I used to have a lot of animals, here at the rabbitpatch. I had a miniature horse, miniature goats, chickens, doves, that came and went as they pleased and a lot of rabbits. Many of the critters came here, because they needed a home. Children had outgrown them, mostly. Those were happy years. It seemed perfect for my future grandchildren, but this was not so. You can not leave a farm full of animals, at the drop of a hat. Every time I ever did, the goats got out and my neighbors were left to herd them back and fix their escape route. I found good homes for them all and took to running the roads to Elizabeth City to see Lyla every chance I got. I have never been sorry for that.
There was one last litter of rabbits born one fall. They were of course, a miniature breed, which were known for their friendliness. I had often found this to be true and how adorable the bunnies were, too. I gave one to Dana, my niece for Christmas that year. My sister, Delores was all for it and had prepared for Danas’ first pet, for save a neighborhood cat, and goldfish, Dana had never had her own pet.
I found the perfect little Christmas gift box- and at the last minute, placed the bunny inside. When Dana opened the box, she was thrilled and so surprised. It was a sweet moment and I remember it well.
Ever since, there have been stories about that rabbit! They named her Oreo, and Oreo lived in the fanciest rabbit house, that you can imagine. She ate the best food and a wide variety of fruits and vegetables. She had toys too-still she was a bossy rabbit and snatched carrots rudely. If her pin was laden with apples or strawberries, she would toss the fruit hither and yonder and you best not disturb her housekeeping, for she would likely, nip the hand that fed her, shamelessly.
Over the years, Oreo got upgraded houses and an outside “play pen” . No matter, how spoiled this rabbit was, she remained mostly ill mannered. No matter what, she was loved anyway. We heard stories about this rabbit at every gathering. We saw photos and Dana, being quite an artist, filled her sketchbook with drawings of this adorable little tyrant. Wild rabbits took to visiting, probably out of curiosity and to snack on her scraps. At this last gathering, that I missed, Jenny said Oreo had acted a bit sick and so had an appointment on Monday with a veterinarian.
Before school was out, I got a long sad message . . .that Oreo had died at the appointment.
Tears stung my eyes. I had not expected Oreo to die . . and I certainly did not expect to cry. That picture of Dana opening the small Christmas box, was flashing before me. Dana was a little girl then and suddenly, it seemed a long time ago. Oreo was also the last rabbit I knew of, born at the rabbitpatch.
I knew that Delores and Dana were so hurt-and so once, I was out of sight, I cried, outright. I knew, should anyone see me in such distress, they would think, I was a daft old woman, crying over a rabbit, . . . that wasn’t even mine. I would call Delores tomorrow, I thought, when I was composed. And then, I thought about sparrows.
No one would chide anyone, for mourning a dog-or a cat, I thought on the drive home. Oreo was just a rabbit, and she sure never made it her business to please anybody. . . but she was beloved just the same. She was never meant to guard or protect the house nor to rescue folks from calamity. Did this make her less? What about sparrows, those common little birds-is it foolish to mourn them when they have fallen? Since they are a dime a dozen and unnamed, does that make them less worthy of sorrow? I decided I could cry about Oreo without a bit of shame. . .and I might just cry about a sparrow too.
This morning, I called Delores. She was still upset . . .so was Dana. Dana would not even look out the window, into the back yard, where she spent time with her rabbit, Delores said. She went on to say that the veterinarian, knew at once that Oreo was very sick. Apparently, rabbits are masters at disguising symptoms, for they are so vulnerable to predators. . .a sad but amazing fact. An examination revealed a growth in the rabbits’ abdomen, but Oreo died within minutes, before a proper discussion about it. Delores was told, that she probably had a heart attack, due to extreme fear. Now this distressed Delores more to think that Oreo died scared. We both cried again, and in that moment, I loved my sister even more for her tenderness.
Plans are being made, to plant a little memorial plot where Oreo met her wild friends. Flowers will grow there and things like apples will be there for the taking. It will not surprise me a bit if there is not some sort of marker there bearing the name “Oreo”, a beloved, bossy rabbit, whose life mattered.”
