A suitcase is a handy thing. Miss Claudia (Wills’ mom and my friend) gave me several and I have put them to good use-especially recently. I had not even unpacked from my week long visit to Elizabeth City, when Brant announced that he and Sydney were coming home this weekend . . . with our Ryan! I quickly sorted out my things and headed to Mamas’ to spend the night there. We had supper there while we all adored little Ryan. He is a merry child and friendly . . .and so adorable. What a happy time it was!
The next morning, Tres and Sarah came, for it was he and Sarahs’ birthday weekend. Sarah and Jenny have been friends for over a decade, so when Tres and Sarah started seeing one another socially . . .well, we were all thrilled . . and what a shock it was to learn that Sarah and Tres share the same birthday! Will, Jenny and the little girls came too. We had a big breakfast and then a delightful visit. I was in “high cotton” having the three grandchidren all at once. . .and my children . . .and Mama!
On Monday, I left for Elizabeth City. We had all sorts of plans. Tres and Sarahs’ actual birthdays were on Tuesday, so there was a special supper on that day. I am still not over the thrill, of Tres living in Elizabeth City. There were several tasks to tackle too -and there was that big laughing river, inviting us to picnic.
It rained every day. “Rain or shine”, the dinners went off without a hitch, as planned. The tasks were all completed . . .but the picnic would have to wait. Lyla and I read in the afternoons, while Brynn napped. til at last, we finished Charlottes’ Web. Lyla was so concerned about the fate of Wilbur, that she did not take notice of Charlottes’ decline, and so Lyla cried for a while about the tragedy of poor Charlotte. I did too, though I have read this book to one child, and then another, over the decades. There is a quote in the book, that struck a chord . . . .
“You have been my friend . That in itself, is a tremendous thing.”
Will and I had just had a conversation about friends. We both concluded that, in youth we gather. We gather all sorts of possessions and gadgets. . .but we also gather friends. Sadly, many only remain for a short while. People move, after all. Sometimes, what was so very valuable, in the beginning, may not remain so. Some things, even friendships, are often temporary. Now, I find no joy, in that fact . . but it is so. I can also honestly declare, that I still love many folks, that I no longer engage with, for I do not even know where they are. . .but I love them, just the same. I also have friends, that I have had for decades. . .and that is a “tremendous thing”. With my own youth, having faded long ago, I felt a bit melancholy about the prospect of “gathering”-and then it dawned on me . . .I have made a new friend! Her name is Elaine. We met through Miss Thelma, Jennys’ ninety six year old neighbor- another friend of mine, for about five years now. Elaine and I have been talking a lot as of lately. At first, it was about the care of Miss Thelma. The next thing you know, we were talking about our families, our childhood and eventually chickens! Now, I miss Elaine, when we do not chat, for a few days. That is the way of friendship. . . and so Charlotte was right. . .and I was wrong to ever think, my gathering days were long past. I may not collect old china anymore, nor do I need stuff to fill a barn, but I will always have room in my life for dear ones.
Now, the rain did not halt Lylas’ fun, for she loves her doll houses and has quite a community, composed of rabbits, pigs, a royal family and dolls. They must all be put to bed at night and awakened the next day. Lyla considers this serious business, that she must tend to-or else, something dreadful will surely happen. One night. Will was up with a flashlight (for the pigs live in a house on the back porch) for Lyla to put them to bed. She had forgotten them earlier and was highly disturbed upon her remembrance of her beloved pigs, unable to dream in their little beds.
Brynn is busy, trying to say every word she hears. She has a soft voice with a high pitch that seems to ring like a tiny bell-and most especially, when she says “Bee”. Her favorite thing to play with, is whatever Lyla has. When she is told “No”, no matter how kindly, it breaks her heart. She covers her face and wilts to the floor, slowly and sorrowfully. If Brynn is out of sight . . she is liable to be anywhere! On a table, in a cabinet or anywhere there is water. It is quite likely, that in mid sentence, one is prone to stop and ask “Where is Brynn?”
