It is Saturday morning, early enough, that it seems like me and the mockingbird, are the only ones in the world. The mockingbird sings from the patch of young woods, at the far corner of the territory. His song echoes with an almost magical lilt and comes through the open window of the old farmhouse. It is breezy enough, to make the pines whisper and a bit cool for an open window, but I like listening to his morning prelude, so I get a warm blanket and sit quietly, beneath it, in the dark, like an odd, old woman. I am not sorry one iota, for these moments. In fact, I feel privileged to know such a time.
The sun came up with a gentle light. I saw rain clouds in the near distance. By this time, a dove cooed softly and the wind had all but stopped. The sun dimmed and the rain clouds moved on, without much ado. . . and the pines stood still, without a refrain.
After all of the commotion, of last weekend, I am hoping this one, remains as peaceful as it has started.
Daddy celebrated his eighty-fourth birthday, yesterday. My sister Connie and her husband Mike – and niece Hayley , took him and Mama out for lunch. I stopped by after school with his favorite ice creams. Mama made her trademark, pineapple cake and someone tied a balloon on the mailbox. We are having a party next weekend to celebrate Christians’ and Daddys’ birthdays.
I can scarce take it in, that my daddy is eighty four -and that my “baby” can grow a beard in twenty four hours. It just goes to show , that even though we can measure time precisely, it still slips through our fingers stealthily -and slyly, with the skill of water.
I am at the rabbitpatch again this weekend. There is a fair share of things to be tended to, besides the usual housekeeping. The first mild days of the year act like a prod of sorts, on me-to get on with my business. Right now, my business is getting the rabbitpatch territory cleaned up. Besides the winter refuge of leaves and more small branches, there is the old refrigerator and a dryer to be removed. Besides that, there are two pieces of furniture in the house, that are long past their days of glory. Neither will make the trip to my future cottage. . .whenever that is.
The floors are in awful mess due to the rain and there is laundry to be put away -and the boxer is getting a bath. Besides that, tomorrow is Saint Patricks’ Day, when you have even a drop of Irish blood, then it calls for a celebration. We take our Irish heritage seriously and so we never let the day pass quietly. Jenny and Will, even got engaged on a Saint Patricks’ Day, years ago in Savannah, by a grove of live oaks.
This year, we are having a pot of hearty potato soup thickened with Irish cheese – and reuben sandwiches. It is a simple fare, compared to most years, but it still counts as a patronage to our ancestors, who had names like Hiram, Henderson McDuffy and Asabella Leary.
I started my housekeeping, cheerfully. The “spark” does not stay there as long as it used to, I notice. I wonder how in my late forties, I could clean the whole house, every nook and cranny, all day long. Certainly, I was tired in the evening, but the house fairly sparkled . . . in those days. What a difference a decade makes! I value cleanliness, as much now as ever, but I sure do not accomplish now, what I used to, in a day. It has helped that I have remained steadfast, in my desire to live without any clutter, but it still takes me twice as long as it used to, to scrub the floors -and I did next to nothing in the yard.
While I was out, I did note that the peach tree blossoms had been faded by a cold night, a few days ago.
Sunday morning dawned cold. I did not rise before the sun, this day. Neither did the birds. It was a quiet early service for a while. There was a light frost, which is natural in March. . . and which is why the peach tree, should have waited to bloom.
There was just enough chill in the air to warrant my hearty Irish soup. I still have housekeeping, too. I worked on and off yesterday til I just gave out. The farmhouse is so much bigger than it used to be. For some years, the house was just the right size. Grandmama was here and three of my sons. Every bedroom was occupied and the kitchen table was full at supper. A cake did not last, much more than a day or two, in those days. The clothes line was full, if the sun was shining and the broom was always out and handy. Those were merry days.
Now, boxes are stacked in corners, awaiting their destiny . . . .as am I. I remain optimistic, and patient . That is why the boxes are unpacked and I have pots waiting to be filled with clumps of flowers and sprigs of cuttings, for they are moving too. One day they will bloom on a small yard around a neat cottage. Grandchildren may have to share a chair at the table and folks will sleep in odd places, for it will on occasion, be a full house . . . that takes a half day to clean! And while I am dreaming, I should include roses – a lot of them.