Saturday was the day of Mamas’ birthday gathering. Her birthday is on Tuesday, but it is much easier to gather on a weekend. Usually when the family gathers, I spend a week, planning with my sisters and then a day and a half cooking. The morning of such an affair is busy and we are chatting back and forth about the details. This morning, the rabbitpatch kitchen was quiet. The pots and pan were tucked in the cupboards . . .and the stove was cold. It was an unnatural occurrence and how odd it felt!
I had known for days that I could not carry this “plague of flu” to my loved ones, and though I was disappointed, I had not taken fully into account, all that meant. I knew that my sister Delores and my daughter Jenny were as capable as could be to to pull the thing off, and I took comfort in that, but in the late morning hours, like a small child, I thought “I can’t go the party and I just want to break something!”
Thankfully, I did not act on my childish impulse.
It seems to me that the old saying about “a first time for everything” rang true again for me, on this day. I heard it loud and clear disturbing my peace.
In youth, I was full of notions, and expected new and unfamiliar, like rain. I even look forward to it.
Everything is so exciting, in that season -until it is “familiar” . . then it becomes “like an old hat”. We rush on, til at long last, we are all grown up, we think, and have so very much knowledge, we are quite prepared for whatever comes along. This is a very temporary state of being, we all find out. . . for things beyond our wildest imagination, happen and there is a wide range of events -some so very beautiful and others shocking and tragic. . . but now we know-and so we convince ourselves again that we really are grown up now and know more than ever how to proceed . . .false start! For, life seems to gain speed and zips by at a quickened pace. It has always amused me, that with all of the modern conveniences, we seem to have less time. . . We are busy rushing. We are gathering and discarding constantly. Our castles are lined with “fools’ gold” and we no longer know where the “pearls” are.
Now, most every life has some lull, here and there . . .and the next thing you know, you like that. The thrill of “first times” dims for us and “the old hat ” becomes so very lovable. . . and at long last, we have learned the difference in “fools’ gold and pearls.
Now, by all accounts, the gathering was wonderful and I can say first hand, that the food was worthy of compliments, for Delores dropped us a box of ample portions, on the porch, just like Jenny did for Tres. Brant and Jenny sent pictures, too.
If you think you will be exempt from “loving an old hat”, you are probably wrong. The heart tucks away those beautiful pearls and old hats, for a good reason, as a kindness, to serve us when needed. This is really incredible, for we are often unaware .
When light was fading, there wasn’t a bit of tantrum, left in me. Like everyone else, I am still growing up and know less now than I ever have, for knowledge and wisdom are two very different things. No matter how old we get, there are still going to be more “first times”, – and I do hope to muster more grace for that, in the future.
Though, I suspect that I am a slow learner . . I do have a sizable collection of pearls , and I am known for wearing an old hat every chance, I get.
After a lovely weekend in Elizabeth City, some sort of plague has set in, disturbing the peace of the rabbitpatch. Christian was sick, then Tres and now I have it. It is an awful thing with fever, cough and fatigue. You are hot and then cold, and the stomach keeps you guessing on your fate. It could not have come along at a worst time, for Brant and Sydney are coming this weekend , for Mamas’ birthday party. If I miss the chance to see little Ryan . . .well that is adding “insult to injury”.
I have made chicken soup, stocked up on elderberry and vitamin C, made batches of pineapple juice with cinnamon, drank gallons of water and slept like a house cat. . . all to no avail, for I am still sick. Jenny has been dropping off all sorts of things for Tres. She leaves them on his porch. I want to call him, but Jenny says he is grouchy. . . .so is Christian.
i stayed home from work today, in light of the circumstances. The morning was as fair as an Easter Sunday, so I put the windows up. Fresh air can’t hurt. February is full of flowers this year. Daffodils, hyacinths, quince spirea and at last some of the peach trees, too. It seems to be the same everywhere, from what I hear. A year without a winter sounds haunting to me. Now the Farmers’Almanac, did predict a mild winter . . it also predicts a storm next weekend, so time will tell.