On Friday, I thought it was Thursday-all day until I checked out the covid 19 numbers for North Carolina, for the day. It was almost supper time, by then. I do not understand the passage of time. I had arrived on Monday, been there a few days-and suddenly, it was Friday! and June loomed just days ahead! I try to make every day count, for even a single day, does become part of the content of a life, but no matter my effort, I am always startled by the fleeting departure of time.
Now, the covid 19 numbers have been dramatically increasing in our state . One county even made the national news, for the consistent doubling of daily cases. Still, I can not complain, thinking of the plight of others. Folks gathered in large numbers for the Memorial Day holiday. Where they went afterwards their events, remains to be seen. . .but we will likely soon know. We all remain careful. Jenny has only been to a strawberry patch-mostly our family, can all say that same sort of thing. For this reason, we trust one anothers’ company. Of course, we are in a very unique situation. Will works from home, as I was doing, till school ended on Friday. Tres takes his classes online and we all order everything needed. I say this because, I do not want anyone to think that I am taking the conditions lightly.
Now tomorrow, the publisher (WordPress) will introduce a new way of doing things. I just barely learned how to post lessons on line. . .and order groceries! The elders used to say, “if its’ not one thing, its’ another!” They were right.
What a bright, clear day came to the rabbitpatch this morning. The young leaves on the old trees are a jade green-a color particular to the season. Now, shade falls where sunlight used to. A bed of watery blue irises brighten the entrance to the drive and roses bloom everywhere. . .but it is cold-and windy, again. So cold that a scant frost fell last night, in the corners of the countryside. It as been a fortnight, since I last wrote in the diary . . .and a few things have happened.
Mothers’ Day was a quiet affair. My sister Delores came with my niece, Dana. Connie is a nurse, and she had to work. After a nice meal, we gave Mama a new television. Thankfully, Tres is coming on Tuesday, to make the thing work. Jenny said Lyla wished a mother robin “Happy Mothers’ Day”. The robins are nesting in a bush by Lylas ‘back door.
Until then, I am still cutting vines-this time along the edge of the young woods. I will also cut branches that hang low enough to hinder mowing. Here and there, I smell the wild honeysuckle, as I work. The place is full of privet too, and their fragrances implore me to work happily. I am in good company, they remind me. I have never been lonely in any patch of woodland.
After a big breakfast on Wednesday, Tres and Christian started on a few chores that required muscles. I left for Elizabeth City!! I had completed a full three weeks of quarantine-again, and thus was cleared by Jenny to visit . There were hardly any cars on the highway. Oh, how different the drive looked, since my last trip. Now the yards were green and there were newly plowed fields. This was the longest I had ever gone, without seeing Brynn and Lyla . . .so of course, we had a sweet reunion.
One day, we went to pick strawberries. It was a perfect day to go berry picking. Lyla surprised me, and filled her little bucket! Brynn did not surprise me, for she ate strawberries during the whole ordeal, as I suspected she would. We came home and washed the berries. We gave a quart to Miss Thelma, which “tickled her pink”. Miss Thelma sits on her porch so folks can visit safely. She is ninety six and still looks so pretty sitting in the sunlight. She has long silvery hair and a dazzling smile. At the drop of a hat, she will recite poetry.
With the abundance of strawberries, I made strawberry biscuits for breakfast, one morning. I even made a glaze for them. The idea of strawberry biscuits, had to be a good one, I thought. I prepared the strawberries the night before and rose early to make the dough. While they baked, I made a glaze. The house was filled with an aroma, that made you want to get up . . but the biscuits turned out “just fair”. Well, we all agreed they were good enough to eat, but nobody ate two.
It was picnic weather, for a few days. Jenny, Lyla and Brynn, ate under the beloved willow tree, one day. I was visiting with Miss Thelma, who lives just across the street, and how pleasant it was to watch “the picnic”, we both agreed.
