“Miss Edie” said it was going to rain-according to her arthritis. She was right. It started before the early service and it rained all day. It was a steady rainfall that maintained a soothing rhythm, all day. This rain would have been quite suitable for sleeping or watching an old movie. I was quite sure I could have written a charming piece, under such conditions. None of that was to be, but the rain was lovely just the same. I remembered Mama always said “April showers bring May flowers.”, when I was a child.
On account of the cool, rainy day, we had soup for supper. It was a hardy vegetable beef variety and it is likely, that it may have been, the last soup of the season, as we do not eat soup in warm weather.
A silvery fog was settled over the rabbitpatch when I woke, on Wednesday morning. The sun looked like a silver dollar, when it rose from behind the old barn. The territory looked like a black and white photograph that could have graced the cover of Pops’ beloved “Progressive Farmer” magazine , many springs ago.
By mid morning, the sky was a very bright blue and the sun was shining boldly. A child brought me a handful of clover flowers and I breathed the scent of them deeply. I love the sweet, green fragrance of the clover. Though, a patch of clover is the most likely place I know of, to get a bee sting, (for honey bees love the clover, too) , I am always happy when the clover blooms. I was never too keen on making necklaces and crowns, from them, as most children are. It is a tedious work, but my cousin, “Cookie”, was quick about it, and she made crowns for the both of us, while I searched for four leaf clovers, to press in heavy books. Even today, I am apt to do so.
When the clover blooms, the evening air is especially sweet.
When I was pulling out of the drive way, this morning, I noticed “Miss Sylvias’ Irises” were blooming. They are a delicate lavender, and always remind me of watercolors. Miss Sylvia was the first person, I met when I moved to the “Farm Life” community, now twelve years ago. She came to welcome me and presented me with a cookbook, which is a collection of recipes from the women in the community. Most of the dishes are “made from scratch” and the book quickly became my favorite one on the shelf in the kitchen.
Miss Sylvia has been gone a year now. When I see her irises, I remember when she played my piano at Christmas and sat in the shade with me in July. I remember the stories she told me about the former days at the place I now call the “rabbitpatch”, but mostly I just miss her friendship.
Also blooming, along with the iris, are the wild roses in the woodlands. They clamor the nearest tree and act like a garland of fragrant pearls. Now, the vines cascade along the woodlands’ edges and sway so gracefully. The blossoms are clusters and do not favor their “high society” cousins found in tended gardens, but they are lovely enough to make you want to write a poem.
Now that the evenings are milder, they beckon to me, like a long lost friend to come out to bid the world good night. With the moon, almost full, the countryside looks bathed in a holy light-and just glancing at the mighty heavens, dispels fear as good as anything I know of.
Dear Diary, I am so glad it is Aprilwhen the wild roses bloom. I am glad for clover and moonlight . . . and memories of a friend, who gave me irises to plant.
I was glad of many things this morning at the “early service”. The last few days have just tumbled by like a merry river. With today being Sunday, I had “Sunday dinner” to look forward to, as well.
I had planned to fry chicken, as Mama really enjoys that. Daddy would like the steamed cabbage, and I had a perfectly good ham bone that warranted use. Even though black eyed peas, seemed “out of season” I had some on hand, and so the pot of “January” peas were simmering by nine. As I was making the dessert, Jenny called and said she and Lyla were coming. I was as “happy as any lark” ever dared to be. I was glad I had decided on making cheesecake bars as Jenny is quite partial to cheese cake, in any form.
Meanwhile, the morning warmed up coaxing a few more rosebuds to open. It seemed the day would be fair, which only made me more cheerful.
The meal turned out well. Lyla said the prayer, insisting we all hold hands. She said simply, “thank you Jesus”. No one can accuse her of “praying like a pharisee” .
After the meal, we all went outside and sat near the old sycamores. Lyla and Christian took off to the small orchard out back. They ended up under the old grapevine. Lyla was enamored with the “secret place” and spent a good deal of time there, with Christian. Christian said she liked watching the birds building nests.
I have my own memories of playing under an old grapevine. My younger sister, Delores and I spent many summer afternoons in the shade of an old grapevine. To us, it was a house we shared with our dolls. We never bothered about husbands, but we had more than a few dolls. If one of the dolls got sick, the “house” suddenly transformed in to a hospital. Sometimes it was a school and the year Delores got a cash register, it became a grocery store. Mama would wash cans and save boxes til we built a good supply of stock. We also collected what we could for furniture. Things like buckets, turned upside down, for chairs and picnic benches for beds. I am so glad that Mama insisted we play outside, instead of inside watching TV, for those were happy times.
