbit patch. The corn is turning light brown in the fields and the nests built in the spring are no longer tended, but instead are silent trinkets of the spring.
Today was one of the last days of the summer holiday. I spent the afternoon at my parents. My sister, Delores was down from Raleigh. We did not sit in the shade together on this day. It was just too hot. Maybe the only thing that I will not miss about summer is the hateful heat that is conjured up. We managed to have a good visit right there in the den, anyway.
I left just in time to fix supper . Already the ageratum is starting to bloom, I noticed. The rabbit patch is full of the sky blue, little flowers. Like violets in the spring, you are liable to find ageratum anywhere on the rabbit patch. When paired with the bright yellow rudbekia, you have a striking picture of late summer. I am fond of flowers that aren’t so organized in appearance-blossoms that happen along the picket fence or at the edge of the woods, lend such grace to territory.
Cash and Christopher Robin know something is up. They have watched me going through the farmhouse, cleaning and yet, no company in sight! They have watched me gather things in piles and load the car up. Cash wants to get in the car everytime. He does go to school with me a lot throughout the year. Our school is very pet friendly. Christopher Robin is nervous about the whole affair. He was content with the way things were and that makes good sense as he spent most of the summer sleeping in front of the window fan in a house without clocks.
I remember starting school when I was young. The first year was very hard on me. Right off the bat, I was put in a “low” class. I hadn’t any “formal” training -no preschool, no kindergarten so I was bound to be “slow”. How could they know about the World Books in Pop and Grandmas’ book case? They were unaware that I could count eggs and money. They didn’t know that on Fridays I was very instrumental in every farm hand getting their fair share of wages as I helped out and learned how to write in the accounts book, even-all before school. I knew every nursery rhyme by heart and I knew what a cup of sugar was.
The teacher was sweet in the “low” class even when I took to “yelling out” answers. I remember that well. I knew about “raising your hand” and I was quick when she asked what letters were or she needed the answer to the simplest math equations. It seemed a big waste of time to me listening to the kids stumbling and guessing-so sometimes when it was unbearable-I yelled out the answer. I had to sit in the “lonesome chair” on several occasions . I felt like school was so different from real life and I missed the farm. I would look out the window while the class was trying to figure out what a “B was and how it related to ball” and would wonder if Pop was plowing. You couldn’t smell dirt in town. I wondered what grandma was cooking for dinner and how she was doing it without me. The food at school smelled peculiar and I hated when they had spanish rice. Once a girl threw up after eating it and I felt that proved my theory that we were eating “scraps”. . but they kept right on serving it. I did love the library. The librarian was a friend of grandmas’ and she was grouchy. She didn’t want to hear about the books you read. She acted like every book was hers’ and you were LUCKY she let you borrow one. If a book came back damaged, I felt sure she would call the police. I told grandma that her friend was hateful and she laughed. In a few short weeks, I got moved to the “high” class. The teacher asked me if I wanted to go to the library on an extra trip and I was thrilled. When it was over, I was told I wouldn’t be going back to “my class” but would stay with this new class. It was the first time in all of my life that I felt betrayed. I did love the children and the library-and the “government” said I had to be there, so I made the best of it.
Delores waited for the schoolbus faithfully in the afternoons. Sometimes, she had a pony saddled with her, ready for me. I can see her clearly -my beautiful little sister smiling at my return with her “present” for me. She is still like that today, She always has a present of some sort when I see her.
When I stand in the shine of the last moon of summer, I remember such things. The summer has been full of good things for me-it always has been.
Thoughts and memories change with seasons, at least mine do. I do not think of the same things nor dream the same way through out the year. This is especially true for those country dwellers who tend gardens and burn wood. People like me that live in old houses with massive yards full of old trees watch the seasons change with a keen awareness of the slightest changes- told to us by nature.
In late summer, I take stock of the woodpile. We hardly ever build a fire til the latter part of October, at the earliest,- still, it is good to know where you stand on the matter, in late summer. I look at the “burnpile” at the back of the rabbit patch. A burnpile is a collection of debris collected in summer storms, to be burned on an early autumn evening when rabbits aren’t raising bunnies. For some reason rabbits love to set up housekeeping in a burnpile. Usually, I invite company when we burn as extra hands help tend the fire-and we all enjoy it.
