I rose early on “Fathers’ Day”. It was the first day, I had been at the rabbitpatch, since school had adjourned. Will and Jenny were at the beach, Christian had to work, Brant was in the mountains . . .well everybody was somewhere else. I was cooking a “Sunday dinner” and taking stock of what project to tackle, this week.
The morning was quiet and unlike the mornings, I spent on the porch, at Jennys’. this past week. No one walks a dog in the “Farm Life” community. There are no joggers -or walkers, and certainly no skateboards going by the house. I can not imagine living in a major city, for even a small town, perched on the banks of a river, offers a life of contrast. I like both. I used to spend part of the summer time in Wilmington, which is not a small town. Brant lived in a townhouse community. The neighbors were a friendly lot and the place was full of old trees and flowers-and so tidy. I took walks daily, but other than that, I was “housebound”. Traffic there was a nightmare for me. There is no courtesy amongst drivers, for it seems they are everyone late for something. Whenever, I got a ride to a grocery, I made it count.
I cleaned the porch, while a load of laundry washed and a pot of green beans simmered. I heard my grandmothers voice, reminding me to “season the water first, before adding the beans”. I never understood this practice, but I practice it faithfully, because Grandmama did. Besides, Grandmama was an exceptional cook. She used ingredients of quality and cooked with a tender spirit and a gentle hand. She did not cook hurriedly, either. My eyes still sting, at her memory.
I made JoDees’ barbecued chicken , for that takes the better of two hours and potato salad for Mama, as with it being “Fathers’ Day”, the dishes most all, centered around Daddy. A cinnamon cake, chocked full of raisins, was baked for dessert. When it was all finished, the dishes were packed up like a grand picnic parcel for today I was bringing “Sunday dinner” to them.
Of course, I am bound to sing the praises of my dad to today, especially. When you are a child, and know no different, what a good father does, does not seem spectacular . My own dad worked-long and hard hours. Though we were taught to be thrifty and sensible, I was never made aware of any time there was a lack of money. I never heard my parent argue. “Sass” was not tolerated and “sass” included tone of voice and flippancy. Mama taught us sterling manners-Daddy made sure, we “minded” Mama. Daddy took fatherhood seriously. He was not the sort of man, to read books to us, though I do remember him reading me a “little Golden Book” which ironically, was “The Tale of Peter Rabbit- and another one . . “The Billy Goats Gruff”. Daddy taught us other things, not found in books. He taught us how to saddle our ponies, constellations . .and leaf and bird identification. He bought us sturdy shoes and winter coats, and flew kites with us. I could not appreciate such things, as a child. I had never gone without a good nights’ sleep, nor worked in sleet and hateful heat. I had no knowledge of what it meant to provide for another living soul. I was ignorant of working all the overtime you could, to buy dolls and tea sets for Christmas – and eating out of a lunch box, every day. Fathers do such things, at least mine did. . .and what a thankless job, it can be, for years.
Thankfully, I have lived long enough, to realise the advantage I have, in having a good father. Thankfully, he can know, my gratitude for it .
On Monday, I got up when I felt the notion-in spite of a clock. I still got up early, but to have the liberty of that decision, felt good. It was a clear morning. A young mimosa was blooming for the first time in a delicate shade of pink. The thing is full of feathery blossoms and though it grows in an inconvenient place, I haven’t the heart to remove it. . .and most especially, now. Mimosa trees are so common, here. They adorn the edges of field and wood- and come up in flower beds -and sidewalks. The trees are quite tropical looking, with palm like branches, that always mange to grow in a graceful canopy form. The abundance of the mimosa, does not decrease its’ value to me. I love them, as my grandmother did-and Jenny does now. I remember laying with Brant, under a mimosa, when he was but days old. It was one of the first times, he was outside, and I couldn’t wait to show him the beauty of the world, he’d come too.
I had two projects on my agenda -but didn’t attempt either of them. I dreaded both of the tasks, truthfully. One was painting the kitchen ceiling and the other was painting the front porch. I decided to put off, today, what might get done tomorrow. Besides I was weeks behind in reading and I have not written nearly as much as my heart desired, as of lately. I did cook, for I organised the freezer. There was nothing to discard, but plenty to cook. I washed some laundry, and I read page after page after page, til the rabbitpatch was bathed in moon shine – and at last, my obligations were satisfied.
