A Time to Remember

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I drove back to the rabbitpatch on Saturday . . in the rain.  I had been away a full week, and was only home several days, before that.  The rain was light and did not hinder me.  I always think of Mama, when I am driving in rain, for Mama loves to “ride in rain”.
Besides knowing the rabbitpatch was bound to need tending, besides missing my  son, Christian-and the boxer, it was Fathers’ Day on Sunday.  Mama and I had made plans to share a meal, as this was the first observance since Daddy passed in April.
April seems like yesterday . . .and sometimes it seems like  years ago.  I think of Daddy  all the time.  I thought of him at the beach, last week.  I think of him when I am watching birds – or the grandchildren.  He seems to be alive in my thoughts and I am likely to say “Isn’t the day so beautiful, Daddy?” as I am hanging clothes on the line.  I feel like he is with me and that death could not part us . . . but Fathers’Day  will not allow me to saunter through the day without  facing the harsh truth  . .that Daddy really died.  
I planned the meal carefully, of Mamas’ favorite dishes, omitting any reminders of what Daddy would have wanted.  Maybe next year, we will be able to eat barbecue . . .but this year we are having ham and potato salad, garden peas and cheese biscuits.  


If you have ever had a loss, then you know that the first year of holidays, is always the hardest.  Knowing this fully, I made up my mind, to rise with gladness on Sunday and start cooking, which is a favorite hobby for me.  That worked for at least a few minutes.  It didn’t help, that large and slow drops of rain fell, outside.  I tried to console myself, remembering that Daddy was well, now and not suffering . .that  I had  my Daddy for sixty-one years and that he was now, in the Presence of God,  for “goodness sakes!”  It did comfort me to consider all of that, but I did not ponder a single thing as I peeled the potatoes.
While everything cooked, I toured the rabbitpatch. The Cape Jasmine is in full bloom.  I intend to root some of them, this year,  It was not a good year for irises, but the hydrangeas are beautiful   The  territory is as green as it has ever been, on this first day of summer.  Along the edge of the woods, the rose-of Sharons bloom and the so do the fragrant butterfly bushes.  There were also the wild honeysuckle vines cascading  their delightful tendrils of blossoms.  The boxer stopped whenever I did, to look closely at a blossom, but his eyes darted here and there-on high alert . . . just in case, a wild rabbit dared cross our path.
I love dogs-but mine especially.  Cash is as loyal a friend, as can be.  He does not care about trends or pomp or status . . .or any of the trivial things, that humans tend to dwell on.   . .therefore, he does not wear clothes or have his nails painted.  I like dogs, just the way they are, as he likes me the same way.  He does not care, that I am letting my silver hair shine or that my skin is weathering daily.  He does not base his admiration for me on my salary, nor have an opinion  about my faults.  A dog just loves and serves . . .and they are good company.


When the caramel apple cobbler was ready , I left for Mamas’.  I know that everyone will be  as pleased, as I was, that we had a delightful visit and it seemed to be, it was just what we both needed.  After supper, we strolled around the yard to look at her flowers.  I do not know if this is a southern custom or a “ladies custom” but I remember as a child, walking with Mama and Grandmama to see my great grandmothers’,  flowers,whom we called “Mama Hodges-at the close of every spring and summer visit.  I did not like the walk as a child, for Delores and I had to stay within their sight at all times so we had to abandon any form of mischief.  But . .  We also needed to stay out of earshot , so we could not hear the hushed tones of the women. As Mama and I walked around her yard, I remembered those days , now with fondness.


The first days of summer are wonderful.  The June flowers are in their glory and oh how, they sweeten the air – and there are fireflies twinkling in the evening.  More and more, the stars  increase in numbers and the smell of charcoal tinges the evening air, for someone is having a picnic.  Meanwhile, the rabbits are feasting on clover and wild berries in the “enchanting evenings”  of early summer. 
I like to bring in bouquets of gardenias,-and lilies pair well with “Queen Annes’ lace.  I always had some sort of arrangement for those Sunday Dinners”, which now seem like affairs of  “olden times”.  We never seem to know which things will become precious memories.  We are prone to trying to create events that will surely be golden moments, but the truth is often, it is practices, that we remember.  The habits  that seem so ordinary, at the time, and surely not worthy of lasting a lifetime,  somehow do.  They are sweet and tender  recollections, without need of embellishments.
I know for me,  that I still remember playing in the shade of two massive oak trees, in months like June.  I remember hanging out clothes with Mama, and picking strawberries and setting up housekeeping in the barn, when it rained . . . and the sound of my maternal grandmothers, voice, though I have not heard it in more than fifty years now.  