I had the walls washed and the windows cleaned in the little den, before nine. I started a pot of chicken boiling, for the soup base. Then I tore the sofa apart – and moved it and the rest of furniture, making a total disaster, altogether. The boxer had not planned on this interruption and his face was filled with shock and disapproval.
By noon, the room was put back together and smelled like orange and rosemary. The soup was done and I only awaited a soft blanket to dry. Of course, there was more to be done . . .but it was only noon.
My bedroom was a piece of cake to clean. The sunroom was awful. It is in need of repair, which is disheartening in itself. I tend to ignore the room as it is a pitiful sight. I set about that task, which took twice as long as I expected. No matter how much I cleaned, it was hard to feel but a slight satisfaction, in my effort. It needs painting and the ceiling needs new paneling. The floor is two different kinds of vinyl and so no matter how clean it is, it is nothing short of an eyesore.
I took a stroll around the territory, as the sun was out and the wild violets are blooming. How sweetly the shy little violets make me feel. They are stalwart little things and do not fear the frost. The grass is greening in patches and some of the lilies are up . . .so are the irises. The boxer ran, leaping and bounding joyfully. Boxers, naturally like to celebrate and will do so “at the drop of a hat”. On this day in late winter, there was reason to be glad. A good deal of work had been accomplished, we had wandered, without hurry and a good supper was waiting. Dear Diary, There is always something, to be glad about.
It has become a tradition for me to complain about the time change, every year. Several days have passed and I am just now feeling a bit acclimated to the “changing of the clocks”. I dislike it as much as ever and find it just as ridiculous. It does not help one bit, that mornings are pitch dark when I rise. It could just as well be midnight. Stars are still shining, over a silent world, for things like mockingbirds, have better sense, than to stir in the pitch dark.
True, to the forecast, the weather has been mild during the day-and it has not rained for several days. Oh it is hardest to work inside, when the days are fair. My thoughts turn to things like the “laughing river” and what a grand day, it is to have a picnic. I wish I was home, hanging sheets on the line or gathering branches of Pops’ “golden rod” blossoms . . . or reading something delightful, in the sunshine. It was the same, when I was young.
I tolerated school fairly well . . until the first, silvery days of spring. Then I got “homesick”. I knew Pop was plowing a field and I could almost smell the earth. In those days, the classroom windows would be open, but there was no chance of smelling apple blossoms, in town. The air smelled like fuel and pavement, and the cafeteria food being cooked, just never smelled “right” to me.
I had several problems with lunchroom behavior, for while I didn’t want to eat that “canned stuff”, I was certain the birds might. I put the peas and carrots, in my milk carton and this worked for most of the year, until I dropped the carton, one day and peas rolled right to where the teacher was standing. This landed me in a tight spot for I was accused of wasting food, which ironically, I was trying not to do – and after that, the teacher had to check my tray every day. there were many more infractions, for I was likely to eat my dessert first and I refused the vegetable soup altogether. They served it on Fridays and I was sure they were using “scraps” to make it.
It is no wonder that I wanted to stare out that window, and imagine that beautiful place called home-which “got recorded as day dreaming”.
The classroom smelled like “math books”, lest I ever forget “modern math”. The books were brand new and filled with nonsense about how to add simple numbers. It was the only book, that I was tempted to leave out in the rain, or cut into paper dolls, but I knew better than that, for even a two cent library fine, was shameful, in those days. None of the adults liked “modern math” either . It was an awful waste of life, after all. I announced it to my teacher, who told Grandmama the next Sunday morning, as we attended the same church.
I am older now, and realise that I had wonderful teachers, really. I was just a bit too untamed to appreciate all of the civilization, that schools forced. . . and the library did cover a multitude of sins, as far as I was concerned.
