The sun has not risen over the barn just yet. At this particular moment, the first rays of light, make the barn look as holy as any church. As I predicted, the peach tree is full of tiny little pink promises, and a few of them have already opened. The peach blossoms are a very pale shade of pink. In full bloom, a peach tree is one of my favorite sights. Last year, the peach tree blossomed in full glory. It lasted all of a day, as an ice storm came that night. I vividly remember the burnt blossoms that seemed to turn to paper and were scattered like trash, with the first breeze. In July, two peaches were on the tree.
I have a huge pot of collards simmering already. I still need to make potato salad and cheese biscuits-enough for twenty people. Today is a “big day”. Today we are officially celebrating Mamas’ birthday. The secrets of the past few weeks, will “come to light” today.. . that is all that can go in the diary at this moment.
Yesterday was a “big day” too. I spent a few leisure hours with my children and Lyla. The boys played basketball, while Jenny, Kelsey and I sat on the big front porch with Lyla. Tres and Kelsey, returned from Rome, a week ago. Tres said he had something for me and I immediately told him, that he shouldn’t have brought anything back-It was enough for me, that he was back “safe and sound”. He asked me to look in the console of a car, and so I expected an Italian rabbit or a piece of jewelry-but the only thing in the console was a key. I remarked, that Kelsey had left her key in the console and also that she kept her car very clean. Tres said it wasn’t Kelseys’ key. It took me a second or so to comprehend and I looked at him blankly. He said “mom, that is your key” . . . and so I cried, right there in “broad daylight” on the rabbitpatch lawn.
The car I drive now, past fields and pastures, is twenty years old. The ignition is a little tricky and the air conditioner quit working years ago. I have never cared about cars, other than their safety and dependability. I know what other folks drive by the size and color of the vehicle. Quite often, I get in the wrong car in a parking lot because of that. Once, I had a bagger put all of my groceries in a car that wasn’t mine. I have wondered why my key didn’t fit, in someone elses’ ignition, then looked around and ran in horror. Tres was able to “pull this surprise off” easily. Later Kelsey asked, didn’t I wonder, why they drove separately-no, I didn’t-and then she said didn’t you wonder whose car that was?-again no, I knew she had a small car. She said “but mine is black!”. (this car is champagne colored). So, you see, what I know about cars. A few moments later, it dawned on me and I asked excitedly -“Oh!-does it have air condition?” They all laughed and said , yes.
The most endearing part of the story, is not the relief of now having a better car. I had been wondering what I would do when my “silver car” gave out. The fact that my children consider my needs, means the world to me. Christian, was not even “in on the act” but he teared up in the happiness, as I did. I have not raised perfect children. The boys have run trucks in ditches in their youth, they have all had “traffic tickets” and stayed out too late, before-but I declare this whole-heartedly-They are good people for me, and for the planet. They give to strangers in need, as well as their mama. They care about the environment-and their mamas’ old house. They care about animals, wild and tame. They love and care for one another-and they care about the conditions of all humans. Brant, will not buy a pair of shoes for himself, unless he can buy a pair for someone else in need, as well.
There are many thoughts about “success”. We all define it as we see fit. We also define wealth-in many ways. As life unfolds, we redefine and hopefully, weed out our former misconceptions. We understand, more fully, what pure and genuine happiness is. The authenticity of life does not “hide” and we needn’t go on some dramatic treasure hunt to search for it. Lifes’ treasure is not for only the few that have gotten their hands on some secret map, or an ancient “key”, they fought for. I will tell you, most likely, that our wealth is found on places like the front porch or in the back yard, as we have been told, after all. Success gathers around kitchen tables and looks like family, good friends, or neighbors. Happiness is not reserved for yachts and country clubs, only, but may be in a summer garden or along the edge of the woods, as well. As it turns out. of all the things to acquire in life, “The greatest of these, is love.”
As soon as the world starts getting light, birds begin singing. It was not this way just a few weeks ago. I can not make sense of this state of affairs. In February, I am usually hoping for snow, but the cherry trees are blooming along with the spirea, just now. As much I love snow, it would be almost sinful to wish for it now. I have paid great notice to weather, since I was very young. Journals, that are now thirty years old, have the records of all those seasons. Not once, did I record that the daffodils bloomed in February. Today, finally, I gave in and packed the cheerful little, ceramic snowman scattered throughout the old house, in a box. Maybe this year, spring will be a longer condition than previously. That is lovely to consider.
As I sit at the morning table, by an open window, I listen to a mockingbird, singing with all of his heart. He is throwing “caution to the wind” and encouraging the peach tree to do the same. “Joy, does seem to come in the morning.”
