The past week was not usual , nor ordinary. I did not line dry clothes or tend to the vines on the fence, I did not paint a single bird or blossom.
Instead, I was collecting shells by a very cold sea . . .watching light dance upon the water, like sprites. The ancient sea was too cold, for mere humans.
Every day of our gathering by the Atlantic was sunny, but one. I love weather, and so a cloudy day did not hamper my disposition. . .most especially, when you have a good book . . and a candy shop a few blocks away. Several guests came, during our stay. An old acquaintance , one of Jennys’ friends was there for a day. What a lovely person she is. She is a thinker and acts on her convictions. What a rarity to see someone living their truth ! Besides that, she is funny and kept us entertained.
A new friend, to me, came for a few days. He is an artist and straight away, I could see he had a ” heart of gold” and and was kind and gentle in his ways, as anyone I had ever met.
Then, there was Grandaddy Bill, Wills’ father. He is an author with more than several books, to his credit. I am a picky reader, and I will tell you, that Bill Thompson never disappoints me. The little girls were thrilled to see him and that warmed my heart. He told me, he wished he could see the girls more . . and I wish that too, for he is full of experiences and has lively stories, to tell of them. Their grand father sees authentic beauty and recognizes it. Then, he writes about it-and makes his readers see it too.
Wills’ sister was there and she is a writer and can draw portraits. We had several conversations that were tucked in my heart. She is an encourager and so very generous with uplifting words.
Her mother, Miss Claudia was the same and I remembered her with great fondness, most every day. Even with all the chatter and busyness-I ached for the weeks that she was there, too.
We spent a good deal of time with Brant, Sydney and Ryan-and Sydneys’ parents and brothers. What a wonderful lot they are! They are welcoming and friendly. I can scarce tell which children belong to whom, for everybody loves them and treats them , as such. I am sure that the little girls see Scott and Seth as uncles. Sydneys’ parents love Brant thoroughly-that means everything to me. Besides all of that . . . there is never a dull moment, when you are in the midst of them.
Of course, and not least of all, was the ocean. The sight of it is very humbling. Who can feel mighty in its’ presence? I realised just how small I was-and all of mankind-not insignificant, but more like a valuable particle of life. We can “put on airs” (what a useless and utter waste of a life) and exaggerate our “power”-or “control” of all things, but in the presence of the vast and wild sea, as in the presence of a mighty oak, or a whispering pine or a sparrows’ nest full of promises . . .well, we could be persuaded to reconsider, our stance. In some sort of way, such things unite, all humans.
The evening we left, little Brynn, fell asleep before her supper and slept the whole way home. Jenny laid her tenderly in her bed, once we arrived. The next morning, Brynn awoke, looked around and asked “What happened?” Her still, cherub like face, was frozen in astonishment-and confusion. . .“Oh, but, a lot of lovely things happened . . while we were down and beside the sea.” I thought.
The wonderful and very old farmhouse is sold . I who, make gallant strides, not to attach myself to possessions, have mourned the loss of the place. I am glad to say, that I am at long last, with peace, about it .
School ended and immediately, sister Delores, Mama, niece Dana and I, joined forces for a bridal shower for niece Hayley. What a commotion ensued! Dana and I arranged flowers gathered from gardens, back yards-and ditch banks. We all cooked. Mama tied bows for lanterns and bird feeders-and the mailbox. Delores decorated and did all sorts of jobs. We used the same cut glass dishes, used for generations and what a lovely table it made. We also used something from the women before us. There were dishes, a teacup, a snow globe, a lamp and a hand made basket. We used a small silver tray Daddy had received from working a good deal of his life, with the same company. I recorded all of this in Hayleys’ “keepsake book”.
As it turns out, we are a good team, for the celebration was without blemish. When Mamas’ house was back in order, I left for a visit with Jenny and her family.
The days were filled with stories, books and ice cream. Will had a birthday and opted for a banana pudding, instead of a cake, which perplexed the little girls, but they helped anyway. None of us, were happy to part, but the sorrow was stunted with the thrill of an upcoming beach trip. Not only, am I going, but Brant, Sydney and “baby brother cousin”, Ryan will be there as well.
We just found out that “little Ryan”, will have a little brother in November! What sweet news-so much that I danced, right there in the dining room!
The latter days of spring have been full of gifts for my heart.
Since being back at the rabbitpatch, on Bonnet Street, I have painted an old Samsonite suitcase, purchased for three dollars at a thrift store. I had great fun painting a robin in a branch of pale, pink blossoms, on one side and a pastel wreath with a blue rabbit, on the other. There is a small slight dent, in the case, that I may declare occurred in London, though I have never been there. I think if you paint blue rabbits and pastel colored leaves, such a fairy tale is not sinful. I have a number of projects planned this summer. I intend to paint birds and flowers-and rabbits . . maybe horses, too-oh! and elephants. So far, so good.
Painting. does not come easy for me and so I am full of thought on how to make flowers look as if they grew wildly and unhindered, with their own intentions. While I paint, the chaos of this world is dimmed . . in those moments lies the beauty.
I am reading Thoreau, as well. The things he observed, and wrote about in the woods, is very akin to my own way of thinking . Of course, Thoreau knew it all first.
