Just Folks Getting By Part 17

this pie made my Sunday Dinner today-and it will again.

“Mama, I know you are making  a peanut butter pie for the American Legion Auction, but Ben’s Uncle Amos, just called and wanted to know if I could bring two pies!  I’ve  never baked a pie in my life!  You’ve got to help me!  Do you have a really easy, really good pie you can help me with?”  Jenny looked panicked.  “Do you still remember how to make that caramel pie you used to make?  That was my favorite.  Was it real hard?”

“Sure, I must’a made a thousand of those.  It’s real easy, just takes a while.  Do you have any Eagle Brand milk?”  Asked Lucille.  “Do you want it with pastry crust or graham crackers?”

“Graham cracker is best, but we have to go to the grocery store anyway.  What do I need for the pies?”  Jenny took out her pencil and pad.

“Let me think,” said Lucille…

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Pure and Simple


The Mockingbird has sung his morning hymn, and the sun has risen over the barn, making the old shabby thing look holy.  It is Saturday morning at the rabbit patch.  I enjoy the leisure feeling of the early mornings on the weekend.  I wake up early, as I always do and lie very still- for the moment that I stir, Cash, my boxer, needs to go out.  It is apparent that he will perish, if I dawdle.  He takes to dancing around and pleading in tones only made by dogs.  No amount of chatter convinces him to wait.  Moon Shine gets up and races around the room as if the devil is after him.  I get up and hope Cash will not die and that Moon Shine will not trip me, in my morning stupor.  Christopher Robin, wakes up well mannered and considerate of my predicament.  Moon Shine waits nervously, for Cash to come in, by the window.  When he does,  they both settle back down.  I drink coffee and ease into  the morning, gently.

When, I am not in Elizabeth City, I plan “Sunday dinner” on Saturday mornings.  I will put away my lovely china with the redbirds and ribbons today.  It is March after all.  In tribute to my Irish heritage, I will set the table with Kyles’ collection of green glass.  Most of the pieces are very old.  I have collected dishes for each of my children, for many years.  Each collection is different, and were selected by my children.  Kyle, my landscaper, chose green. Most of the pieces are very old.  Many are “depression glass” pieces.  What a lovely table it makes-especially in March, and with us being just a little Irish.  

My great, great, great grandfather was Henderson McDuffy O’Leary, and straight from Ireland.  He and his brother Enoch, settled in the Lake Phelps area, where my sister Connie lives today.  Henderson and Enoch were farmers.  They fought for the north in the civil war.  I wondered how unpleasant living in the south, that must have been for them, at that time.  Once, I spoke with a historian, Dorothy Redford about this.  Ms. Redford wrote “Somerset Homecoming”- which I think should be in every North Carolina school.  It is the story of how Redford found the descendants of the slaves of the Somerset plantation, on Lake Phelps, and held a reunion.  The “ Today Show”  covered the story.  Ms. Redford told me, that more than likely, these Irish brothers had family up North and wouldn’t have fought against them for “love nor money”.  Thankfully,  both brothers survived the war.  Henderson is buried at the “Hollyneck Church”  that still meets today.  I found Uncle Enoch in a family cemetery in a field,  not far from Connies’ house.  The “Union” tombstone of “Captain, Enoch O’Leary”  was lying in the edge of a field-me finding it, was surely “Divine intervention”, I convinced myself.  Kyle and Christian were with on me this outing.  They were little boys and traipsing through field after field looking for a grave, lost its’ appeal for them, early on.  When we found Uncle Enoch, they were shocked and thankful.  They were in full agreement that God or some angel, had put an end to the search.  I put flowers on the grave, that were growing on a ditch bank,  and cried.  There is no explanation for my behavior that day,  except that I am Irish.  You may see now that  whether  Ms. Redfords’ explanation was right or not, it sounded reasonable to me.

Today, I will wash the green dishes, for use tomorrow.  I love to wash glassware.  It is a relaxing task.  I can not wash precious dishes hurriedly.  Of course, I think and dream while I wash them.  I find I can only think of pleasant things, while washing glass.  The sunshine through the kitchen window makes the glass appear to be lighted.  Being Irish, it is perfectly fine that I often ask the dishes about the hands that washed them before me.  “Whose table did you grace by your presence?”  I ask- and I wonder.  

I am making a pie tomorrow- from an old recipe, but one new to me.   It is a caramel pie, that requires you boil sweetened condensed milk, in the can for several hours.  I have never heard of such a process to make a pie, but apparently it is at least a sixty year old recipe.  I will give more details tomorrow and credit to its’ origin.

 The March air is chilly  and the wind is light this day.  It is a good day to do some housekeeping while an old movie plays.  It is a privilege not to rush today. It is a privilege to wash green glass and watch it sparkle near a window, where the spirea is blooming-and to make a pie from an old recipe, someone was generous enough to share with you.  I am grateful for every day, but some days are just so pure and simple, that it just makes you want to cry at the beauty . . of course, being  alittle Irish . . . I always do.


The Winds of March


March at the rabbit patch is a very windy affair.  The territory is situated in a particular area where the  wind blows without mercy.  This makes us subject to storms with gusts that send the rockers off the porch and the tin off the barns.  Twice, we have had “downdraft” storms which are quick and brutal.  When it is over, the Farm Life residents come out from their homes, in a daze and scan the countryside, making sure everyone is accounted for.  Farmers armed with tractors and chainsaws go to work, clearing the debris.  Anything not nailed down is usually found weeks later in the woods and ditches, and returned by the finders.

Not every day is so harsh, in March, but even on the ordinary days, the wind will keep us as house bound as any winter weather.  I do not know how blossoms hold their own in March.   March is not the time to plan a picnic.  It is not the time to put the geraniums on the front porch, either.  We turn the rockers, so that they look as if they are kneeling in  constant prayer.  Wreaths and flags, do not stand a chance of surviving the March wind, at the rabbit patch.

