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.
Happy Birthday Mama!