Besides the fields and quiet pastures, I drive by a vacant lot, on the way to and from work. It is a short and peaceful commute that allows just the right amount of time to collect my thoughts. A vacant lot in the country is just a patch of land, usually void of buildings, though sometimes, there is an old barn or shed. More than likely, there will be a grove of pecan trees, or some old shade trees. Somebody will keep the lots mowed, but for them to be deemed vacant, means no one is ever seen there. Such lots are few and far between, in the country. There is one such lot, though a few miles from the rabbitpatch. It is covered now in daffodils, as it is every year. What a sight to come across! I can not imagine how this happened, but there it is, a field of daffodils. They are coming up carelessly, with no rhyme or reason, to any order. The buttery petals fill the ordinary lot, transforming it in to something spectacular. In other seasons, one might not give the place, a second glance, but in the spring, this is not so.
Though the calendar does not proclaim it, it does seem like spring has been declared. I am not sure what to make of, such an early arrival. I do not remember a spring so well under way, at this time of year, ever. I do hope a hateful frost does not come along and spoil everything. I love every season and most every kind of weather. In the winter, I love to see a bit of snow, and I will declare it the most beautiful sight of all. I love the autumn, when the countryside is painted in amber and gold and apricot. The smell of wood smoke and the skies of October make me fall hopelessly head over heels, with the season. In early summer, there is the wild honeysuckle and fresh cut grass. I love the garden and the morning glory climbing up old sheds and fences. In the summer, when stars number in the millions overhead, I am swept away in the beauty . . .and now with the return of the song birds and the Quiet Garden turning green, and all of those daffodils, then I say spring must be the best of all. I am surely fickle, but Dear Diary, I love everything wildly and with all of my heart!
Once again, it is Friday. Friday is never a dull day when I am working. It is easier to get up in the morning, no matter the conditions . . .for it is Friday! Coming home feels especially liberating and hopefulness abounds in the prospect of some time that belongs to you. Whether you plan to do housework, or read or go hiking, there is a beautiful element to “owning your life”. It is a truer form of wealth to me, than money ever dared to be.
Holding my laughing Brynn, or telling Lyla a story, walking amongst the old trees with the boxer, playing music with Christian-all of these things are priceless to me. I do not mind living frugally to afford these hours. I practiced the same habits, when my children were young, hence my pockets are filled with yesterdays’ gold, and so are theirs. I have more regrets, than I wish, but “taking to the woods in October, for a picnic” on a Tuesday, is not one of them.
This does not mean that I am not an advocate for work, but the saying “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy” does seem to ring dreadfully true. Finding your own balance is a quest to pursue with great fervor, for it makes all the difference in our life . . .and what skill, it requires, for the scales tilt, first one way and then another, as we go along, depending on our circumstances. What once worked, no longer does and off we go again, adjusting and adapting, according to our current needs. Balance is truly a lifelong endeavor, but the reward is also, lifelong.
This weekend is no ordinary weekend at the rabbit patch. Tomorrow is Christians’ birthday. Birthday ceremonies are not only for the day, at the rabbitpatch. We start before the eve of the special day and finish up, several days later. Only Christians’ favorite foods will be on the menu and he will be on “light duty” too.
Christian is my fourth and last son-and the youngest of five. He is not without fault, but they are few and far between. Worldly things hold little attraction for Christian-they never have. He is bored with trends and has never followed shallow dreams. He is compassionate, gentle, humble and an artist, to the core. He is one of the most spiritual people I know and has served as a beacon to me, on countless occasions. If it sounds like I am a doting mother, it is because I am. I do not bear a bit of shame in it, either. Far be it from me to make light of such a beautiful gift.
It is also Miss Thelmas’ birthday. Miss Thelma lives across the street from Jenny. Tomorrow will be Miss Thelmas’ ninety fifth birthday! She has been so excited. She explained to me, that she did not have a big wedding. She married just after World War II and the world was still recovering. She had a son , who passed a few years ago. Her husband is bed ridden, but has a clear mind, at 96! She told me today, that seeing her name in the Church Bulletin was just thrilling!