All of my children are coming home this week end. It is the first time since Christmas, that we will all be together. Tomorrow, we are having a birthday party for Mama. It is no small feat to gather five grown children under one roof. Of course, this makes me sing, like the mockingbird-with all of my heart.
Today, I have been writing in the rabbitpatch diary one year. I have written really, all of my life. When Brant was born, I took the endeavor of keeping an account of his childhood, very seriously. The same can be said of the four that came after him. When the children grew “way” up-I wrote for myself. My dear friends encouraged me to no end to take my writing seriously and pursue a path in it. Rae, may have been my biggest fan. Eventually, I felt “led” and thus the rabbitpatch diary was born, on a very stormy day. I have found, that when something comes about quite naturally, we often dismiss it as nothing of any significance. Artists of all sorts, do this. I think we have convinced ourselves that work must be “hard and taxing” to be valued. I do not believe such notions, any longer. I have often wondered if the age old question, “what is my purpose?’, could be solved easily by replacing it with “what do I love?” It is no great wonder to me, to consider, that those things we love, are given for us to find our place, joyfully.
I have clean linens on the beds, but the morning sun is bright now and showing me every speck of dust. I will clean the old house as if I am putting the Christmas tree up! It always feels like Christmas, when the children come home.
I must say “Happy Birthday Jo Dee!” Jo Dee, is the one who makes the best barbecued chicken, and is also one of my dearest friends. What a sweet difference, she makes in my life-and the lives of many others. I hope you all have a friend just like her . . . for friendship is really golden, after all.
My drive home from work, takes me by quiet pastures and large expanses of fields. Parts of the trek is wooded and there is a little bridge with a curve just beyond it. It is a favorite part of the journey for me. A bit further, along the way is an empty lot, of sorts. It is tended, but I have never seen any evidence of any one there. The entire territory is covered in daffodils. It is a lovely sight, when they bloom and I look forward to it every spring. Today, in dappled shade and tender grasses, the daffodils made their presence known. The flowers do not grow in any sort of uniformity, but are scattered about in small clusters as if they planted themselves as they saw fit. This gives the lot a “wild look”-and I like that.
It has been a custom in the south, for children in their “Easter outfits” to have their picture taken, in front of a spirea bush. The long flowing branches of tiny white flowers seem a fine expression of natures’ gracefulness-but the elegant spirea is blooming now- and so is the forsythia. My “Pop” loved the forsythia. He called them “goldenrods”. I told him every year, that goldenrods and forsythias were entirely different, but he paid me no mind , and called them goldenrods anyway-so now, I do too.
Yesterday, a small flock of redbirds descended on the rabbit patch just as I got home. They were too busy to act skittish, so I made wishes on redbirds for a while. I know a good many people believe that the cardinal commemorates a visit from a loved one, passed-but I have never taken such a notion. If that is the case, there was a family reunion here yesterday!
Strawberry farmers say this “out of the ordinary” warm weather is less than ideal for growing strawberries. That is a shame for a lot of reasons-strawberry short-cake, being the first one. Many people like to visit a farm and pick their own berries for making jam. Mama loves strawberries. I used to grow my own, but while I don’t mind sharing with the birds, I found them to be a greedy lot, and brave too. Rattling pie tins and chimes did little to spoil their appetite. Netting is a bother and several times, somehow, a bird would get trapped. Upon release, he was about too heavy to fly. I hardly ever got enough to make a pie.
I had the wonderful pleasure of spending the afternoon with Jenny, Lyla and my parents. Jenny is here early for Mamas’ birthday party, on Sunday. Once again, the day was more like April than February. I showed Lyla hyacinths, daffodils and “goldenrods”. We spent a little while under a grapevine. We disturbed some birds,and they took to scolding us for it. Lyla laughed about that. Later on, Mama sat in a rocking chair while Lyla and I sat in a swing on the front porch. There was a slight, but steady breeze blowing, that made the pines whisper. A few clouds moved across the sky and the winter wheat was growing, in the field by us. Two hawks glided above the field. Nothing around me was rushing-not the breeze, nor the clouds-not the hawks nor the field. The effect washed over me and a deep sense of peace settled in. This, I thought, is time well spent- and my heart was grateful for such things as hyacinths, old grapevines and two hawks flying.
Sunday is fading fast. The shadows made by evening light are falling in their familiar places. Sunday nights are typically still and quiet at the rabbit patch. I make a good effort to have the house in good order as the weekly routine unfolds before the dawn of Monday. Clocks end our morning dreams and we scatter from the rabbit patch, each in a different direction. Monday, shows no mercy.
