Yesterday, much was accomplished at the rabbitpatch. It was the kind of day, that assured good sleep would follow. I like to work. If a task does not present itself, then I seek one out. So far, I rarely have to search long. This day, I decided to unload a small trailer of shingles and old wood. I should have done it, a long time ago. I had to wonder, as I worked, if any other soul in the county, had to do such a thing today.
This was not the kind of work, that I fancy. It was dirty and only God knew what I would find as I lifted each piece of debris. There were also mosquitoes to battle. It did feel good to see the trailer, that belonged to my grandaddy, “Pop” being relieved of its’ overdue burden.
I did not like chores, as a child. Mama laid out the plans for the day and that was that. We never “sassed” for first, sass was considered unholy and there would be swift consequences, as well. Poor Mama. She had to manage three girls. She did not change her expectations because we grew and became teenagers either. If we wanted to be sullen, then we had to do that after chores. We could not make faces that revealed our rebellious thoughts. That was considered a language, as well. While picking beans, in late summer, Mama, once heard me “praying for frost” as I picked beans from those scratchy vines, that green snakes loved to hide in. It was a sin, to be ungrateful apparently, and I got a lecture on that.
Looking back, I got a lot of the “great lessons” in the garden -and at the clothes line. . .or snapping beans. Mama was very good at hard questions. She gave just enough truth to satisfy our curiosity at the moment, without disturbing our innocence.
She taught sweetly and we daughters, hung on every word. Because of that, I was always able to bear my heart to Mama, when it was injured – or to confess when I did something shameful. It is still that way.
It seems to me, that childhood is all its’ cracked up to be. It matters for the rest of our lives, after all. Luckily, I was blessed with parents that did the best that they could. . . and to me, that is enough.
Of course, childhood was revered in those days. We were not exposed to the complicated business of adults. We were allowed instead, that sweet liberty of just being a child.
Now, we were not immune to calamity. We learned about death and grief. We also learned about birth. We were taught to be thrifty, but not selfish. We had to learn self control. Weekly visits to “Mama Hodges” and hour long sermons on Sunday, ensured that lesson. Manners were very important. Good manners indicated two things. First, it let folks know, that you were respectful of them. We wouldn’t have run in a house for love or money and never would an adult stand, while a child sat. We didn’t dare interrupt, while others were speaking . . unless there was immediate danger. (like a fire ) and we would be sure to use kind words, like “please and thank you”. Second, and so beautiful, was good manners meant someone loved you enough, to teach you such things. We practiced good manners right there at home and the elders modeled til at last it was “our nature” to be courteous and thoughtful. . . but maybe the greatest lesson we learned, was the art of being satisfied.
Somehow, my parents were always able to convince us, that we should be content. When I set my heart on some doll or carriage, in that “Sears & Roebuck” catalog . . .well it was fun to dream then, just as it still is now. The only harm in it, is if we base our happiness on acquiring something. In that way, we have declared some “thing”, a remedy, of sorts. I often think now, that if my parents had been indulgent, I would have wound up with some collection of dolls, and never learned to love a one of them.
The more I remembered, the harder I worked, til at last the little trailer was tucked safely under a barn.
Later, I talked to Julie, a dear friend, and told her how I had been recalling my childhood, in every possible moment. She said that she had been doing the same thing. Julie had been “walking through” the old homes of her family, in that endless mind of hers, trying to remember every detail. I thought, I was the only one who did such things. I should have known better for I have never done a thing or had a single thought, that someone has not done or thought before. Julie and I concluded that, all of the change and uncertainty, of the present times, may be what is beckoning us to remember, a gentler time, where things were familiar and dependable. Julie has good sense and is often right.
The cotton fields are blooming. Past the oldest barn, is a small orchard. Beyond that are vast fields of cotton and finally a strip of woodland. It is a lovely view, for the sky is big and in no direction do you see anything made by man. This is where the moon rises and the deer play. It may be my favorite place on the rabbitpatch.
I have adapted to the new way of school. It is hot on that basketball court and I sleep deeply after a day of dancing in the sun, but the children have been wonderful, and what a good job they do, in adhering to all of the rules. I do miss seeing the littlest girls hold hands as they walk to the playground and the boys playing ball. (We are not allowed to use any equipment for play . . .not even a ball.) Now, the boys have organised races and they are quite detailed games. There is also the fort building, in the wooded playground. It has happened every year for as long as I can remember. Children gather every stick they can find and build structures, that soon become kingdoms with occupations and laws.
I come home and I notice that the rabbitpatch is fairly glowing, these days. It is as tidy as it has been in years, though I do still have several small jobs to complete. . . .and of course, the leaves have not even started to fall. A bed of bright yellow calla lilies in full bloom, at the entrance, seem to welcome me.home. In moments, supper will be simmering and Kyle will call to see how my day was, while the boxer sleeps close by. Coming home, is as beautiful, as it sounds.