Barns get cleaned out in late summer. I helped Jo Dee clean out one yesterday. Jo Dee is a “barn-keeper” of this shed. She uses the little barn, but does not own it. We cleaned it out yesterday-for almost twelve hours . The heat was about unbearable. I reckon it is safe to say that our friendship is solid as we survived the weary work without a cross word spoken. It was a testament of authentic friendship and I cooked Sunday dinner in bedroom shoes today, because of it. Believe me when I say that Jo Dee is as deserving as anybody I know, and has carried me when “I had barns that needed cleaning”.
It is hard to think of sweaters and gloves in the August heat. I always go through the closet and make sure that things are in order. There is nothing trendy hanging on racks to improve my image, so style is not the determining factor in the contents of my discard pile. I remember my parents taking us to buy “school” clothes, when I was little. These clothes were for school only and we changed quickly when we got home from school, into “play” clothes. I never liked the shopping day. Daddy went and picked out the sturdiest pair of shoes in the store for me. They were always brown and looked like boys’ shoes to me. I couldn’t wear those shoes out . They lasted through all sorts of inclement weather. My feet were warm and dry in those ugly shoes, without fail. When I grew up, my mom told me a story that changed my heart towards those little brown shoes that I got every year. Daddy grew up poor. He was raised nobly, but without money. He had to walk several miles to and from school on dirt roads. He had one pair of shoes. To make them last, he carried those shoes on the walks back and forth. He put them on just before he got to school. Daddy cared about my feet and wanted me to have the best shoes sold-and it wasn’t his fault that they were always brown. I remember this story in late summer with a sense gratitude for having a father that showed his love in buying little brown shoes in late summers, long ago.
Today, at Sunday Dinner, I realised who I was dining with all over again. My car is twenty years old and my winter coat is second hand- and it is not going in the discard pile-but, I was born from nobility. My mom told me this, when I could understand it, in her wisdom , that my daddy loved even the feet of his child.
When the first of the dry leaves begin to fall and tiny pumpkins grow on vines,- it is the time to clean barns and watch sunflowers bloom . . . and it is also a time I am glad to remember those little brown shoes.
I finally found a reason to set a clock at the rabbit patch. I had heard a lot of talk about the Perseid Meteor shower lately and I was determined not to miss the time when stars fly over the home, I call the rabbit patch.
Yesterday, morning clouds did not cover the rabbit patch-it was hot right off the bat. When the dew dried, I started mowing. I was able to think my thoughts and still avoided the fish pond. I saw the “magic lily” yesterday. This lily gives no sign it is there, but instead, one night it grows about two feet and blooms! It has been here longer than I have, but it surprises me every year. It is the lovliest shade of a very pale pink and the flowers are quite large on the sturdy stalk. Wordsworth would say it is as “fair as a star, when only one is shining in the sky.”-and he would be right.
Shades of purple can be found about the rabbit patch, too. The rose of sharons do not falter in the heat of August. They are loaded with blooms that show up purple and turn all shades of blue in a few short days. It is a splendid combination of color. When I see them, I remember my Aunt Carolyn. I can see her, so carefully gathering the seeds and storing them in mason jars for me. To think, I tossed them carelessly in a pot without so much as a prayer. I don’t even remember watering them. I was painting the kitchen and setting up housekeeping when she gave them to me. They lived in the pot for two years before I got around to planting them. Apparently, the rose of Sharon does not keep a ” record of wrongs” , though I feel sorry every time I see them- and I miss my Aunt Carolyn…
When I finished mowing, I started on housework. A fair amount of the rabbit patch soil always ends up on the floors of the farmhouse. Company was coming and supper had to be cooked too. When I started frying chicken, I realised I was tired and hoped I would make it to the meteor shower.