Tonight, I vow to remember Saturday. It was Mama’s birthday and so Daddy and I were taking her to a restaurant in Greenville, just thirty minutes away. Mamas’ official party is scheduled for next week end. The day was spring-like. Tulip trees bloomed along the road to Greenville . A Bradford pear with its’ pure white flowers made me think of Easter. February has been quite a disorienting affair.
My sister from Raleigh, devised a plan, to meet us at the restaurant to surprise Mama. It worked out beautifully and it did me good to see Mama so happy. The meal was good and the waitress was friendly. Delores brought a small cake and we both gave mama small tokens to open. It was a happy occasion, altogether and concluded with the birthday song being sung with strangers in close proximity.
My oldest children were in Wilmington. They took Lyla to the ocean, as the weather was so pleasant. Lylas’ uncles, Tres and Brant, climbed an ancient live oak and took Lyla with them. They sent pictures to prove it. There is something so extraordinary to see your children become parents and uncles. They all take their roles very seriously. I watch my boys with Lyla and whether one is playing a guitar for her or up some tree-well, words fail to do justice, to the state of contentment such things bring about.
The contents of our days, may not seem so spectacular, when isolated from one another-but when you consider sightings of blossoms on trees, pleasant gatherings with family, and your mamas’ seventy-fifth birthday, Saturday was not a bit short of spectacular.
I like Saturday mornings. I watch the sunrise, without a sense of urgency. I can think my own thoughts and allow my mind to stray without a sense of hurry. I stay in the clothes, that I woke in, for a good while. This particular morning is warm and the sky doesn’t host a single cloud-and today, is mamas’ birthday.
Mama and daddy married very young. They married in 1958. They live where a pasture used to be on the farm, my mom grew up on, and still have the first phone number, they were ever issued. Daddy retired from a factory, he had worked at for thirty years. Mama kept the house, managed the money and raised three girls, in the process.
Tending the house, is no small matter, to me. I find it to be as noble a work as there is. Our house, was not a closet for accumulated possessions. The kitchen was not a pantry for pre-packaged foods. Laundry was done steadily and hung on a line, to dry in the sunshine. I did not ever wonder, if mama would be there, when I got off the school bus-she was, without fail. If one of us was sick, we did not go to school, hoping it would pass. She checked our homework, insisting it “was neat” as well as accurate. She taught us good manners. Manners that made us consider the needs of others. Good manners are really just that and we practiced them til they became our second nature. I believe now, that those early lessons, that became habits, have made all the difference-may be the biggest factor in my life, even now- for they were, lessons in compassion and respect, and nothing less.
Mama took us to church, every Sunday. I have the perfect attendance awards, to prove it. When we were young, mama made our dresses. I hated the measuring and trying on pinned up fabric-you were bound to get pricked, no matter how careful you were. This morning, when I remember that time, it humbles me without end.
When we went on vacation, mama packed an arsenal of snacks and little surprises for the children, as well as everything else. I am sure that all my sweet daddy had to do, was get in the car.
Sometimes, mama packed a picnic basket for us to eat outside on a blanket, by the edge of the woods, on the farm. She made cakes for special days and decorated them herself, without any formal training in that art, and did a fine job, whether they were heart shaped or looked like a rabbit. All details, belonged to mama, when I was growing up.
One Christmas, I suppose, money was scarce. As her children, we would not, have been troubled with such concerns. We were taught that waste was about sinful, in general. (I still think it is.) On Christmas morning, my sisters and I got dolls. Each doll had dozens of little dresses, bonnets and booties. We were thrilled and tried them all out that morning! We hoped for rain and snow-we hoped for cold days and nights, because our dolls had everything needed for such times. It was months later, I finally realised that the dresses our dolls wore, were of familiar fabrics. I would remember having a dress of the same cloth. I remembered an itchy fabric, I had worn now showing up in a coat for my doll. It was a Christmas miracle, I thought. How clever, Santa was this year. Mama, did not correct me. Years later, when the dolls laid motionless in boxes, under the bed-mama finally confessed, that money had been scarce that year, and so she set out on a mission, for her girls to have a Christmas, that did not tattle about that. It is one of the sweetest memories I have, and clearly indicates the “art of motherhood” done well.
Mamas’ career never ends. Her work, did not land her plaques to hang on the walls or “papers” that officially declared her competent, in some area. Mama had to know it all or learn quickly.
My mama is seventy five years old today-and as it turns out, her work, did pay off. Her daughters “rise and call her blessed”. Her promotion to “Nana” did finally happen, and now she has the daughter, of her own grand daughter that greeted this world, wrapped in a baby blanket, made by her hands. Mamas’ walls boast many awards now. Some have dark brown eyes and some have freckles. The latest has the bright blue eyes of her dad, and little baby teeth.