On Tuesday, I behaved as I did on Monday, upon rising. Early light fell in bright splashes on the territory-so that was what time it was. I did not dally, but went straight away, to find the paint for the ceiling. I sat it out in plain sight, so that the gumption might well up inside me to paint that ceiling. In the meantime I put on a large pot of chicken to stew. I was wanting to try to make a chopped barbecue, using chicken. Now, this goes against my southern roots. Eastern NC barbecue is highly regarded as the best there is, and rightfully so. It is made painfully slow, with pork roasted over a wood fire. Stewed chicken, is a far cry, from that, but I had some recently-and liked it. I will season it, and chop it, as if it were pork . . and hope for the best, though I may not breathe a word of it, to my neighbors.
By noon, I was sick of ladders and painting, altogether. It was also apparent that it would take the best part of the day to finish. . . . longer than I had expected. . .like everything else, I start. Since the cabinets are white, the bright ceiling made them appear dingy. There was nothing to do, but to paint them too. I took a good many breaks, but each time that I climbed down, meant another time to climb up, too. I wanted to stop many times, but I knew I could finish it today. When the kitchen is closed down -well, it is awful around here.
Everything was finished and the kitchen clean . . .around midnight.
Daddy had an early appointment at a hospital, in a neighboring town, on Wednesday morning. That turned out just like my kitchen project, . . . dreadfully, under estimated. I regretted not carrying a book, as I usually do, but we all expected to be home by lunch. We got home , just before supper. Thankfully, all turned out good for daddy. We took great comfort in that.
With all the imagination, nurtured in me, I hadn’t enough to see my daddy in a wheelchair, or my mother putting his shoes on, for him. I knew, they would both grow older, as we all do . . as I do, but it always seemed a far away time . . .too far to think about on any given day, thus far. My parents seemed as ordinary as other folks, when I was growing up . . .now as I watch them, a half century later, holding hands , united in heart and spirit, throughout all seasons, I understand, finally, that they have never been ordinary people. They were always great people, doing the ordinary things, life called for.
The last few days have flown by like a “whirlwind”. When “the dust settled”. children had graduated and a closing ceremony, concluded the school year. I headed straight away to Elizabeth City, for Jenny has a lot more on her plate than usual. . .besides, I never turn down a chance, to see my children and grandchildren and will traipse headlong , at the drop of a hat. But, Jenny has two appointments this week and has to pack for a week at the beach. She must bring linens, towels, kitchen necessities and toys, besides clothes and toiletries, for their week by the sea.
The weather feels like September! The humidity is so low, that a neighbor informed us the records have been broken. This allows the “laughing river” to turn that beautiful shade of indigo. With the lawns being an emerald green just now, the village, is a lovely sight altogether. One day, I took Lyla and Brynn on a long stroll in a double stroller. Brynn sat up and took note of everything. It was a windy day, and we all loved it. Everything is blooming. We stopped under a magnolia tree, just to drink in the scent of the saucer size blossoms. Not long after we stopped again, in our tracks, on the sidewalk, for the wind was filled with the smell of the Cape Jasmine . We stood there and let the wind blow around us, til we had the notion to move on. Lyla learned about hydrangeas, this day, for most every yard has one. A kind lady was working in her yard and gave us several for a bouquet. What a lovely day!
Baby Brynn had a doctors’ appointment one day. While she and Jenny attended that, Lyla and I went to “The Recycled Reader” which was just a few shoppes down. Book stores are one place I like to shop. Now, regular readers know, that I am on a mission, to live with less . . .still I bought THIRTEEN books, this day. Most were for others. I found a “Black Beauty” book, for young children actually using Sewells’ original words and illustrated beautifully. I am quite a snob when it comes to books for my grandchildren. I just will not tolerate poor quality in books, and most especially for children. I shutter at the watered down version of the classics and the cartoonish quality of many. I also found two for my future grandson-also well written . I found a book for Jenny and one for Will and several for me from the “Covington Series”. What a jackpot for me, as these books are hard to find. Lyla enjoyed herself as much as I did. I have a feeling, we will go again, shortly. . .and carry a bigger bag!
Friday was Brants’ birthday. Brant is my oldest child and he is the one expecting his own first child. . .my first grandson. He and Sydney are in the mountains, on vacation, so we had to make due with a phone call. Brant is a beautiful human inside and out. He is far from shallow and is as compassionate a soul as I know of. If this sounds like bragging . . it is because I am. He has never lived anywhere, that his neighbors (especially the seniors), did not love him. Children too – and dogs. There is just something about Brant. Of course, I adore my children, but I have valid reasons to do so. . .and Brant is one of them.
Friday was the day of packing. The car was cleaned out and strollers were scrubbed down. It was a full days’ work. Lyla and I did manage to get in a visit with Miss Thelma. We carried flowers and cookies and Lyla recited her poems. Miss Thelma just lost her husband, last week, whom she refers to, “as her best friend for eighty years”. Her only son passed a few years back, so how tragic. I hope to spend many hours with her this summer, for I have come to love Miss Thelma, and am quite distressed about her situation.
Lately, it seems a lot of sadness has plagued our family. I can scarce recover from one thing, til it seems another has sprang up. What a toll it takes. Sometimes, I feel like I have been in a perpetual state of mourning, for quite a spell. My grandmama used to say, “There is ALWAYS something to worry you . .if you let it .” (My elders used the word “worry” when they meant “bother”.) She was right.
One of the truest test, life offers, is what to do with “bother”. It is a skill that will be required by all of us and I am convinced, may be one of our most significant factors, in our overall happiness . . .and our health. I sat on the porch swing, Friday night and wondered about all of it. I admit, that life had been going smoothly, for me for a long stretch and I grew accustomed to that. The next thing I know, is that one thing after another unfolded, resulting in loss of loved ones, doors slamming on hopes and threatening circumstances, for several of my dearest ones. I am not at liberty to “tell all” just now, but rest assured, I am not exaggerating. I am in the proverbial “rough patch” and “things could always get worse” does not comfort me one iota, for yes, I believe it! . . .and meanwhile, the eyes of my children are upon me- and I realise, that I am still “teaching them” – about what to do with “bother”.
I sat on the swing, when the village was quiet, and there was no sign “of man”, for a while, sorting out each care – as if I would come up with solutions. I found myself to be quite dull, at such a task and decided to just “Be still” -as it is written. This is much easier, said, than done.
Saturday morning dawned cool and bright. The very first thought, that I had was “to just love everybody”. How odd, I thought, for such a thing to pop in your head upon awakening! I could not recall a single dream, but somehow, the idea rang true and I felt it deeply stirring within my heart. I had no explanation for it, for I doubted any conditions had changed over night, but I could not deny feeling more peaceful, than I had in a fortnight. . .that had changed. My concerns were still intact, but I felt more able to bear them. Love seemed especially powerful -and enough.
I gently got out of bed, so as not to wake Lyla. I sat on the front porch again – and listened to the robins chattering, as they fed their young. Somewhere a mimosa bloomed, for it made its’ presence known in the morning breeze. The willow swayed gracefully, giving in to the desire of the wind. It was like watching poetry. . . a natural choreography . . as is so often found in nature.
On Monday, the sale of the rabbitpatch, fell through. It was disappointing,to say the least. The thing I had going for me, was experience, this time around. In December, the deal was off, just two days before closing. It was a horrible shock at the time and dampened my spirits considerably – and right before Christmas. Well, I carried on with high hopes, for the coming spring.
Though, I was better prepared, this time, I can say, there was not an absence of some melancholy. I had not even put the house on the market, when a prospective buyer approached me. In all honesty, both of us thought it would work out.
Lest, anyone think, that I spend all of my life, watching sparrows and talking to trees, I want you to know, that such things were not on my mind, that day. I shed a few quiet tears and then I got grumpy. Of course, all sorts of noble thoughts kept popping in my head. “It was not the right time” -“the best is yet to come” and on and on. I dismissed them all, for I needed to mourn. I wanted to mourn. I was frustrated and felt stranded. It was not my best moment.
I went out to say good night to the world, despite my poor behavior. The pine trees were whispering and a dove cooed sweetly. A pair of young rabbits were frolicking in the star shine, like all was well.
I woke early on Tuesday. It was a cool morning . The sweet country air came through the open window . . . and a mockingbird sang. The realization of the “failed attempt” washed over me again, with a slighter sting, than the day before. Every verse, I knew about trust and faith sprang up in my thoughts, while I prepared for work. This annoyed me, to no end.
On a brighter note, it was Sydneys’ birthday. Dear Sydney glowing and so content – so full of hope and joy as she awaits the birth of her little son. . .and my first grandson. What a beautiful time it is for all of us. Few times are sweeter than waiting for a baby, I think. Everything else, I was thinking about started to pale in comparison, to that.
I wish I could say that I abandoned my gloomy thoughts, but I did not feel a conclusion for a while. Really, I just wanted a direction to follow. I came to doubt the whole business. I wondered how a path that seemed laid before me, would be so hindered. Of course, I thought that maybe the “timing” was off. I pondered it all til I was weary of it. That is when, things got suddenly clear. It occurred to me, that I either trusted . . or I didn’t. It was as simple as that. . . I decided to trust.
Later, I laughed at myself, for acting as if selling a house- or not, could have caused such an internal commotion . What a big and unnecessary production! In my defense, though . . .this has gone on for a while and there are plenty more details, I am not yet at liberty, to tell. Not one of them is small, either.
I have no idea, how I will continue to manage this territory -or how I will pay for it. The house and property are bigger than they used to be and like me . . .older. I still deeply desire a smaller rabbitpatch, but for now, I will trust in this winding journey with its, “blind spots” and twists, after all, I am not going it, alone. I needn’t even be brave, I just have to trust.
Dear Friends of the Rabbitpatch, I write this in hope that your own disappointments will be few . . but also knowing they are as certain as rain, to come along on occasion. At such times, we are bound to falter . . .as I did . . and make mountains of molehills . . . as I did. Should anyone find themselves, in such circumstances, I did not want them to feel lonesome . I have a fair share of short comings . . .but at least I am in “Good Company” as I go along. The truth is . . .We all are.
Temperatures have been rising steadily . . .til now it is hot. Even the steady breeze is too warm to afford any comfort. There hasn’t been a drop of rain in a fortnight, and so the lilies are complaining along with the roses. The grass at the rabbitpatch hasn’t grown an inch, since my neighbor, Susan mowed it two weeks ago. What a saint Susan is!
With “summer weather” showing up early, we cut the air conditions on, in the old farmhouse. This is dreadfully early for such measures, but the hateful southern humidity is just an unbearable heritage. The forecast calls for rain and cooler temps in the next few days, so hopefully, this is a short lived affair.
A pleasant thing happened on Thursday. Tres came home! He is here for just a few days, but long enough for me to make a supper and for Mama to make his favorite cake. We had a small belated birthday celebration at Mama and Daddys’. And in the midst of it, rain came. It was really a quick thunderstorm, but we were all happy about it. Cool air came with it and what a difference that made. I drove back to the rabbitpatch at dusk, when fireflies were on the wing. What a pretty picture it made, to see their flickering shine in the evening mist. I came home and cut that air conditioner off.
If things had been different, I would have taken Friday off. Tres had spent the night, after all.
Friday passed quickly. I left just after school, for Elizabeth City. The sky was a threatening shade of blue and now and then a shower fell for a mile or so. The young corn, in the fields held their blades tight, for this is the way, corn begs for rain.
Along the way, my friend Rae called. Rae and I have been friends for more than thirty years, which shocks me to think about. When a friendship endures for that long, you really “understand” one another, deeply. Several years ago, Raes’ whole life changed in a flash. First, her job ended – and a month later, her husband died , suddenly. Both of her sons had recently married and so Rae was a widow, dealing with an empty nest, all at once. . .and no job to distract her. I am sure those were the bleakest years, for her. Still, my friend trudged on, til today, when she called to say she was married … . .and happily. I smiled the whole way to Elizabeth City.
Not too long, after I arrived at the Riverside Village, by the “laughing river”, a thunderstorm struck. Lyla and I listened to the storm, safely snuggled in bed. Like me, Lyla loves rain-and a thunderstorm.
The next morning, was quite cool, such a shock from the last week. There were morning showers, but by noon, the sun was shining. It was as lovely day, as I have ever seen. Will and Jenny were attending a downtown festival and so the bright day was perfect, for that. I had a stroll planned for Lyla and Brynn, but alas, Lyla fell asleep and just before she woke, so did Brynn.
On Sunday morning, I made biscuits for breakfast. With the cool weather, lingering, Will and I sat on the porch. Somehow, we started talking about books. Both of us agreed, that with all of the modern ways to read, holding a book and turning the pages, remains our favorite form, of the pastime. Our favorite books, sit on our shelves, and become like old friends , over the years. I will read a good book more than once.
Back, when I was young, and the world was safer, Mama would drop my sister and I off at the local library, while she shopped for groceries. Delores and I took the library as serious business, and observed the quiet policy, and we were very careful to return books to the correct place on the shelves. After we had checked out our selections, we would wait for Mama under the huge magnolia trees, just outside the door of the library, reading our books. To this day, the innocence of those happy days, moves me to tears.
Lyla and I carried Miss Thelma some biscuits while they were still warm. After a short visit, Lyla and I headed to the grocery. This was to be a short visit, and though I knew this full well, I dreaded leaving. The time had gone cruelly fast, but I consoled myself that I would be afforded greater liberty soon.
I left in a light rain that quickly turned to a blinding rain. When it started hailing, I turned back. It was a short but perilous journey. The crashing hail was deafening and I couldn’t see but an arms’ length, beyond me.