 Not every memory  mat evoke gratitude, nor loveliness.   I still shudder  remembering the last year of my fathers’ life.  . . but I can also remember the tireless care my mother gave him, the bravery my sisters’ mustered and the compassion of neighbors and friends.
The task at hand, seems to me, that we ought to hold on to, what was beautiful.


When it Rained by the Sea


Elizabeth City, is  just an hour from the coast. It is no wonder, that many residents of the town by the laughing river, have cottages by the Atlantic sea.  Wills’ family lends their cottage to he and Jenny for a certain week each year.  This past Friday, we left in the rain, for the time by the ocean.  The rain did not hamper our excitement, one iota.   
After we were settled, everyone relaxed.  Will and Brynn took a nap.  I began reading.  Just a bit later, I heard a slight commotion and it was Tres and Sarah, much to my delight.  I was surprised so pleasantly, as I had asked Tres, the night before, if maybe he would come for a day, at least.  He fumbled through the conversation, and I knew he was so busy with some very complicated studies, so I did not press him to commit.  Now, here they were with luggage!  Everyone laughed at my surprise.  We had dinner at the cottage, for we are all still cautious and do not go out.  Afterwards, once again, the cottage was quiet. . .and once again, I was reading.  I did not even hear the next bit of racket-but suddenly Jenny came in, holding Ryan!


I was  stunned and could not make “heads nor tails” of it!  Brant and Sydney tumbled in seconds later . . .and they had luggage too!!  As it turns out, Jenny had arranged the whole affair, and all had rearranged their lives to make the gathering possible-a belated “Happy Birthday to me”!  I was one happy rabbit, to say the least.
Oh how happily, I drifted off to sleep, knowing the cottage was full of my darlings.  A light rain fell  and the waves of the Atlantic tumbled by gently.


The next morning, the rain fell steadily as we had our coffee.  One by one, the grandchildren woke and what sweet morning expressions, they wore.  Lyla is the early bird and awakes with “great expectations” every day.  Brynn and Ryan smiled shyly as each of us reaffirmed our love for them.  Each were greeted with “Good Morning, I love you.”  I cooked breakfast and listened to the happy chatter of  my clan-not one person complained about the out of season coolness and the consistent rain.
The days passed-every one wetter than the day before.  The men went to pick up carry out food, as most restaurants were practicing this service.  Tres found a deck of cards . Brant found little projects to do.  Sydney did a fancy hairstyle for Lyla and Brynn, did her best to “mother” little Ryan.  We feasted on fresh baked breads with Irish butter, gourmet cupcakes, and doughnuts Will picked up from a local bakery.  We ate sea food cooked various ways and were constantly amused in the antics of the grandchildren.  One of the things that warmed my heart was watching the way my family loved one another.  That is the purest form of gold, I think.  May it always be so, I prayed. 
Brant had a birthday during our “holiday”.  That was the day that Will, bought the doughnuts.  I told the story of that day.  It was a Sunday, and I told Mama that I was not going to church, as I felt a bit “off”.  Brants’ dad was working.  Mama promptly declared that she wasn’t going to church either.  She came to sit with me.  I hadn’t a single sign that I had heard about.  I just didn’t feel right.  There was nothing to “time” . . so Daddy planned a cook out!  I remember remarking that I could not believe he was planning a picnic at such a time.  I did not eat a bite, but showered and put on my favorite maternity dress -just in case.  By one pm, I left for the hospital and Brant was born at four pm.  A few days later, I brought him home-and showed him the Mimosa tree in full feathery bloom, before, I went in the house.  


It never did stop raining, but on several occasions, there would be a brief lull between showers.  At those times, all scurried to the beach.  The wind blew fiercely and was so chilling, that no one lingered.  They did manage to get a few photographs, before the next batch of clouds gathered.  
The rain and cool weather was not the calamity, that it may seem.  The cottage was quite adequate.  Sometimes, it was lively and sometimes it was quiet.  It was always happy.  So many wonderful things happened, in the absence of clocks .  There were maternal conversations, shared by Sidney and Jenny and everyone napped with some child at some point.  The clouds had a fair share of “silver linings”.


“Parting is not such sweet sorrow.”   .  . .there is nothing sweet about it, to me.   . .but the day came anyway.  It was raining as we packed and  as we cleaned the house and as we loaded up.  We all promised to let one another know, when we arrived at our homes.
I have done a lot of thinking since the trip.  I realise more than ever, the joy of being loved.  To love and to be loved, is all its’ cracked up to be.   Love is the tie that binds, after all.  Jenny, orchestrated the entire thing , quite craftily, I must say, for she knew, I would love nothing better.  My sons , then cancelled plans readily, to accommodate such a venture.   I am completely humbled by their generosity and filled up with gratitude.
Something happened to me, during the rainy days by the sea but words fail me when I try to name it.  My gratitude increased greatly in a single bound, it seemed.   . . but it was more than that.  I felt content, which is more than happy.  I was completely satisfied and void of want.   I reflected deeply on my life, and I did not find it lacking.  I have no ambition to move from such a place, either.   
I am not immune to desires, even in light of this, but “sitting in a storehouse, counting out my money” pales in comparison, to  authentic “gold and silver” which does not diminish in value on the whims of society.  I  must do better to love bigger and better.  I should remember that all acts of kindness, compassion, generosity and forgiveness stem from  love.  It is so easy to love my family, but  might I strive to remember that all folks are sons and daughters, when you think about it.  I will spend some time considering this lofty and complicated subject.   . .meanwhile,   I still have high hopes for a small cottage  -and a good pair of boots.
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A Capital Event