Meteor showers do not ever come at convenient hours. This one was supposed to be at its’ peak between two am and dawn. I decided to get some rest and set a clock just in case. I have watched meteor showers for a long time. When my children were little, we would go to bed early and then go out at the oddest hours for the skys’ light show. I would lay thick quilts in open spaces. We carried pillows and flashlights and set up camp. My grandmother joined us one night. That was a night to remember. She did things like that. Once, she went with us on a long walk through the woods. We came to an old fence that day. The kids went over it like little deer. I waited and wondered what to do, but when I turned to ask, grandmama was climbing over the fence! She was seventy five years old . In her last years, she lived at the rabbit patch. At ninety two, she raked the yard, swept the many floors of the farmhouse daily and made up the beds.
I never did fall soundly asleep, last night. I went out just after midnight with Christian. Stars were starting to fly then. We took a break and I returned with Cash after two. It was as clear a night as I have ever seen. For the second time this summer, I saw the milky way. The feathery blooms of the mimosa tree were sweetening up the night air and stars were flying every minute. I couldn’t even make wishes, because words had left me. I watched the fire in the sky in a state of wonder. Some flew faint and fleeting. Others lit the sky briefly and had flashy tails. I don’t know what time I went in, I just knew that I felt safe and content when I did.
This morning, I am remembering yesterday with the sighting of the lily-and the bushes full of blooms that grew from forgotten seeds. I saw the time when stars fly -and it is with great certainity that I can say wholeheartedly- I believe in magic. . . for I have seen it and know that is real.
In August, days at the rabbit patch begin with morning clouds. The clouds seem to alter time, all because they alter light. Fog seems to whisper “good morning” tenderly. As a child, I rushed outside , when fog covered the farm. I wanted to ” play in a cloud”. I knew that farm like the back of my hand, but the mist of a foggy morning made it mysterious and unfamiliar-and I liked that. Now -a-days, I am apt to drink more coffee and take my own sweet time about doing things when the rabbit patch is covered with fog. The morning clouds make me quiet. It is a good time to write by the soft light on the morning table.
The mower is high and dry at last. After Sunday Dinner, Daddy was determined to get it out of the fish pond. Kyle and Christian were coming home later but I couldn’t convince Daddy to wait on that. I never have had much luck at “convincing” him of anything. The grass could stand to be mowed again anyway, I noticed yesterday. I also noticed the ginger lilies. They show no sign of blooming this year. It is a shame as they are one of the best things about August. Their flowers are far from spectacular, but their scent is divine. When they bloom, the neighbors know about it.
I almost set the clocks yesterday at the rabbit patch. I have been working the last few days at school but without a schedule as I don’t have to officially be there til the 18th. I decided against it and left batteries off the shopping list I had given Kyle. When I was young, the school calendar was set around the crops. If the crops were late, then so was school. Either way, we never started school til after labor day. I spent the late days of a summer in the packhouse barn. The barn was full of dried tobacco. To this day I love the smell of tobacco drying. My mama would work all day taking the tobacco off the sticks it had been “cured” on. Grandmama and an old lady named Ida, graded the leaves and sorted them in piles to be packed and taken to the warehouse. I learned nursery rhymes and songs in the packhouse. I guess in a way I was “raised in a barn”.
When folks started grading tobacco, school was about to start. My older cousins were in school a while before me. I wanted to wait for the bus with them-and I wanted to hold Chuck’s lunchbox while we waited. Chuck did not want to be seen waiting for the bus with a little girl-and he did not want me to touch that lunchbox. His mama, my Aunt Josie made him give it to me anyway. When the bus came around the curve, he would snatch it fast and run. I learned to let go quickly. Chris, Chuck’s younger brother , had a new bike and he always showed it off to the school bound children on that bus. Chuck had “school clothes” too and they sure didn’t look like what we were wearing. Chuck wore sweaters that matched his pants. His hair was combed and he carried a book sack. I have never forgotten the day, that Chuck did not get off the school bus. This was way before cell phones and security cameras. Chuck was lost! There was panic on that farm, when the bus rolled by and he didn’t get off of it . The adults were scared and started rushing in all directions. The kids were told to sit quietly-and we did in great fear that Chuck and all his accessories were gone forever. I don’t remember any details about who found Chuck. All I know is he had started walking home and showed up at suppertime. Chris and I decided we were never going to school! It seemed very unreliable.