Lyla loves wind-she always has.  Once, when she was not a year old-  on a day full of wind, I took her on a walk to the laughing river.  I parked the stroller, on the grassy open lot by the rivers’ bank. She laughed aloud as the wind tasseled her hair and caused her blanket to fly about wildly, as if it were alive. On that day, the wind was warm and playful.

When I was growing up, March was the time to fly kites.  We never bought a kite-Daddy made them.  We would stand in the front yard, with a field in front of us and watch the kite climb the sky, til it was barely visible.  If the twine broke, the children would make a mad dash to recover “the long, lost friend”.  Often we ran til we couldn’t, the distance was so great-and it is  very difficult to run in a freshly plowed field, even for children.  In my earliest memory, I remember that I cried,  the first time that the twine snapped and set the kite free. Daddy had worked a good deal of time with newspaper, scrap plastic and little sticks, to make that kite. We had watched him in silence, as it seemed like such a great project.  When the twine snapped, I was sure , the kite was gone forever and that daddy would be heartbroken. I did not fall for my cousin Chris’ story, nor take any comfort that the kite had gone to Heaven to be with Grandmama-and I was right as after a search, the kite was found in a ditch at least a half mile away.

 I have never been able to fly a kite with any great success-let alone make one. Every March, when my children were little, I would attempt .  I had great determination, but still the kites would climb a few measly feet and take to darting about, before plummeting in a deadly dive .  The children ceased to stand anywhere near, where the kite was, as it seemed to target one of them every time, it took a dive. 

It seems folks do well with kites at the beach.  They leave them unattended, and still the kites float peaceably above the water.  Children build castles in the sand, beneath the kites, without any fear whatsoever.  Todays’ kites are colorful and you can see every sort of shape-dragons, birds and such things.  As lovely, as it is to look up and see the sky full of pretty kites, I remember clearly the early spring evenings in my childhood, watching our kite soar mightily, over a field of winter wheat-and I think, ours, made from scraps,  is still the most beautiful kite I have ever seen.



“You are my Sunshine”


Farewell to February, with its’ paper lace, hearts and best chances of snow on the rabbit patch.  February this year , woke the cherry and peach trees.  Hyacinths and daffodils, bluebirds and mockingbirds-all roused for the warmest February, I have ever known.  

The birthday party for Mama was nothing short of a grand occasion.  My Aunt Christine-Mamas’ sister came.  Cousins, first, second, third and fourth all joined in the affair, as well as the usual crowd.  Mama had a corsage and wore it proudly, on her day.  All of the details came together-and at last the secrets whispered for weeks, were revealed.  My sisters and I gave her a music box, with a pretty verse about motherhood, engraved on the top.  We chose, the song we first remembered her singing to us-the universal song of children everywhere-“You are my Sunshine”.   Of course, Mama cried and had barely composed herself, when we presented a small box, with a necklace inside.  It was a filigree heart and inside were little gemstones that represented, her  grandmother, mother , herself and her daughters.  We also gave her a scrapbook with pictures and handwritten notes of favorite memories and birthday wishes.  We showed it to her, but thought it best, that she wait to read it as she was having a difficult time, keeping her tears at bay.

My cousin, Chris and I grew up like brother and sister.  While, everyone had cake and ice cream, the two of us recalled long ago memories of running in pastures and woods.  We grew up alittle wild and completely unencumbered in childhood.  We worked too, but the farm chores were often pleasant.  Chris did recall, that the sound of a goat in distress, was not  something that he remembered fondly.  Of course, a goat was most likely to have his horns caught up in a fence, in the furthest corner of the pasture.  Somehow, Pop had designated Chris as the child responsible for goat rescue.  I am sure that Chris “made himself scarce” when he heard the dreaded and familiar noise of a crying goat, but Pop was louder than any goat and a force to be reckoned with.  Chris came down from trees, out from under barns and up from ditches, when Pop called out “Chris, go help that goat, NOW!!!”  I told Chris, it has been a long while, since a child has heard that command!-and we laughed, about that. 

Time is a peculiar thing, a complexity, of sorts.  When you are a child, seasons seem endless.  From  one Christmas to the next is a very long time.  Days are as slow as  “molasses in January” in a school year- when you are young.  We grow up and raise our children, and it seems  we are in a permanent state. . .  til they grow up.  Only then, do we take account, that years turned into decades-and it seems “in a twinkling”.  There is simply no explanation how twenty years  seem to ” slip by”.  

Truly, we ought not to “squander time”.   I say this whole- heartedly and often .  There is so much beauty for us to behold and it reveals itself in many forms.   Surely, there is more to life, than “just keeping the electricity bill paid.” -I often say.  And so,  I look for redbirds and blossoms in spring, without regrets.  I recite Housman’s “Lovliest of Trees”-and vow  to be mindful, again- for I declare, it was not that long ago, that our mother sang “You are my Sunshine”  to us as we hung clothes on the line, or snapped beans in the afternoon.  It was just a while back, that my cousin, Gena, was “the prettiest little baby”  and needed to be held tightly, in the front porch swing at Pop and Grandmas’ house.

I have been driving my “new car” to work, the last few days.  There are so many bradford pears along the way, covered in white blossoms, it reminds me of a huge wedding!  The winter wheat bears the frosty mornings like a champion.  In the afternoon,  the fields shine like emeralds.  Of course, like Mama,  I shed tears of joy, because, I  too, feel so loved. 

“If of thy mortal goods, thou are bereft, and from thy slender store, two loaves alone to thee are left,  Sell one, and with the dole,  Buy hyacinths, to feed the soul.  -John Greenleaf Whittier