We developed quite an imagination, which I think may be one of the most valuable qualities, a person can have. Imagination is the heart of compassion as we can feel the heart of others, with just a bit of it. Imagination also helps us more easily understand the behavior of others -even if the behavior is poor and can cause us not to judge harshly. Besides that, Delores and I were really practicing for “real life”. Our dolls were precious, good, naughty and sick on any given day, much like our real children would be.
I wondered what Lyla was talking to Christian about, but I did not dare interrupt the spell of those moments. I did ask Christian later, what Lyla was doing, all that time. He said she pretended all sorts of things . . .and so he did too.
Meanwhile, by the old sycamores, the rest of us sat and shared small talk. The conversation was slow and light hearted . We were glad for my nephew, Brandon who will be attending a university next year. Daddy said I needed a new tire-and then found a tack in one of Jennys’ tires. We all hoped Jennys’ “Grandma Betty” was feeling better and Jenny said she felt the baby move quite often, these days.
When everyone left, I felt like I had been bestowed a gift. . .something rare and genuine. “Sometimes, there are bright and shining moments” . . . .and this Sunday was one of them. This Sunday, was golden . . . and pure . . .and quite beautiful.
April has been a mostly cold month-the early service, on this day is proof of that. The farmhouse is chilly and there are little patches of frost, on the territory, but the songbirds sing anyway. There have been just enough mild days, to declare it is spring . . . and the dogwoods are still blooming. The first rose of the season has bloomed and I saw a fire fly, just the other night, There is the pollen too, which makes us all sneeze , Sometimes, great clouds of it appear when the wind blows through the pines. Certainly, it is spring, but warmth has been scarce.
The past week, was a busy one and passed with great speed, til now, suddenly, it is Saturday. I am especially busy at work, as we are working on the dances, classes will perform at our annual celebration in May. Each class performs a folk dance from the country they have studied throughout the year. This not a small work. I am also putting the house back on the market, which requires a great deal of preparation. The ladder sits ready at all times, in the den and paintbrushes are at hand, for when “the spirit moves within me”. I still need to buy geraniums and meanwhile, the grass grows. I also had a birthday, this week.
Now, that I am older ( I turned 59) birthdays are reflective events and very holy to me. I do not like a lot of fanfare, but Mama did make a cake, and I was glad of that. Kyle brought me flowers and someone tied balloons on the lamp post. I have been known to forget my birthday altogether, but am soon reminded, by loved ones.
Mama really wanted to do something special and I was not much help, as to what. I thought about my birthday this year and realised that my birthday really did not only belong to just me-and I felt I was being selfish. I thought of my parents, who were so very young, when I was born. I am their first child, and I remembered how exciting and overwhelming that time is for parents. I imagined the ruckus it must have caused. I thought of my dear, great Aunt Virginia sewing the last stitches of the delicate gown, I would come home in. I imagined “Pop and Grandmama” being in a state, as I was the first grandchild, born at the farm. (my older cousins were born in Texas, and lived there). The April morning, that I was born, I am quite sure, meant folks were stopping by to find out the news. I bet Aunt Agnes brought a cake and I am certain Grandmama was hanging clean linens on the line. Thinking of all this, it is no wonder, I felt selfish. So I was glad to see my parents on my birthday. It was a lovely sight to see Mama appear with a cake quite full of candles, as she sang “Happy Birthday”. I tucked that picture in my heart.
As it turns out, I had another celebration, which just sprang up. Jenny was returning from Wilmington, and would be passing through this ” neck of the woods”. The next thing I knew Mama was cooking our lunch. Lyla wanted me to have balloons and more flowers- and so I enjoyed a “surprise party” of sorts, just a few days after my birthday.
Today, there was yet another birthday to celebrate. My Uncle Randy, daddys’ oldest brother turned 85 yesterday! Mama, Daddy and I rode with “Miss Edie” to the home of Uncle Randy, an hour away. My cousin Sheila, lives a “door down” from Uncle Randy and tends to all his needs. She is a loyal daughter, and I admire that. She is also apt to laugh-and I like that too. Miss Edie brought a cake and we stopped to buy ice cream. After our arrival, we all chipped in for lunch. First, second and little third cousins came in. I noticed, that Uncle Randys’ great grandson, favored him quite a bit. Oh I hoped he would have the same kind of heart, as Uncle Randy, too, for Uncle Randy is a tender and gentle uncle.
We all came home around mid afternoon. Within minutes of me walking in the back door of the old farmhouse, I was up on the ladder, trying to finish the ceiling, I started a long while back. On breaks, I straightened the pantry and then the closet in my bedroom. Some how, I have a few more things to donate and another collection of trash. I think seeing Uncle Randys’ success at downsizing, inspired me.
It has been a lovely day, mild and bright, though Miss Edie, said it would rain soon-her arthritis is never wrong, she says.