Last night, when I went out, a fingernail moon was shining a faint light on the rabbit patch. The air was hazy and thick. I saw Venus shining all alone and doing what it could to help the moon out. Just that bit of light made a difference to me. I thought about that again this morning when the blanket of fog was covering up the sun. I saw that the morning glory vine had flowers, when I went to the car. Morning glory has been a long time favorite of mine since I was young. Farmers do not like them, as they get all tangled up on the tractors. I have some that grow as they please on the rabbit patch and they show up cheerfully in the morning clouds of August.
Sometime, I may need to remember that just a little bit of moonlight, a single star shining and morning glory blooming are all it takes to light a path. A little light makes a big difference and I will carry it with me -when I leave the rabbit patch and the world is mysterious and unfamiliar – and is covered with morning clouds.
Saturday was a pleasant time, all day long. A lot of things happened and they were all good. I spent the day with some of my dearest friends-and our mouths were filled with laughter, for the better part of the day.
Jo Dee and I rode to the village of Bath. Bath is the oldest town in North Carolina. It is on the Pamlico river and it looks like a vintage postcard. It is quaint and charming-and full of lovely people-one of them is Janet.
Janet is loved by everybody-especially Jo Dee and I. Janet has a new house on a little creek in Bath. She and her husband designed it-and I think the creek is glad about it. The house makes you think that it has been there all along. I have known Janet a very long time. Whatever house she has lived in seems to fall under her spell. I named this newest one , the “enchanted cottage” while her husband was building it-and after seeing it, I wasn’t far off. Jo Dee and I stopped by that Saturday morning to see Janet’s house. We were just getting started on our tour when another friend, Rae called to say she was on the way. Rae was there, by the time the coffee was ready. Jo Dee, Rae and I agreed that Janet’s house belonged in a magazine over breakfast. We went out back to enjoy the morning. There were three boys in a small boat pulling crab pots up in the creek. They looked to be around twelve . I felt like I was looking at a painting.
Another lovely person in Bath, is Jo Dee’s mom, our “Miss Alethia”. She too is well known in Bath. She has a “Christmas Shop” called the “Pirate’s Chest”. I think having a Christmas Shop, must be one of the best jobs in the world. She makes a lot of the ornaments herself. There are Christmas books, old fashioned toys and wreaths. She has wind chimes, soaps and jewelry-she has a lot of beautiful things. Everyone is happy in a Christmas Shop. I bought Lyla a book. I saw some crocheted items and was rummaging through them. I found a potholder that would be perfect for Janet’s kitchen and showed it to Rae. Rae said “What is that?” I looked at her in disbelief and started laughing til I had tears! Rae is highly intelligent, creative and one of the most loving people I have ever known. Rae eats ice cream for meals. She does not cook-and not knowing what a potholder was is proof of that. I may have laughed too long because then Rae said “I KNOW what it is! You wash dishes with it!” This tickled me to no end and almost caused a commotion in that dear shop. When we were leaving , Rae said she was going to start a blog and write a story about me, and say I was mean. If she does, I will learn how to “link” at last.
We got to meet Jo Dee’s sister, Tina and her son Jacob. They were visiting Miss Alethia. We have heard about them for so long, we felt like we knew them. They are every bit as delightful as Jo Dee had said.
On the way back, we stopped to get ice cream. We stopped at a little store Janet knew about. The lady that worked there was grumpy-Rae asked for a flavor that wasn’t available and that seemed to start things out wrong. The lady asked “Do you see that? You get what you see!” Rae was so gracious and ordered peach instead, so did Jo Dee and Janet. I took a big chance and ordered chocolate. I have never met a grumpy ice cream lady. We got our ice cream and thanked the lady and wished her well-then broke out of there. We made a pact not to hold it against her and vowed to come back with our best manners, as we ate the high quality ice cream.
