“Time does fly, when you are having fun!” I have spent the best part of the week, with Jenny and her family. I came home on Thursday and stopped by Mamas’ house , that afternoon. Delores and Dana were there. They had stopped by on their way home, from the beach. Since then, I have been working in flowers. What lovely things to do, I think.
One night, at Jennys’, Lyla and I watched the fireflies flashing. The night was silent, except for both of us, for we announced each sighting with enthusiasm. The next morning, I walked with Brynn, on her tricycle, to a mimosa tree, that is covered in fragrant, feathery blossoms. Such things as mimosa trees and fireflies (we used to call them “lightening bugs”) proclaim summer now, as it did so, many, many moons ago, for me. I walk many a mile down my memory lane. I do not want to forget, so I stroll often. . .and when I find some precious remnant that has survived -I take heart!
I was blessed to hear first hand the stories of my people. It makes a difference to know who I came from. I want my children and grand children to know too., and so I tell the stories.
We did not come from “saints” nor from what the world deems as “high society”, I suppose to any one else, my elders were quite an ordinary lot with their plows and goats and gardens. I know different.
In the first decade of my life, I was mostly around Mamas’ family . . all of them. I had my great grandmother called “Mama Hodges” and great aunts and uncles, third and fourth cousins (who seemed like brothers and sisters) besides the next generation of aunts, uncles and cousins.
The women were tireless “housekeepers” and tended to the children, hung clothes on lines, watered the animals, sewed clothes, tended the garden – and did all of this as food simmered in the kitchen. Not a one of those things was an easy task.
The men spent their lives in fields and barns, unless it rained -then they were confined to a shelter to fix whatever was ailing the tractors or an old truck. I knew early on, that picking strawberries or snapping beans were the sort of chores, I preferred. Oh, but those summers of yesteryear are etched deeply in my heart.
My cousins and I did a fair share of chores, but we also had a fair share of liberty, too. . .most especially with the adults so busy. We were mostly quite self sufficient as it was a tragedy to “be babied” in those days. We roamed the countryside and pretended impossible things. We were always on the lookout for kittens and four leaf clovers. . .and clouds in the shape of anything. We had contests -races and high jumping, broad jumping etc. We had a small herd of barely tame ponies. In the early summer, there were always new foals. The goats did their part and usually had twins. After a while, the littlest goats and ponies ran around the farm with us. What a sight that must have been! . . A flock of children and goats and ponies traipsing about in golden sunlight.
Thankfully, none of us had to adhere to any real schedule. We did not take tennis lessons or swim lessons. We organized our own ball games and made our own “clubs”. Siblings would argue sometime, but the cousins did not quarrel with one another. We all got stung by bees frequently. We all got cut with rusty things at some point. Once, my first cousin Chris got stabbed with a pitch fork! Somehow, we lived to grow up and tell about it.
There wasn’t a thing on TV weekdays, for children. We did not “talk on the phone either. We lived outside. Only rain kept us in. There wasn’t a toy box in the house, either. There was a set of World Book Encyclopedias, and a Sears & Roebuck catalog or two. Delores and I made paper dolls from the old ones, sometimes. . .but we all loved the encyclopedias best. A rainy day was the best chance of a cake too.
By July, we sat in the grass and ate watermelon or cantaloupe. Sometimes on Sundays, we had homemade ice cream. Aunt Christine and Uncle Gene came with “little Gena” . They lived about 25 miles away, and for us that seemed so far away, in those days. I can still see my little cousin running to keep up with her country cousins , golden curls bouncing from beneath a little white hat-I was sure she was a doll.
In the evenings of late summer, the adults sat around and talked til dark. Someone was always shelling peas or beans. We didn’t change the clocks in those days-but the days were just as long anyway. By the time we went in, we had found the first star, and made our wishes . The Bob White had called out and bats were darting about.
The dirt of the day was scrubbed off with a vengeance . We said our prayers and went to bed.
It is no wonder, that I never wanted to go back to school. I found it dull and artificial. I had wonderful class mates and kind teachers, but my heart belonged to the back roads and my own people. I knew how to read and do the math, already. I had learned these things connected to life on the farm which was so natural. I actually mourned and would cry at the “drop of a hat”, at school. I did well though I had to sit in the “Lonesome Chair” on occasion, for yelling out answers to silly questions. “What color is the dog?” I could not comprehend that the class didn’t know and I did not see the need to waste my life waiting for someone to guess about it. So I would try to put an end to the misery. No one else was talking, so it did not seem impolite to answer.
Had it not been for the library, I am sure that I would have perished from the boredom. It took me three months to convince the stern librarian, “Miss Susie” that I could read the “third grade” books, for it was considered “trespassing” for me to go in that section of the library.
The school bus took the longest way home, but when I finally saw our house and the farm, and the door opened, I “hit the ground running”!
I have countless memories of those summers, and I think a lot, about what it felt like to be a child in those days. Weather was of utmost importance and dictated our actions, so even children learned to recognize signs. Light was our clock and even now, I know the hour according to the where the sun is. The only need to rush, back then, was when a storm was coming and clothes were on the line or the ponies got out. (That was always exciting.) How peaceful life is without schedules, I want to shout to the world.
I learned so many valuable lessons-a collection of “precious remnants”, that still make a difference and ring true.
Work and play are both equally vital -so we ought to grow tomatoes and flowers. Immersion in nature, is really like going to church for you will be humbled and grateful, all at once. Loyalty to family is valuable beyond measure, whether they are “saints or sinners”. . .You can learn a lot from both sorts. Do not become so tame and civilized, that even your thoughts can’t wildly ramble. Stay curious . Curiosity is the spark we must fan, to keep learning and rest assured, even life long learners never know everything. . . and for goodness sakes . . LOVE like your life depends on it, for in some ways, it really does . . . and it does “cover a multitude of sins”, after all.