I met Miss Thelma several years ago, when Jenny and Will moved in to Riverside, the old village by the “laughing river”. A few weeks later, Miss Thelma came over with a card and candy, to welcome them. She was a striking lady with long silvery hair. Her smile was just beautiful. We struck up a conversation and became fast friends. She has done a good bit of traveling, and was head of the NC teachers for almost a decade. To her credit, she STILL has students, that come to visit her, thirty years after retirement!
Tomorrow, is a “red letter” day, in these parts!
I did not scurry a bit today. I did make a caramel cake for Christian. I have talked about it enough, that he wanted one too. I did laundry and other housekeeping tasks. I like to leave my house clean and orderly on Monday mornings, and it will be here sooner rather than later.
Though it rained again, last night, it did not rain today. I took a stroll around the rabbit patch in the still grey day. The boxer was with me as we explored the aftermath of winter. It really wasn’t as bad as I thought. There were branches, but all were small and manageable. The wind had brought in debris, which was found lodged in the old fence. The peach trees behind the barn were blooming, and so were the daffodils, making bright patches of bright yellow here and there. The forecast declares a stretch of dry, sunny weather, ahead . . . and so maybe, all hope is not lost for an abundant and colorful spring, after all.
Christian and I were up early on Sunday. He opened his presents, while a light rain fell. I was to play for Miss Thelmas’ birthday reception, so I hadn’t a moment to waste. It didn’t help a bit, that we had to change the time, as well. I received notice from two loved ones of bad news. just moments before I needed to leave. . .and so I left the rabbitpatch with a heavy heart.
It was a mild day and a friendly breeze was blowing. I drove to Elizabeth City, in rain and shine, for it would rain for a few miles, and then sunshine dappled the highway, the next few. I had to really concentrate on my driving, for I do not take sorrow lightly.
I barely made the service on time, which was very unsettling. The house Miss Claudia lived in, was just a street over, and how hollow I felt, all over again. What an awful time to be so full of sorrow – and late! I walked in to a church full of friendly folks. The pastor could not hide the relief, at seeing me. Neither could Miss Thelma, who was lovely as ever and fairly glowing. Somehow I manged the first song with a heart, not yet stilled. Listening to the sermon, improved my spirits, for the message was about the dependability of Christ. The second song came easier than the first, thankfully.
The ride back to the rabbitpatch, was much like the one, away from it. This time I noticed the blooming, stark white pear trees and the wildflowers growing everywhere. Sunbeams fell tenderly over the fields. How, I wondered, could a day hold so much beauty, be also filled with tragedy?
I had not been home long, when a dear friend, for over a decade, dropped by. Gayle and I were neighbors for a good while. She was steadfast and dependable, when my husband was sick. She dependably cared for my youngest sons and fed us all. When storms blew in, we got in the habit of cooking a joint supper. Today, she brought me a sweet picture of a rabbit. Her visit did me good, for we sat around the kitchen table, chatting, as if we still saw each other daily.
Afterwards, the boxer and I walked around the territory. I gathered more branches and collected a small bag of trash . . .again. All sorts of birds were flying about and singing cheerfully. I found a patch of wild violets. . . . and Dear Rabbitpatch Diary, I love violets.
What a mixed batch, the weekend was. Celebrations and calamities all at once, grey skies and sunlight. Oh how glad I am for old friends and violets.
It is hard to say whether or not “March came in like a lion”, for February made such a spectacle of itself, masquerading like the late days of April. Either way it is the time of March -the time of daffodils and wind.
I came to Elizabeth City on Thursday. A cold wind blew and rain soon followed. It didn’t matter for Jenny and I had plenty to do -and it was inside work. We had high hopes of changing out the wardrobes of both girls. I thought that would take the best part of a day. We also had planned a special supper for Wills’ “Aunt J” and his sister, Mari. We wanted to go to a new grocery store and I wanted to make a caramel cake. I have never made one from scratch, and the icing takes a long while to make, for it must simmer for about two hours. There was a lot to do, for we were not short on lofty notions.
Lyla always celebrates my arrival by running in to my arms and then hugs me for a long while. It is always a wonderful feeling-to know you are so loved. Brynn has been warming up to me over the last month and now she is quite satisfied in my arms. One thing, I can say with certainty, is that it is a wonderful blessing to be a grandparent.