The “early service” on Sundays, feels different, for me. It seems a bit more holy. I am not sure why. The same choir, sings the same songs. The sun is just as generous as it was on any given Tuesday and rain too falls when it will. .still there is “Something About A Sunday”.
Maybe, growing up in the “Bible Belt” has something to do with this notion of mine. I did have perfect attendance in the Sunday School, the first ten years of my life. I think the chicken pox ruined that for me. On Sundays, we got still and said “thank you” . . and it just seemed right, to do so.
What a big production, Sundays were. I slept in curlers, for no apparent reason, as my hair was”straight as a stick” by ten am. Delores had perfect curls all day long. No amount of prayer, ensured curls in my hair. We dressed in our best attire, which meant lace and patent leathers. There was some rule that you wore black patent leathers after Labor day til Easter, when you switched to white. It mattered little if you had a growth spurt during a season, we each got one pair a season. The shoes were especially pretty and would shine, but you had to be careful not to scuff them. Even the under garments were fancy. Everything had lace-that itched awfully bad. It is no wonder, we were able to sit still for the longest hour of the week-the sermon.
Even with tight shoes and scratchy dresses, I loved Sunday School. We sang sweet little songs and memorized Bible verses. We were told a Bible story and then colored a picture about it. I loved the teachers, and thought the sweetest women in the church got selected to teach. I just taught Lyla a song that I remember learning in the three year old class, from “Miss Jo”. By the time, you were in the four and five year olds, “Miss Linda” was the teacher and I learned “This Little Light of Mine”. We memorized the books of the Bible and the “Ten Commandments”. Later, there was “Miss Tillie”and “Miss Faye”. All beloved, to this day. I am not sorry for one minute of Sunday School, for many times now, in hours of need, one of those verses or songs, will spring in my head at just the right moment.
Sundays were observed fully, in my childhood. You best not lose a button on Sunday-if you did you had to put it up in a safe place til Monday. No one would have sewn on a Sunday. Likewise, the washing machine sat silently, as did the fields. it was considered sinful, to farm on Sundays. I do remember, once, my older cousin Harvey did not get dressed for Church, for he had decided to plow. My Aunt Agnes was horribly shocked and threatened him the God would surely withhold rain because of it. Harvey told Aunt Agnes she needed to read her Bible. He said “the rainfalls on the just and the unjust.” I did not laugh then as I was expecting lightening to strike Harvey-what with plowing on Sunday and sassing too. . .now I laugh at this memory, whole heartedly. That was a quiet drive to Church that day.
I do not know why cooking was allowed on Sunday, but I m glad it was. All stores and restaurants were closed., maybe that is why. Grandmama took to staying home from Church, just to cook Sunday dinner for the rest of us. I bet it was the only way she could get a moment of peace. We none dared criticize her as she made things like chicken & pastry, and banana pudding.
In warm seasons, Pop made homemade ice cream. Aunt Christine and Uncle Gene would come. My cousins and I would make quite a ruckus til it was ready. We were accused of “disturbing the peace” often and “God help you” if you ran through where the adults were sitting. If a ball found its’ way there, the bravest one would sneak in “like a thief in the night” to retrieve it. We were also expected to settle our own disputes. Tattling was frowned upon, unless it involved someone being hurt-or property damage. Occasionally, there was property damage.
Those memories are old now, but their impression has served me as a “favor” , all of my life. I knew my people . . . and they knew me. That alone has meant the world, in life. I think of those days, now as the ham is cooked and the potato salad is chilling. Ham tastes better on Sundays . . . and so does cornbread. There is just “Something About A Sunday”.
The birds sang at the “early service” this morning-not just the steadfast mocking bird, but all of them, that call the rabbit patch, “home”. What an occasion, it turned out to be. The air was mild and had a sweet fragrance, known only to spring. The breeze was slight and just enough to stir the tiny, new leaves of the sycamores. . .and in the meantime, the gentle light of the morning sun rose over the old barn. I lingered a while, sorting through my thoughts . . . sifting out the unfavorable ones. Depending on the day, this can take a while.
A clear conscience is invaluable. I find, that the older I get, the more I realise this. It may be the most significant thing to strive for, after all. Of course, “letting your conscience be your guide” demands that we examine our heart, first and foremost. It is a vexing mystery sometimes, without proper dedication. I have sifted out some less than honorable notions, from my own heart and been utterly surprised to have housed such things. It is one of the reasons, I attend the “early service” and walk by rivers . . .and frequent fields and woodlands. These institutions do not allow me “to put on airs” nor harbor falsehoods, but instead seem to wield the sword of truth, somehow lovingly. For this reason I “take to the woods” frequently, like a “repeat offender”, ought to.