Valentines’ Day dawned without a bit of fanfare. The sky was a silvery blue and the air was still. I do hope I can at least make cookies today. I am better than I was yesterday . I thought of Lyla, who has been very excited about the holiday and has been working on her cards this week. Lyla loves holidays. She reminds me of her grandmother, Claudia, in that way.
I told Jenny, that I still remember making Valentines at school. It was second grade and I was in Mrs. Cottie Woolards’ class. Mrs. Woolard was a stern, sensible woman. She was in her last years of teaching, when I had her. She had white wavy hair, which she wore up and she dressed very professional. She had seen everything twice and was not ever fooled. She was very clear on her expectations, and if we acted poorly, Mrs. Woolard, did not hesitate to correct us. She did not sugar coat anything but somehow we all left second grade with our self esteem in tact. I used to get called out for “day dreaming”- apparently it was a sin. Honestly, I was guilty, every time. I looked out the window and imagined what was going on at the farm. I was very homesick, at school. In the afternoon, Mrs. Woolard read chapter books aloud, which I loved. . .after Modern Math, which I deplored. . .but on Valentines’ Day, we were given construction paper, scissors , crayons, old lace and glue -and what a big time it was. The next day, we passed them out. The boys nearly threw their cards at you, for they just wanted this part to be over. I came home from school to Mamas’ heart shaped cake.
The simplest things can become memories, that last a lifetime.
When my own children were little, I made great effort to give them many cultural experiences. We took them to violin classes taught by master teachers. We attended concerts, too. These all costs a significant amount of money and were hard on our shoestring budget. We went camping a lot. We went to waterfalls-just like my friend “Anne of “Merling Muse” writes about – and apple orchards. Once,I asked Jenny what she remembers from our excursions, and she said “I think I remember a pony.”
They do remember the countless hours, we took to the woods-and picnics, thankfully. . .and flying kites and playing by our pond, that they named “Florida”.
The hours of the morning wafted by without warning. There were no sun rays to gauge the passage of time. It would be a good day to read and to bake cookies . . .and to daydream, of that same old farm . . . and of paper hearts and old lace .
This makes two weekends in a row that I am at the rabbitpatch! Nothing has been very ordinary, as of lately. How odd that we are apt to complain about “ordinary” . . until, it is gone. Then we miss it and from afar, observe its’ beauty.
The past week, has been unsettling for our family. It happened this way . . .My sisters’ husband, Mike, was taken to the hospital and as of this minute, is still there. Connie took him because of symptoms that just would not go away, but instead increased in intensity. Mike was diagnosed in October, with sumac poisoning. Since Mike is constantly traipsing the woods, the only puzzling thing to me, was that he had never had it before! The man jumps ditches and walks through the countryside, inspecting his land and watching the habits of wild life, as if he were a boy! . He has been bitten by snakes, for goodness sake!
Connie took him to a hospital in a neighboring town, last week. One test after another has been run, and we have awaited results with all sorts of trepidation. Thankfully, though we still do not know what the answer is, some of our worse fears have been laid to rest . Until further notice, this family is praying.
Tres came home on Friday. How delightful it is to have him closer and able to visit. How could I have known, when he was pushing little trucks and tractors, and rambling in woods -that inside of him, beat such a pure heart and that his curiosity would never be satisfied? . . Those days were golden, and for years I was in a kind of mourning, after the children grew up . .and I still miss that time . . .but these days are golden, too.
I cooked a nice supper on Friday night to celebrate, his visit. I even made cookies! I usually never cook on Friday nights.
On Saturday, it became February. The first day of the month was a bright one -and full of wind. I was hanging clothes on the line before Christian and Tres got up. The wind nearly tore the clothes from my hands, it was so fierce. I noticed the wild hyacinths were up -and the “magic lilies” too. One spirea bush has a few blossoms already opened and one is in full bloom! I can not blame any of them, for the winter here has really been like an out of season and very long April. It makes me wonder what April will look like.
I have kept tabs on the weather, all of my life. I have journals that are over thirty years old now, to prove it. It all started when my first son, Brant, was born. Really it is a collection of letters to my son, which includes his milestones and an account of our days those years. Each child has several volumes and they are my dearest treasures. Along with my proclamations of sheer adoration, for each child-I also recorded the weather. . .and never before, has spirea bloomed the first of February!
I like February, whether it mocks months like April or not. A lot of folks do not share that sentiment and “wish the time away”. They have no affection for the lull of February and claim that it is a dreary month . It is true, that most years, February has a good share of misty days and often, you can not tell one hour from the next. . . but I like silvery weather. When mist hangs over a field of winter wheat, it is a sight to behold. In February , when lights shine through the windows of homes, it makes me glad to think of everyone tucked in, safe and sound. February moments have a beauty all their own.
Tres went back on Saturday, with plans to return on Wednesday. This week he will move into his house, which is about twenty five steps from Jennys’. He would take Christian with him to speed the process along. . . and so it was Wednesday in a flash. I visited with Mama and Daddy, that day. There was a huge bouquet of daffodils blooming at the back door. How bright they were! I could almost hear them blooming in the silence of the countryside. I left Daddy pumpkin soup. I fear he will declare it is carrots and not even try it. . . . Mama will try it out tonight. I wished her luck and just hoped for the best.
True to the nature of February, it rained all day on Thursday. I woke early, before first light to a gentle sprinkle of a shower. The boxer did not rouse. Usually, he springs out of sleep, the moment I open my eyes. He wants to go out and will prance about as if he is in a dire circumstance. He convinces me every time and so I too make haste . If it is raining, however, he is apt to sleep peacefully while I read , make coffee and prepare for the day.
I love dogs-especially mine, and so I do not hold it against him.
“Cash” is a boxer, a working class dog, which I am quite partial to. I have loved a lot of dogs in my life, a beagle, several German shepherds, Norwegian Elk hounds, collies, a sheltie . . . well , I grew up with dogs and promptly got my own, when I grew up. I got a boxer and fell in love with the breed. I have had one ever since. It is very hard to resist their curious nature and loyalty. They are a handsome lot and are very protective. Known as “eternal puppies”, boxers love to play and require a lot of exercise, which is their “downside” for some folks. A well trained boxer is worth his weight in gold . . .but woe to the one who buys a boxer on a whim, without a bit of fore thought.
Now, while I sing the praises of boxers, it was a sheltie that made a difference, years ago when Christian was a toddler. His name was Perry. Perry was darling and a beauty. He “herded” the children tirelessly as they scattered here and yonder. The truth is, I considered Perry a companion for the children, mostly.
One night, as we laid dreaming, Perry ran barking to our bedside and jumped on and off the bed several times before I came to my senses, He had never done such a thing. My husband scolded him, but Perry remained relentless in his tirade. I knew something was wrong and got up. Perry pranced ahead with a great deal of satisfaction. He led me straight to the back door, which was wide open. I almost froze in my tracks in fear, but Perry trotted out quite jauntily and so I followed. There in the moonlight, was Christian in the yard toddling all alone around the back yard! I ran to him and gathered him up, in complete shock. He said he was following a rabbit! After that, I declared Perry a hero . . . and when he talked, I listened.
I really could write “dog stories” all day, for a dogs really are, all they are “cracked up to be.”
It never stopped raining on Thursday. It rained all night. So much, that here it is dawn on Friday and there is a two hour delay for schools! The town, where I work, floods and I suspect that is the reason for the delay. The faint glow of morning light, reveals a lot of standing water at the rabbitpatch. It is “high ground” here so I can only imagine , what the conditions are like, elsewhere.
I am packed to head north, after school, to Elizabeth City. Christian comes home and Kyle leaves today. I intend to have a breakfast for Kyle and I, before going to work. In the meanwhile, I will sit in the company of the boxer, who is fast asleep . . .because he awoke to howling wind and mud . . . and does not need to go out, just yet.