I got back to the rabbit patch as night was falling. The mower was still in the fish pond-and the farm house seemed older than ever after Janet’s beautiful home on the creek. I sat for a while and planned “Sunday Dinner”. I went out later to say good night. The absence of the moon made the rabbit patch seem like a mystery all over again. There wasn’t even a star to wish on. The night choir was singing and I could smell the yellow rose bush. I had thoughts of gratitude for Miss Alethia and her Christmas Shop and even the grumpy lady that sold ice cream. I thought of my friends. I did not realise many years ago when I met them that I was gathering pearls. They are as tender as kittens or as mighty as warriors depending on my needs. They are constant. They are wise and silly. They read my rabbit patch diary and clap their hands . They are my “steel magnolias”. On this day, as many others, our mouths were filled with laughter, as the Psalmist wrote. I thought of this as I made my way through the “pitch dark night” back to the farmhouse, no longer caring, that there wasn’t a star to wish on.
It is almost time to set the clocks at the rabbit patch. The last week of the summer holiday starts tomorrow. I have been attending to the last minute details of the rabbit patch with great fervor. The sycamores have started dropping the first of their massive leaves-and a garden spider is spinning a web beneath the eaves of the farmhouse.
There isn’t time to plan a trip to Wilmington but I do hope to go to Elizabeth City for at least a day. I must make peace with clocks this week. . .and buy batteries.
I like for the entire rabbit patch to be in good order before I go back to work. It is a ritual I have observed for the decade that I have lived here. The lawn mower has worked on and off the whole summer-I have kept my dad busy. I also broke a rule and borrowed my neighbors’ while mine was being repaired. I tore his up too that very day. When you have a four acre yard, a lawn mower is a little tractor and it is a terrible event to get behind on mowing. The grass shows no mercy for your predicament and grows tall and thick quickly. Then you must mow slowly- and for most of the day. It is likely when you do mow that something will be in the grass, that ought not to. That is another problem.
Last week, the mower ran out of gas about midway through the effort. I decided to take a ten minute break. The mower never runs out of gas near the house, so I lugged the gas can to the edge of the woods to fill it up. It wouldn’t start. Mechanics make no sense to me. The mower was dead and only clicked when I turned the key. I had been careful not to leave anything on so it was quite a mystery. I would have given it a jump with the car, but the car was being repaired for the second time of the summer, as well. Christian pushed the mower up to the house and under an old tree. The grass kept growing.
Christian can hear a song one time-and then play it , on several instruments-He does not do lawn mower repairs, excepting the most simple ones. He vows to learn more every time we are in that state of affairs-I vow to downsize.
Kyle came home and I told him, “we are selling this house!” He asked what was wrong with the lawn mower. He got it running yesterday so I mowed slowly and carefully, looking for whatever mischief the fairies had decided on this time. Mowing is a good time to think. The motor drowns out any chance of interruption. Sometimes I “write” while I mow. On this day, I remembered the summer.
I felt “homesick” for my oldest boys-and even the splashing fountain I had sat beside and watched the wild geese swim. The ancient oak that grows not far from Brant’s front door will have dropped its’ summer leaves by the time I see it again. I remembered the “Sunday Dinners” that had happened on any given day for a while-and I thought of strolling with Lyla by the laughing river on Tuesday mornings as long as we pleased. Well, I had worked myself into a sad condition. Cash bore witness to this, as he follows me all over the rabbit patch while I mow-from a safe distance.
I mowed thoroughly with great care, knowing in the weeks to come, I would mow with great haste. I mowed the little pasture and loved the old familiar smells the of the dog fennel and the “rabbit tobacco”. Finally, I got to the Quiet Garden. The coolness that August had brought, had done the roses some good. I noticed that and then in the back corner, I saw the black-eyed susans. They were blooming like their life depended on it, and there were so many of them-it looked like a sunrise . Some cone flowers joined them. It was a cheerful scene and I felt better at the sight of it. I did not plant either of them. I did not think they belonged in the roses-only Quiet Garden, but I was glad to find them. I admired them and felt grateful. . . and ran the mower right in the little fish pond while doing so. The front wheel dropped with a jar and broke the spell I was in. I have never done this before. The boys weren’t home. I cut the engine and tried my best to unlodge that wheel. It did not work. It is still sitting there this morning and I dread when the boys see it. They will wonder how this could have happened and asked what I was thinking. They will strain and grumble and tell me I need to be more careful etc. I will say we need to sell the house! They will repeat”what were you thinking?” several times.