That same afternoon, Jenny put up a birdbath. The sparkling water beckoned to the bird community and soon a robin, then a mockingbird and later a chattering blackbird , all visited to drink and bathe. I felt quite privileged to witness birds splashing in water. It was a cheerful moment and their antics quite amused me. It seemed like a long time since , I have taken such a liberty. For in that moment, I wasn’t obligated to anything. Nothing had happened, nor was expected to, in that brief span of minutes.
I make great effort to lead a “quiet and peaceable” life. The constant ruckus, in this world, in the most ordinary of times – and long before this pandemic , demands that I seek serenity, just to maintain some sort of balance. Sometimes, it is just not enough to take notice, sometimes I must stop everything and abandon all, for things like watching birds take pleasure in water. Great thinkers have always declared this truth, but I found it was difficult to completely clear my mind of any thought, when I attempted to do so. Oddly, on this day, I seemed to fall in to this “place”. “A little bird told me . . .” seems to ring true, now.
Meanwhile, a storm came through and “made itself at home” and lingered for days. Wind blew and rain fell until at last it was cold . . again. Brynn and I took to the porch and watched it rain. The young willow swayed and its’ long tendrils bore the brunt force with ease and grace. (A willow tree never loses its’ poise.) The dullness of the day warranted the streetlights to light and the willow seemed lit up with twinkling lights. Brynn clapped her little hands and laughed in delight at the spectacle of light and wind on a willow tree.
We all woke to rain on Friday. The world outside the window was drenched and soggy. We were all pleasantly surprised when by mid morning, the sun was shining. Lyla donned her rain boots and we took off for at long last, a visit with the laughing river. We were so happy to see our long last friends, the little barking dogs on their balcony. We had not seen them in months and I worried something unpleasant had happened-but alas! there they were on this day, scolding us for walking by. How glad we were to know all was well with them, even if they are grouchy.
I left in the late afternoon. heading back to tend to the business of a rabbitpatch. Brant and Sydney are coming on Saturday night and so we will share a meal at Mamas’. I will get to hold little Ryan, for our family could care less if the “state opens up”-we are not taking any chances, so we continue to proceed with great caution, . . . and I suspect when little Ryan is tucked in my arms . . .it will all have been gladly worth my while.
This may be the year that I will never remember clearly. It is May . . and it is cold! I am sitting at my beloved “morning table” bundled up like it is January. The daffodils bloomed in February, school closed in March and with Daddy being sick in April-we sure did not hunt for eggs this year. I admit-and everyone that knows me, will agree, that “time” in general is not a strength for me – but I feel totally disoriented- and this time, it is not due to my own fault.
I was going to paint a table and chairs today-but that cold wind howling outside my window, may make me put that off. Of course, it is early morning, as I write this and so there is still hope for a milder afternoon. It all started with me having time to clean up my act at the rabbitpatch. I have an old porch out back by the old field. It is a small porch, that was once attached to my grandmothers house. I saved that porch, and use it like a gazebo. It has a roof and I have sat there many times, pondering, praying and gazing at the woods and field. I love the view, for there is not a man made thing in sight. I thought to paint the old table and chairs today . . .if possible. My dear friends, of several decades are coming for an open air visit , in the next week or so, hence the table getting painted. I might need to just use a tablecloth!
With all of the traipsing around the rabbitpatch, I feel like I am walking down memory lanes. There was a time when, every stable was filled and chickens roamed the territory. Tame rabbits played in outside pens, in the sunshine. The small pasture had a miniature horse and a small herd of miniature goats. I did buy the chickens, but every other animal had landed here, because mostly, children had “outgrown” them. I got the reputation of having a “rescue farm” and so when a horse trailer pulled up unannounced, I didn’t bat an eye. I really loved that time, but when Lyla was born . . well that changed everything. Nobody wanted to feed horses, goats, chickens, a cat, a dog and twenty two rabbits, while I was away. My dear neighbor, Susan did try, but the goats got out a time or two, after all. . .It was always the goats.