Thoreau saw how man weighed and measured every thing and every act. Judgement was calculated seemingly dependent on the monetary worth, of the deeds, of a human. It is no wonder to me, that Thoreau “took to the woods” for a long while , for it is disheartening, when you think about it. What profits a human, will never be solely accounted for in worldly currency.
Thoreaus’ collection of works spark my heart and spur me on to greater things than just keeping the lights on!
Now, I ready myself, for a trip to the ocean. The air will smell of salt and the soils will be soft, hot sand, that shifts beneath you, making your steps more tiresome than ever. The landscape will be tall slender grasses and “Joe Bell” flowers . . and shrubs whittled by the constant wind. The sky will be as vast as you can ever see it . . and then, there is is the ocean. A shining sea that sings constantly and boasts of genuine power. The ocean does not recognize, status or wealth or accomplishments or talent. Its’ beauty and mercy are doled out , to all without recognition of such criteria. The sea is like “the rain that falls on the just and the unjust” . Nature conducts itself with such generosity and we would all do well to consider that.
Of course for me, the mighty ocean is enhanced when my grandchildren play on its’ shores. I will not get one red cent for watching the scene, or listening to the songs of the water and wind -but I declare . ..I will profit . . . in unmeasurable ways.
I rarely leave the little rabbitpatch on Bonnet Street. I go to work. I go the grocery and I visit Mama and the grandchildren. I love to be home. On Saturday, I broke this habit and ventured more than a few country miles, to attend a brunch honoring our “bride to be”, niece, Hayley.
Mama, sister Delores and my other niece, Dana and I, all rode together. After a pleasant drive, we turned down a winding lane, in awe of the massive house, looming ahead. Emerald wheat fields were on either side of the historical home, Old trees completed the scene. Two roosters strutted about. It was as beautiful a place as I have ever been.
We walked up on the fantastic porch to be warmly greeted by the grand lady with the grand house. I was so stunned with the beauty of the place, I could hardly speak. The foyer was a generous space. Fresh greenery and flowers were placed in all directions. The brunch was lovely and Hayley was so happy. Sister Connie was too. She and the grand lady have been the best of friends for a long while.
I thought of Connie and what a special time this was for her . She too, is facing a new season. I am glad that Hayley will be her neighbor . I know that Hayley will be just fine-and so will Connie. All of the guests were friendly , but I was especially glad to see dear Stephanie.
I loved her the first time I met her-and her darling son. We have so much in common. Stephanie is very bright and has such interesting conversations.
I knew that Stephanie was as in awe of the place, as I was. We were both delighted when “Lady Jackie” offered to give us a tour.
Every room was decorated perfectly. The staircase in itself was a work of art. Jackie certainly had a flair for choosing just the right pieces, and I was convinced her home should be show cased in a magazine. As we toured, she shared the history of the home, which was also impressive. I just loved that house . . and the “Lady Jackie”.
When we all finally left, the first thing that I said, was “I feel like I have been on a holiday!”
The next day, I decided to make pasta. I have never done so-and do not have a single gadget for the endeavor. I like doing things by hand, but goodness the kneading was a work! The dough is stiff and requires at least ten minutes of vigorous kneading. I served it last night. It was good enough to make again. . .and I do not intend to buy a machine. but I do intend to practice more. . .I have also been making ice cream.
I do not have any sort of churn, but a hand mixer works. There are just a very few ingredients necessary, but how lovely to make whatever kind you desire. The hardest thing about it . .is waiting for it to freeze!
These simple things-along with rooting all sorts of plants- have really helped me avoid those awful doldrums, I was experiencing.
The closing for the house, is scheduled for Thursday, therefore, that has kept me busy too. I have at least another load of things to collect, and then I want to clean the place up a bit.
Conclusion to a love affair, is tricky business. Being very sentimental, does not help, one iota. When I moved there, fifteen years ago, I could not have possibly imagined, that so much love, would spring up, in my time there. . .and that is what I tell myself now about the next place. I might just fall in love again . . .it wouldn’t be the first time.
Now, on the eve of the closing, I am exhausted, excited and grateful, all at once. Had it not been for my sisters, Mama and niece Dana-and Christian, I could not have accomplished all that had to be done.
I came home today, to about fifteen flower pots filled with flowers from my grandmother, neighbors passed and a dear aunt. They also raked the yard! I am so awed by their love.
I am also grateful for the years I had with the first rabbitpatch. I learned so much while there and did a lot of healing, too. It seemed to demand a certain “way’ of living just to be there. I coined it “the rabbitpatch” way, for I did live amongst a thriving community of wild rabbits. They owned the young woods in the far corner, after all.
The remnants of a farm served as a shelter for many of my loved ones. I also met some of the finest folks. The soil fed us and I declare now, that I have seen raw and pure beauty. I have trod on a blessed path and did not find it lacking. Oh, what parting gifts, that path provided!
Living on that rabbitpatch, really –was time well spent.
And just like that it is spring, when “flowers appear on the earth”. The dogwoods know better than any calendar, as do the violets, when it is spring- The grass knows when to green and so do the trees. Now, new leaves, small and jade like will stop you in your tracks, if you are just inclined to look up. The shade of young leaves is dappled now, making lacy patterns with the gentle sun on the tender grass, beneath. