It is January . . but the windows are up at the rabbitpatch. Daffodils are sprouting and the wild hyacinths are too. Well, if I were a flower, I would too, for there have been spring like showers and a couple of days a wind blew as if it were March! There have always been a few mild days in months like January or February, for as long I can remember, but this has been a long spell.
I was in Elizabeth City over the weekend. This was the weekend, that Tres would be moving there as he had his first classes on Tuesday. All week, he had worked on the old farmhouse. I had all but given up on anything getting fixed and so how happy I was ! Now, I am inspired to embark on that sun room, if and when I get a tax refund. Though there are a good many trees on the territory, money does not grow on a one of them.
Besides all of that . . .well having Tres home, meant the world to me. I reveled in the fact, that I could cook supper for him, as I used to. . . that he slept under my roof . . and it was so very good while it lasted.
In a twinkling, the days passed. Tres had finished his projects, and he headed for Elizabeth City. Jenny had the guest room ready for him, as he will be there for a few weeks, til he can move in to a little house, right behind her. Lyla waited for her Uncle Tres with more enthusiasm, than she had for Santa Claus! She clapped her little hands and danced around every time we talked about it.
Even when Monday dawned, and the farmhouse population had dwindled once again, I could not help but be consoled that Tres was closer to me, than he had been in a decade.
Of all my children, Tres has always been the most independent. He started out that way. . . and has remained so. Never the less, Jenny will “mother” him, with a light but steady hand. Jenny was born with a mothers’ heart and she sure had ample opportunity to practice her skills, with four brothers. Jenny is this way with all of us. Somehow, she knows our needs and “tends” to us quietly with great efficiency- and we are all unaware, she fixed what ails us, til it is over. Tres will have balanced meals, clean clothes and school supplies, whether he likes it or not.
Jenny has a birthday on Monday . . and since it is a three day weekend, I hope to help her celebrate on Monday. This will depend on Daddys’ appointment, which is today. Somehow, it became Friday rather quickly this week. Daddy has not had his best week, so we were at a another appointment on Wednesday.
While daddy was having his procedure done, I sat in the lobby. There wasn’t a magazine in the place that had recipes or pictures of pretty curtains. All of the articles were about some sort of health crisis and all of the medicines needed to just stay alive . . .not one article was about how to grow petunias. I turned my attention to the video on the TV. It was titled “Children Need Dirt” and the intent was to inform us of the necessity of playing outside, for children. Of course, there was a scientific explanation with fancy terms used to convince us . . .but the long and short of it, was that children had increased immunity and were healthier in general. My elders must have relied solely on instinct, for when we were young, my cousins and I were always outside. It was a given. If it were cold we wore coats and sturdy shoes, and none of us had colds nor hardly ever were sick.
The next segment, on the TV was about the effects of nature on the brain. I knew there was truth in this from personal experience, but it was interesting to hear science confirm it. It seems the chemistry of the brain is very affected by our environment. When we are constantly interrupted in our thoughts or distracted . . .and what an age of distractions, we live in . . .then the brain chemistry is altered and it is not for the best. In fact, so much so, that it actually takes years off of our life. On the other hand, Nature acts like a tonic and relieves all sorts of ailments caused by “bad chemistry”. Now, my account of “the study” will never be published anywhere else, but here in this diary, for I am greatly lacking in adequate scientific language . . . but, I am no stranger to these facts.
Suddenly, the doctor came to us with good news. The sense of dread that had plagued us for days vanished and I couldn’t decide whether to laugh or cry. Relief seemed to wash over Mama til she nearly glowed. I made a mad dash to call my sisters. How good it felt to share that “all was well.”
In light of the pleasant outcome, I left for Elizabeth City, after school. Three days to look forward to -and one of them was Jennys’ birthday.
Tres cooked supper for us on Friday evening. He loves to cook and that has already come in handy for Jenny. Right off, I saw that Brynn was head over heels for her uncle. That has come in handy too. How good I slept and “joy came again, in the morning” when I awakened, to such happy circumstances.
Most of the days passed in an ordinary fashion, but one day, the blackbirds came. I heard their chatter before I saw them out of the kitchen window. I ran to find Brynn, to show her. She was very amused and we watched them for a while. I have always loved to watch blackbirds. They move like living fluid, in the air. Swooping and twirling from one spiraling shape to another. Their performances are hypnotic for me, for I can not think of a solitary thing, when I am watching blackbirds. I have watched them all of my life and have not yet lost the thrill of it.
We awoke to a cold blustery morning on Sunday. I couldn’t help but pity he iris that was blooming in Miss Thelmas’ yard . . .along side the “paper whites”.
After breakfast, on Sunday, I started cooking all sorts of things. Jenny has a cold, so I made chicken noodle soup. I made pimento cheese for grilling in sandwiches – it pairs well with soup . . .and Tres loves pimento cheese. I made a big pot of great northern beans, too. I packed some of it up for Aunt J and Miss Thelma and still had enough to stock pile for Jenny.
By the time, that I had packed my wares and cleaned the kitchen, it was almost time to start supper.
Wills’ sister, Mari stopped by. Mari lives hours away, and was on her way to Aunt Js’ . She, Jenny and I sat in the kitchen while I concocted a casserole. I think company in the kitchen, is the best kind . It did not hurt one bit, that Mari said kind things about the rabbitpatch diary. I fairly glowed as I put the casserole in the oven.
Now, Monday was Jennys’ birthday and so we all agreed, that she should sleep til she woke naturally, which mothers’ rarely do. Lyla was very quiet and she rarely is. Tres was reminded by Lyla, as I was, but Brynn had to be brought downstairs by her daddy, to “keep the peace”. Jenny had a special strawberry french toast plate for breakfast, then commenced to opening her presents. Lyla announced them all, by saying things like “Now open the waffle maker!”
Will and Jenny took a day trip, with Brynn in tow. Lyla stayed with me and her Uncle Tres. Tres planned a special supper, but I had to leave. Three days weren’t enough, but it was a lovely time.
When I got back to the rabbitpatch, the winter sky was spangled with stars. I love the winter night sky. It is the best time of the year to see the constellations. July may have millions of stars, but January, has the brightest. How generous the sky has been with its’ blackbirds and stars, I thought.
Christian came out to help me with all the bags while the boxer dashed madly around the yard. It was his way of saying “Welcome Home!” Christian said ” I made coffee for you” . . that was his way.
The new year is almost “old news” now. Parties have ceased and supper has resumed in routine to ordinary food in ordinary dishes. The children at school are not nearly as shocked with the year being 2020, as I am. I never even got over the year being 2000! It is still as unbelievable to me, as it was in my youth, to imagine.
New Years day was as clear a day as I have ever seen. It was chilly enough to warrant a coat. I was cooking cabbage by seven and rolling pastry out shortly after for the big pot of stewed chicken. Today, we were having a mid day meal at “Aunt Js'” home. which is only five minutes from Will and Jennys’ home.
Aunt J is Wills’ aunt, and was the sister of his mother, ” Miss Claudia”. I liked her the first time I met her. She was a teacher and eventually ended up becoming a principle, before her retirement. It seems, she has also had a hand in tending to every child born in the family, as well. I can say with all certainty . . that everybody loves Aunt J.
We all enjoyed the meal. Brynn ate black eyed peas, cabbage and chicken & pastry along with the rest of us . . .Lyla, ate a jelly sandwich, for she is a picky eater. She eats a lot of fruit and vegetables too, though she has no idea about the vegetables, for Jenny has become an expert at hiding things like spinach in her diet.
Since Aunt J was sick at Christmas, this day we exchanged presents. Poor Aunt J was already struggling with the first Christmas without her sister. She had already cried, because I made that “orange ambrosia” that she and Miss Claudia loved-now, she cried again, when she got several framed pictures of Miss Claudia, in her first gift. I encouraged her to open my gift knowing soap and candy were not likely to make her cry. We did all laugh about that, later.
We had pie for dessert. It was a chess pie made with a recipe from Sydneys’ dad. I had never cooked from this recipe, but had heard Jasons’ praises sung, often about this pie-amongst other things. I had even interrupted their dinner, the night before in quite a state because neither of my pies had “set” and I was sure they never would . . .but they did, as Jason had said they would , as he was having dinner.
As soon as we got back, Jenny got Brynn to sleep, and I fixed a plate for Miss Thelma. This time I would stay long enough to visit.
By the time I got back, Brynn was awake and Will had fallen asleep. I had to return to work on Thursday, so I left, to get back to the rabbitpatch, before dark.
I was welcomed with open arms – and paws. The “icing on my cake” was that Tres would be there shortly, as well. He had left Wilmington . . .with all he owned, so he wasn’t going back anytime soon. I can not scarce take it in . . .Tres will be here a few weeks, until his move to Elizabeth City, to start school in January. Sometimes I get to say this . . “I am happier than any lark, ever dared to be!” . . .Today, was one of those times!
If you visit the rabbitpatch regularly, you are well aware that I go “kicking and screaming” in to modern notions. I do not rush headlong into every new way of doing things, for sometimes I get that option. To me, trends are too temporary and hold little allure for me, whether it is fashion or hairstyles or contraptions which are outdated quickly. . . until now. The first time that my “pride went before a fall” was in April. Brant and Tres bought me a firestick for my birthday. Brant installed the thing and I cancelled my very expensive cable service immediately. Now I could watch my old movies and documentaries for FREE! I could watch artists paint and listen to lectures . . and it didn’t cost me a dime!! I am still liable to applaud if someone asks if I like it! . . .Well, it has happened again.
For several years, I have told my children, not to buy me gifts. One day, I am going to move and I might want new towels to match the kitchen or a rose bush to plant in the spring. Jenny never listens and neither do the rest of them. This year Jenny gave me some version of “an Alexa”. Jenny has had one for a few years and frankly, I saw little use for the thing at first. Then, Lyla and I started to listen to music as we baked and that softened my attitude, somewhat. Then, I liked that I could ask what those odd terms that the British use in recipes, really meant. Jenny asked about the weather, and I liked that too. So . . . Tres installed the thing . . .and I immediately asked about the weather. I set an alarm and woke to gentle chimes instead of the usual blasting and frantic serenade, I was used to. Now, the thing has a lot of sophisticated features that I may never use, but when I am washing dishes and wondering about things like tulips or who wrote “The Catcher in the Rye” . . .Well, the thing knows all of that. . .and how the “Dog Star” got its’ name, too. The biggest selling point is that “Yo-Yo Ma” will play the cello at the “drop of a Hat” if I but beckon.
It seems “an old dog can learn new tricks” -it may just take a little longer.
On Saturday morning, I woke to a howling wind and rain. I didn’t care, for Tres was home , , ,I took great joy in that. For many years, Tres lived in Wilmington and I never saw him enough to suit me. He will leave this week end to get settled in Elizabeth City, to further his education. I have known this for months, but it just seemed too good to be true.
Last night, Tres, Kyle and Christian were here and the farmhouse, felt like it used to – in those beautiful days, before the children grew and scattered. So on this morning, I let the thing wash over me all over again. . .just like the rain, outside of the window, by the “morning table”. It would be a few hours before any of them stirred, anyway, I made coffee and settled in to bask in the goodness of this morning.
After breakfast, Tres, had several projects in mind for the old farmhouse. He started on one straight away. He has more plans that will take up the whole week. They are all long overdue repairs, but I haven’t an inkling of any sort of business that involves tools. The Warren family is composed of two types of people . . .mostly -artists, mainly writers and musicians . . .or mechanics. It seems you get one or the other capability. Family reunions meant every hood was raised and motors checked, while some of us were singing, Of course, I was singing.
The week end rushed by, as it always does. Tres and Christian had eaten well, tackled several projects and we all shared lively conversations. On Monday, I regretted having to go back to work, but I did notice, that I actually had a spring in my step as I walked out the door. I had a good supper planned and would look forward to that time all day. . .
The days after the gathering on Monday, have been very quiet. I woke early on Christmas morning and sat while light came to the rabbitpatch. Time changes things . . .even Christmas. Long gone are the days of commotion on Christmas morning, for the rabbitpatch. I am glad I had them. Now, here I am with a “silent Christmas ” morning. . . and so I forge on, with coffee in hand, watching Christmas bloom over the woodlands, til at last the light falls on the territory. Dawn is always a holy time for me . . and most especially at Christmas.
If we are only “happy” when things are a certain way, we are destined to be disappointed . . a lot. The only dependable notion . . .is that things change. In that case, we must adapt and seek happiness with great fervor. You needn’t go far, but you must sometimes go deep. Solitude is not loneliness and peacefulness is not dull. . . and so I embraced this unfamiliar Christmas joy . . .and deemed it, beautiful.
Afterwards, I started peeling potatoes. I prepared chicken to be roasted in Jo Dees’ sauce recipe and got the fixings ready for macaroni and cheese. I would later, pack my wares and head to Mama and Daddys’, for a new memory was in the making. My first cousin, Chris and his wife, Aino, were coming to Christmas dinner . Chris and Aino were in the same predicament as me-for their children are grown with families and so they too, had celebrated Christmas early. Tres and Kyle would be there, so the dining room table would be full and every chair filled, which is always a good thing.
We ate after the noon hour. The day was so mild, we could have had a picnic!I have seen one white Christmas in all of my life. It was 1989 and it was an icy snow. The temperature was unbelievable for southerners. Nobody had water as pumps were frozen. Roads were impossibly covered in ice. But this year on Christmas, it felt like April.
When the sunlight fell in long slanted rays, we ate cake and then left with some new and happy memories.
I left for Elizabeth City on Friday. It was another unusually mild day. There was just enough sunshine to cast only the faintest shadows. If this continues, the peach tree, is liable to bloom! The peach is so easily deceived, after all.
The days after Christmas are apt to be gloomy, if precautions are not taken . . .for me, at least. My dearest loved ones have returned to their own homes which takes the biggest toll, of all. Many folks turn off their holiday lights and the beloved tree now seems like a nuisance .
When I was a child, there was “Old Christmas”. ( I had never heard the word epiphany) I think we stopped that celebration when Grandmama passed. When I moved to Farm Life, “Old Christmas” was kept by Miss Sylvia. She had a party every year and we were all invited. There was a table full of pretty dishes of all sorts of holiday food. The yard was decked with Christmas trees and reindeer and lights were everywhere. Those of us who lived close by, kept our lights up and so Christmas remained in Farm life til January sixth. This is when Miss Sylvia gifted her family. I like the tradition that honors the visit of the wise men, and declare when I do retire, for the date can fall on days like Tuesday, that I too will have a gathering in observance of “giving” as the Three Kings
Of course, just looming ahead is “New Years Day” and I do not know why, that holiday has just never been “all it is cracked up to be” to me. Very few years have I stayed awake to see the new year ring in. The dropping of “the ball” has never stirred me, in any fashion. We do eat the traditional black eyed peas and greens on January first and that has been about the extent of our celebrations. . .and then there are the “resolutions”. I have never yet had the fortitude to adhere to a single one, for any length of time. Several times, I have changed a way of doing things and even a way of thinking-which is not for the faint of heart, but such an endeavor was usually the result of a lesson learned the hard way. . . and were more likely to be made in the twilight of September or a morning in May. . . than on New Years Day.
Now Lyla, on the other hand, loves a holiday . She wants decorations and some sort of commemoration for each one. She has decided that at sunset on New Years eve we are all to conjugate on the back deck with lanterns and candles to bid farewell to the past year and welcome the new one. Jenny and I will try to find sparklers tomorrow to surprise her.
There are also plans to make several dishes-enough so, that we will need an early start to accomplish everything. Tomorrow, we will pack it all up and head to the home of “Aunt J” for a noon time meal. Lyla and I had a lot to do before sunset.
It was almost cold on the last morning of the year. There was a brisk breeze that rushed the “laughing river” along its’ course. Will got home when the sun was casting long slanted rays. The pot of chicken was cooling and there was pimento cheese, chicken salad and a dish of oranges and coconut, on the counter. Lyla and I made a mad dash to deliver some of it to Miss Thelma before our “sunset service”. I felt awful about my hasty departure from my ninety five year old friend, but alas the sun was not going to stand still on this day.
We made it with a few minutes to spare. The sunset was a beautiful grand finale to the day . . .and the year. Lyla and Brynn ran about bundled in little hats and coats, under a dazzling apricot sky. We all took a short walk together on a boardwalk over a little creek and suddenly, at long last, the eve of the new year felt very significant and it was worth a tribute. The losses and disappointments seemed a little further away, for some reason.
I remembered the joys of the past year as well. How many wildflowers had Lyla picked for her mama-wilted bouquets of violets and dandelions clutched in her little hands, in the spring. Little Brynn went from her mothers’ arms to following Lyla around like a puppy. . . and Ryan was born. The birth of Ryan bound us all again . It was a time of unbridled joy.
Sorrow and joy act as “bonding agents” in a family, I thought to myself.
When the sun was slipping beyond the horizon, Lyla blew a good bye kiss to the old year . . .Brynn followed suit . . and so did I.