Miniature goats are adorable. They are loving little things, but they do eat roses. I had several , when a farmer called wanting me to take three more. He lived but a few miles away, so one day Christian and I headed in his direction, to bring home the little goats. We went in the barn and there they were in a stall with the biggest goat, that I had ever seen. He started snorting and pawing and bleating so loudly, it was deafening. The farmer, slight in size acted like nothing was going on, in particular, and chatted away as he gathered a rope. He explained cheerfully, that he would hold the giant, mad goat, while Christian and I caught the little ones. I was in a state of fear, about entering that stall. . .so was Christian. That goat had a rack of horns, the size of Atlanta, on top of everything else.
Have you ever chased a goat? They are quick and nimble. They can jump and dart on a dime. That is what we were up against-and a goat we named “the devil”, right off. It was a harrowing ordeal and it didn’t help that the slight farmer was red in the face, gasping and yelling out, periodically, “Hurry up! I can’t hold him much longer!” Somehow, Christian and I caught two of them and made it out shaken, but alive. The farmer was unratteled and joked, that “he thought we were country folks?” I told him he could keep the other little goat.
Kyle came home from work a few hours later and loved our new additions. He was quite disappointed, and could not believe that we had the heart, to leave the last one. Christian and I didn’t say a word, for we did feel guilty about that. The next thing, I knew, Kyle was in the truck and yelled out that he was going to get the goat. Christian started to tell Kyle, about the conditions, but I stopped him.
An hour or so later, Kyle came back, white as a sheet, holding the little goat. He had faced “the devil” and won. On top of the awful circumstances, he endured, the moment he got his hands on the little goat, the thing stiffened and toppled over, like a wooden toy! Kyle said he thought he had killed it, but the thing sprang back to life and took off again! The poor farmer was in pain it seemed and had resorted to cursing, but Kyle heard him say “It is a fainting goat!!” “Fainting goats” do not crumple, they do not wilt, they simply fall over, like a doll would. They remain rigid and even their face looks frozen in expression.
Visitors always fell in love with the herd of little goats and would say things like “oh, I bet they keep your ditch banks clean.” “No,” I said, “they just eat the roses.”
The goats were always liable to create a rucus. Once, during a Sunday dinner, I heard the sound of calamity, at the front of the house. Christian ran to the front door, to see what was happening. Several of the little goats, were being chased by a dog and bolted past him, galloping through the house, I do not know why, I realised what was happening, but I ran to the back door, opened it and they never lost their stride, bounding the steps and right back to their stable. Mama and Daddy were dazed, when I asked them, if they needed anything, while I was up. It was always the goats.
The goat stables are empty now, and the blue roses, that I painted, on them, have faded some, but believe or not, I remember the goats, fondly. . . .but not enough, to do it all again.
A fair morning, when the birds are singing and little blossoms are making promises . . .and a soft breeze sweeps the territory . . .beckons to me -to linger, there in it. The yard is a bit uncivilized now, for it has not been mowed in weeks. I love the wildness . I may be the only one, that does, but some how the wildflowers that that spring up, seem grateful and glad, that I dare to let them bloom. The only things, I really quarrel with are poison ivy and thorned vines.
In the evenings, I have been spotting the first of the rabbit community, appearing. They are a skittish lot and likely to startle me, darting from under a garden bench. The boxer is on high alert and bravely defends me . He has never harmed a one of them, but chases them playfully, back to the young woods, that the rabbits call “home”. There are fireflies too.
June has always been the time of fireflies. Country folks take notice of such things. These last few years , things seem to bloom and grow “out of season”. . .and it seems the peach tree is easily fooled. I can not blame the lovely peach tree, nor the fireflies, for I think, that time flies whether you are having fun or not.