Lo and behold!  I drove to Raleigh!  It came about “for the love” of Brant, Sydney and Ryan”.   This news may not seem “earth shattering” but I dare say, that   regular readers are shocked, for I have made no secret of my dislike of driving on “roads less traveled”, in my scant collection of journeys. 
I am a careful driver and thankfully, do not suffer from “road rage”.   . .instead I am fearful.  I am scared the old car will break down on a desolate strip of highway or I will get eternally lost, and never be heard from again  . . or be on the road after dark!.   . .oh what doom lies ahead, I wonder. 
Brant and Sydney  were moving and little Ryan  needed his “Honeybee” to care for him as they “set up housekeeping”.  Besides,  that I wanted to  master the trip to Raleigh, just as I had the road to Elizabeth City.  So, Brant installed a GPS on my car and off I went into a world gone wild, on top of everything else. 
I was determined on Wednesday morning, to rise above and beyond my  grim expectations .  The morning was glorious and Sydneys’ mom called right off to cheer me on.  Traffic was light on the long stretch of highway, and so at some point, I called Mama and Delores, to let them know where I was -just in case I went missing, they would know where I was last.   I told Delores that all was well . . .and I was almost really cheerful . . .until I saw the flashing “DETOUR” sign.  
Yes,  I had the GPS on and yes, the detour route was clearly marked, but how unsettling, still!  At least, the landscape was appealing.  There were beautiful rolling hills and elderberry was blooming everywhere.  Some horses were grazing in a pasture by a small church. Pink mimosa blossoms dotted the woodlands and oh how lovely, I thought.   Somehow, I lost the panic and decided I was going to be fine, after all.
The next thing I knew, I was right in front “of my destination”.  The GPS kept informing me until finally, I got out of the car.  There was Sydney, holding little Ryan, in the yard. That was a sweet sight.


I stayed six days.  Sydney worked on putting things away, for there was no shortage of boxes to unpack.  She is a meticulous person and even watching her  fold the  laundry is like watching an artist at work.  Her linen closet should be featured in a magazine.  She had taken great effort in the guest room, and it showed.  Her kitchen was tidy and well stocked, too.  She worked in the house while Brant was at work and Ryan and I strolled the community in the capital city.  
The first day, I called out to Sydney, not to worry, for I was used to strolling an hour or more with Lyla and Brynn. . . but I had not taken the hills in Raleigh into account.  Within thirty minutes, I turned back.  Going uphill, was tiring   -and so was going downhill!  I learned very quickly, the route with stretches of level sidewalks. 
In the evenings, while Ryan slept, Brant worked in the garage and I cooked supper.  


Sydney had a birthday, and so between the chores, we celebrated.  Her mom came with a box of cupcakes (the best I have ever had) and in the evening, we all celebrated with a special meal.  I just love everyone I have met in Sydneys’ family.  
My sister Delores, lives in the area, but had been visiting with Mama.  Not long after she came home, she and Dana paid us a visit.  Delores just adores babies and so she showered Ryan with love.  He fell asleep in her arms and so she stayed longer than she had intended.  I suspect supper was late that night, for her family.
The days flew by as they always do when I am in the presence of loved ones.  This was the longest time that I had ever spent with little Ryan.  I can say whole heartedly,  that he is a happy child and so loving.  Brant and Sydney are wonderful parents and they too are happy- all of this is worth its’ weight in gold.   After all, of all the things we hope for our children, happiness matters most.


The day came, for me to leave.  It was a bright sunny day, but though, I had stayed a day longer, than I had planned, I still felt melancholy.  Oddly, I wasn’t worried about driving home.  I had made it through that terrible detour once and somehow, that had given me confidence-well, that and the GPS.
Before long, I was on the detour route.  There was the elderberry welcoming me back-and wishing me well.  The rolling hills made the road ahead look wrinkled.  The fields where the winter wheat had  been an emerald green, a few months ago, now was a gleaming sea of slight, golden waves.  Then, over one of the soft hills . . .there were the horses grazing by the little church.
Once, on the highway, I called Mama and Jenny to let them know that I was truly on the way home.