Of all the things this world offers, good parents, top the list, I think. Mama did not hesitate to sacrifice -nor gear up for battle, should an occasion warrant such measures. She “gave to this planet” by taking great care of “her charges” and then dismissed us to serve others, by her example. I do not believe, there is a more noble line of work.
Valentines day, at the rabbit patch, has been going on for a while now. I have bestowed all sorts of little candies to my youngest sons this past week-and let us not forget the “almost red velvet cake”, that I made on Sunday. There are a lot of ways to let someone know that you love them and I think they all count. I love good chocolate, any day of the week. I love sweet cards with sweet words-and cookies , heart shaped or not. Not all endearments, show up in tinseled paper or packages tied with ribbon-and certainly not on just one day a year. Sometimes, love shows up on dishes- with bunnies, painted on them.
Last night, my friend Rae, stopped by the rabbit patch. She came bearing gifts. I convinced her to let me warm up the remnants of our supper for her. Rae could hardly wait for me to open her gifts, so I hurried up as best I could. One gift was a plate, with a mother rabbit and a bunny painted on it. Oh!- the sweet union of dishes and rabbits, struck a most tender chord with my heart-and yet there was another box. . .a pair of salt and pepper shakers, disguised as little rabbits, was tucked inside. I almost burned Raes’ supper in light of my gifts! Rae was as cheerful a giver, as I have ever seen and it felt overwhelmingly beautiful, to call her my friend.
There was a heavy frost this morning. The sunrise was spectacular. Only a few flat clouds shared the sky with the sun. The early light looked like pure gold and lit the frost up. Oh, I thought, how good it would be to stand a few moments in those golden rays, and so I did.
The cherry trees are blooming. The trees are full of blossoms and I can not blame them-other than a few cold nights, Februarys’ mildness is convincing and has made me doubt my own notions about it still being winter. The one thing I am sure of, is that the earth shows its’ love, too , by things such as cherry trees blooming.
Love is truly a many splendored thing. It has many forms and one is no lesser than any other. Whether it is in the blooms of a cherry tree, the light on a frost or rabbits on dishes, all are expressions of love, in some fashion. Valentines Day is a good day to tell others that you love them. . . and so is every other day, as well. After all the cherry tree does not show its’ blossoms for just one day.
It is after Sunday dinner now, and I have noticed a new habit of mine. I like to write in the hours , after the gathering around the table. It may be that, I want a record of sorts, or it could be that I especially love to write when I am so content-and both may be true. I especially like to write in the morning, but a Sunday afternoon seems to work as well.
Of course, I took full advantage of having that fancy china with redbirds and ribbons, though it was seventy degrees outside. At least it is still February. I fixed Jo Dees’ chicken and made believers out of mama and daddy, as to its’ divine nature. They agreed it was worth all of my bragging. We had collards, potatoes and cornbread too. For dessert. I fixed a red velvet cake, being it was close to Valentines Day. It wasn’t nearly as red as I had hoped, but it was good. I am not fond of using food coloring, unless I am making “sea glass” out of mason jars. I thought that cherry juice would be a nice flavor addition and make the cake red as well. I should have used a lot more, and not been so stingy with it. We ate the cake anyway , though it was maroon in color. Daddy asked why it needed to be red anyway-and he was right.
Tres and Kelsey are in Rome, on vacation. They are to return this week. Tres loves to travel and has done a bit, to be so young. When he was a little boy, I called him my “wonder boy” because he was always wondering about things. He was curious and needed answers to how things worked. He grew up to have a career in research. I knew all along, he was suited for such work. I have an idea, that if we watch children closely when they are very little-and free in their thoughts, we can predict closely, a good career path for them. My own children have proven this true, at least. I told Kyle, when he was around five, that he should be a landscaper-and he is. He remembers this and we laugh about it, now. Brant and Christian are artists. They must create- and Jenny was destined to be a mother by the time she was three! They all chose play that foretold their futures, and I “kept these things, and pondered them in my heart” as mothers have been known do.
I saw the beautiful “snow moon”, this week. It was almost amber . It was especially pretty, when it hung low in the sky. The field turned shades of gold, in its’ light. Of course, I made a wish on that beautiful “Snow Moon”, for good measure.
The wind, is brisk today. The pine trees do not whisper in such conditions, but produce a roar, instead-still, the sound is lulling. The only other sound is the occasional rattle of dry leaves, being swept from the far corners of the rabbit patch.
I am grateful for the peace and quiet, after Sunday Dinner, today. I am grateful I saw the snow moon. I am glad it is almost time for Tres to come home-that it is almost Mamas’ birthday- and that we all gathered again, for a good meal with an almost red velvet cake. Sunday is a lovely time.