Now I do not measure time, by keeping up with minutes. I like to do things til, I am finished or do things “for a while”. A sundial would be the best clock for me. I know, by shadows when early morning, isn’t “early” anymore. ..and they also tell me when to start supper. Of course I spent my childhood outside and so such things are quite natural to me. I keep track of the calendar, for the bill collectors are reliable folks. And now . . .all of a sudden, “they say -” it is May!
May is called “the sweetest month”. I am fickle, but for now I declare it is so. The iris blooms and the cape jasmine will soon follow. The birds sing merrily in the morning and the fragrance of the wild privet fills the air. Clover is starting to bloom . I love the sweet, green scent of clover. May is a wonderful time to bring a baby home, too. My own Tres was born in May, on a mild, bright Sunday morning. I could not wait for the sun to shine on him and so we stood for a while, in the sunlight of May, before we went in the house. I always remember that in May.
The rabbitpatch territory is almost tidy! Every day, I do a chore or two. The tasks range from trimming the roses in the “Quiet Garden”. to stacking tin and yes, cutting vines, AGAIN. I have stepped in fire ants (several times), and have scratches from thorns, everywhere. Still, the rabbitpatch looks “tended” and I declare it may have been the geraniums, that sparked my heart, to even begin!
I was shocked, when my sister, Delores, mentioned that “Mothers’ Day”, was this Sunday. I should have known, for I had noticed my “Mothers’ Day” rose is loaded with blossoms, ready to unfurl, at any moment. I have had this “wild ” rose for almost a decade. Peggy, a friend and neighbor, of Mama, saw it growing on a ditch bank, on her farm and sent it to me. Every year, the bush, I named “Miss Peggy” blooms profusely . . on Mothers’ Day. How lovely, it looks on the old plcket fence, with its’ tendrils spilling on to the grass, splashing pink blossoms, like a joyful fountain.
Hence, Delores’ announcement, we have plans to celebrate our Mama, on Sunday. I do hope, we will “brighten her day” for the last few weeks, have been like none before them, for her. She puts forth a gallant effort, but she has lost “the love of her life” – a love affair, that lasted sixty four years altogether. In addition, Mama has had to face all the” business” , that comes with someone, dying . . in the “foreign”ways to her, of this modern world – and the corona virus even complicates that. Can you imagine, marrying the boy, that you crushed on, when you were fourteen? You move from your parents’ home, to marry him, a few short years later-and think how the world has changed since 1958. You are married for 62 years-and for the first time ever, you live alone. . .well. that story, belongs to Mama,
I think all us feel like a part of us has “gone missing”. You feel “lacking” in some indescribable way. I told Jenny, that it seems like our family, has been “fractured”. Still, though . . .I have a peace -“that does pass understanding”.
A lot of people are having a difficult time with isolation. Let me be clear-that I miss my grandchildren . I have enough chores here to keep me busy. I love the grocery pick up, for I can still cook. I love to read and I am doing on line puzzles, which require a deep concentration for someone as inept as I am with puzzles. The boxer and I spend more time together than ever and clothes are not put in the dryer. Supper is never rushed -and there is always something blooming on the territory. I like solitude, in general. . . and, I do not feel alone in the midst of trees, nor a flock of sparrows. The old field is good company and I greet the clouds as they pass over, and wonder where they have been. These habits were natural to me, as a child and have remained with me . . .I do have a rose bush named “Peggy”, after all.
It is a good thing, that I am odd, in this way, for a rural setting does not come with sidewalks full of dog walkers and strolling couples. If by chance, there is a siren, then folks stop what they are doing, for we are not used to commotion.
Of course, country dwellers do have large landscapes and big skies. I can not imagine how I would fare cooped up in a third story apartment. . .nor owning a small business, in such times. . . nor having no one to miss seeing. So, I can not complain. . .most especially in the company of sparrows . . .and “Peggy” blooming her heart out.