Jenny and I started switching the clothes out on Friday morning. I had forgotten that Jenny has a small group of mothers that pass clothes along to one another. There were four or five bins to sort. Each bin was holding the maximum amount of little dresses, coats pajamas, socks and every other article of clothing you can imagine. First we sorted by size, then by season. Of course, first we had to sort through the clothes. the girls had out grown. Stacks of clothes soon filled the bedroom, for mothers, with younger children and ones for Brynn to grow in to. It took all day just to get to that point. Then it was time to wash all to be used. That happened on Saturday. As we went along, we cleaned the closet out, as it seemed foolish not to do so. Now here it is Sunday morning and there is still one bin left!
There was a lot of activity amongst the birds this morning. There were doves and the robin that sits on the fence surveying the goings and comings of everyone, was in his usual post. He always sits in the same spot, and does not stir from it, in my presence. There were sparrows and wrens – and some noisy blackbirds. A pair of cardinals were frantically on some mission and then . . .I saw the Tanager. I had to look twice. He was as red as could be, and made the cardinals “pale in comparison”. I have only seen these birds a time or two, in the last few years. I do hope, he decides to stay.
Will and Jenny met friends for brunch. Will has had such loss recently, first his beloved mother, then someone he admired, a mentor and a friend -and last week he lost his oldest and best friend to a sudden and fatal pancreas attack. Well, the friends of Will and Jenny just wanted to do something to lift their spirits, hence, a brunch. The little girls stayed with me and it was a delightful and calm hour.
When they all returned, I walked to Miss Thelmas’ for a quick visit. She has a birthday, this coming Sunday, on the same day as Christian! Miss Thelma is turning ninety-five! She has been planning a party, for weeks. She showed me her napkins and she has party favors for all of the children. Her church will host the event. I am playing the violin, at her request, during the service. I am trying to persuade Christian to play with me. A good guitarist, like love, does cover a “multitude of sins”. I helped Miss Thelma choose an outfit and listened to her grand plans. It made me glad to see her so full of joy and anticipation. Jenny and I started on the last of the clothing, when I got back.
It took all afternoon, to wash and place the clothes in the drawers and closet -or into a half dozen piles with different destinations. By evening. the piles were packed and some sent on their way. The upstairs bedroom was orderly at last. Jenny and I were so tired, that we ordered supper out. Lyla was tired too, from trying on one dress after another . . . and shoes . . .and coats. I took a shower and told Jenny, how good it felt and that I was restored, body and soul, from those wicked stairs and sitting on the floor for hours. When Jenny got her shower, I asked happily how she felt and she said . . . “exhausted.”
Another thing I can say with certainty, is that Lyla and Brynn do not need any clothing for the next several seasons -and at this rate, Brynn may never need anything til she is in the fourth grade! It is a sensible practice, but it does require an amazing amount of effort. . .and so I never did make that caramel cake.
It rained again that night. Rain fell and muted the street lights. There was wind too. Lyla watched the young willow, from the nursery willow. The bare tendrils swirled gracefully. Lyla loves the willow. She loves to play under it when the leaves fill the branches, for it makes the perfect canopy to dance beneath-or to have a tea party. Lylas was upset that the willow was bare, so I explained to her that the earth was just resting. Now, Lyla loves the willow, but the other day, she was in the back yard talking to a little fig tree. I heard her say “Grow little tree!” I know you can!” Jenny says that Lyla often talks to the fig tree. I may be the only grandmother alive, that would say so, but this thrilled me with no end. It will come as no surprise that I talked to trees when I was but a child. It came about quite naturally. . .and I still do.
Before I left Elizabeth City, I noticed a few green, tender leaves on one of the branches of Lylas’ willow tree. I told her and she ran to the porch to see for herself.
Dear Rabbitpatch Diary, In a world so changed, from the one I knew, and I fear, some beauty lost , . . . I will remain hopeful . . for as long as children talk to trees. . . there is hope.