I am at the rabbitpatch this weekend. This means housekeeping-which includes the territory-and Sunday dinner. For me, this is a delightful agenda. I may try to find some more geraniums for the porch, but circumstances (like weeds and laundry) may not allow such an indulgence. I always have “high hopes” in the morning, however.
Later in the Day . . .
It will not come as any surprise to loyal readers, that I ended up painting. First, I painted the “welcome lantern” at the back door and then a birdhouse. I remembered how dingy a small cabinet, in the den was looking, so I moved it out from the corner, to work on that. The cabinet is especially dear to me, because it was a gift from Julie-a dear friend. It had belonged to her grandmother and was used in the kitchen. I use it as a book cabinet. When I moved it, I was greeted with cobwebs and dust. I set out to remedy that and ended up on a ladder. One thing of turns into another at the rabbit patch-but it feels good that the den is at least cleaner and brighter than it was yesterday.
While the paint dried, I worked a bit in the “Quiet Garden”. The rabbit patch is starting to come in to its’ glory, I noticed. The roses are laden with new leaves and the young dogwood, that bloomed for the first time, the day Lyla was born, is full of promises. I tied a new ribbon on the lamp post, and there by the lamp, a single pale pink tulip was blooming. After a very long winter, suddenly it is spring!
It seems “time really does fly, when you are having fun”. It is a mystery to me how an entire week has already passed, in what seems like three days.
A lot of good things happened. I whiled away some time by the river. I smelled the fragrant flowers at the “Nobles’ house” and watched a robin build his nest. Lyla and I sat on the flat rock, by the little bridge and the cherry trees bloomed in the village. We dined out-and we cooked in. I had several good visits with Miss Thelma . I may have heard Lylas’ first prayer, on Wednesday.
I was up early as usual . . .at the early service. Lyla often finds me there in the back yard. She joined me and after a moment, she said “Honeybee, you need to go in the house.” I asked if she wanted to be by herself and she answered “yes”. I walked in the back door, but kept it ajar and listened. She said “I love girls and I love my baby sister. You need to find her and hurry. I am big sister Lyla.” Well, I was struck in awe and could barely say anything when she waltzed in just seconds later. Mere words still fail to describe what I felt, but an overwhelming sense of peace seemed to settle in my bones . . . all was well, I thought.
I cooked honey cakes for her birthday breakfast, on Thursday. We sang “Happy Birthday” through out the day and Lyla painted on her first canvas. I could not wait to give Lyla her present. It seemed I had been waiting her entire three years and so I made quite a ceremony about the whole thing. I gave Lyla a violin.
It is a real instrument and tiny enough to be just her size. I have been enticing her since birth, by playing for her. Oh, how happy I felt to see her happiness and eagerness to get started. I remembered her own mother -who did not want to start with “Twinkle, Twinkle”, but an allegro, her brother was playing, many years ago. Right after Lylas’ first lesson, Will’s dad drove up. He lives five hours away . There was a lot to celebrate in those moments.
On Friday, there was an “art walk” in Elizabeth City. This is a monthly event in warm seasons, that is held downtown, featuring artists of all sorts. Mandy, of Pansy & Ivy, is recognized for her flower arrangements, at the “art walks.” Wills’s dad, Bill Thompson is a bonafide author. He has published a sizable collection of books and is also a public speaker. He was the featured artist at the local bookstore, making us all feel honored and proud. A young musician played his guitar and sang outside . . .and I missed my son, Christian.
Saturday started with a big breakfast for “Grandaddy Bill” to be sent off properly. He left with good memories . . .and biscuits. Will and Jenny had a birthday party for Lyla, after lunch, at a local facililty used for such gatherings. It was a sweet affair and a very busy time.
I woke up Sunday in disbelief at the date. Surely, one more day would make such a difference, but tomorrow was Monday, and that would change everything. Just after the breakfast dishes were put away, I started “Sunday Dinner”. I did not invite Lyla to help with making the pastry for the pot of chicken that was beginning to simmer. She was tired from all of the weeks’ ruckus-and I was too. Miss Claudia came and I fixed a pineapple cheesecake because of it. When the kitchen was at last, tidy again, Lyla climbed in my lap and went soundly to sleep.
The ride home was peaceful. Dogwoods bloomed in most every yard and along the edges of fields. Azaleas paired with dogwoods is is a sight to behold The last mile to the rabbit patch was streaked with the bright yellow buttercups, along the ditch banks. It would have been the perfect route for a parade, I thought. The woods are donning new leaves in pale shades of green that remind me of water colors.
I was glad to see Kyle and Christian. Cash, my boxer and Christopher Robin, my gray cat, made quite a big production of my arrival. Christopher Robin did not even “put on airs” as he often does after I am gone a long while.
I noticed the grass was greener, than it was a week ago, and so was the peach tree. The house was tidy, and the boys did not starve, after all.