I will not run on about me remembering the summer and all the things I will miss. I won’t say how much I dread relying on clocks in the too near future and was considering that. I will just say, that I had a “golden moment” when I saw the bright yellow flowers. . . and that as it turns out, it was just what I needed.
Once upon a time, a long time ago, I was born and I had a grandmother named Edna. She lived in a small house on a small farm-and she loved me very much. Today is her birthday.
In all of my first memories, Grandma is there, and wearing a ” house dress”. She is in the kitchen, the yard, or the “packhouse barn”-and always wearing a simple cotton dress. In those days that was the way.
I was the first girl grandchild and for a while, the only one that was with her. It was a grand position to be in. I come from “sensible folks” and no one was willing to “spoil me” -I remain thankful for that. It would not have served me well. I do know that from the beginning, I was loved by this grandmother in a way that I haven’t forgotten though she died just short of a half century ago.
There weren’t “playdates” back then-nor preschools and no one took lessons for anything , especially if you grew up on a farm. My childhood was spent with my people and I am not sorry for that. The farm was the only playground I knew of and cousins were the only friends. I did not even go to kindergarten, in fact, hardly anybody did.
I spent my days with grandma, “running the house”. Everybody else was out working on the farm. I counted eggs and knew early on how many went in an ordinary cake and how many went in a special one. I helped her make grocery lists for the A&P shopping. If I asked her questions, she sent me to the World Books. They were heavy for me, but I would lug them to the kitchen table. I really believe that is how I learned to read, because I don’t hardly remember not knowing how. Grandma was a collector of little glass figurines and had a book case full of them. When I learned how to be careful, she let me remove all of them and dust. She also had a button box with fancy buttons that I sorted and a box of old photographs. There was one relative that looked scary to me and she used to laugh about that. Most of these things happened on rainy days-if it was fair weather, I was outside.
I only remember getting in trouble a few times. I was a repeat offender about climbing on the packhouse. A packhouse was a huge barn used for dried tobacco , hay and corn to feed the animals-and also for storing furniture that wasn’t needed, but still fit for use just in case. They were two story with massive A-framed roofs. All the farms had one and they all looked the same. The roof made a wonderful slide and the pasture gate acted as a ladder to get there. The rust on my clothes acted as evidence of the crime. The view of how the fields layed out is still in my memory-it was beautiful.
My little sister was born, and my cousins from Kansas moved back to the farm. Aunt Josie had a baby. We all stayed with grandma. I remained devoted to helping grandma run that house. I rocked my little cousin, Carolyn for grandma. Carolyn was my living doll baby. I would swing her to sleep on the front porch and fuss with the others if they dared to play in the front yard while I was doing so.
After chores were done, we all played for hours uninterrupted. Grandma was a perfect grandmother for me though she broke rules as she saw fit. I ate candy just before supper if I needed too. She told me secrets about what I was getting for my birthdays-and she ruled us kids with fear. If you played in a ditch after a rain, you were liable to get the “ditch itch” which was a horrible disease, so we didn’t track mud from a ditch on her floor. The devil lived under the house-I never went there and if she needed, she would tell a story of a terrible fate that happened to a child breaking rules such as hers.
Grandma left us suddenly, when I was ten years old. It was the middle of the night and caused a big commotion on the farm. Aunt Agnes, her sister, came to get the kids and grandma went to the hospital. I knew she had died before I was told.
One thing I know, is that the power of love is mighty and does wonders for a child. Christian asked me a few years back if I still missed my grandma after decades-I just cried, and in that way he knew though I hadn’t spoken a word. I grew up with confidence that I was lovable. I knew how to learn and how to play. I knew I was needed and valuable to her and the world.
I make my journey looking out for ditches and cold dark spaces. . . and have mostly stayed off the top of barns. I make special cakes on occasion and Lyla loves a swing. In the beginning of my life, I knew a love that would span the decades-and that has made all the difference.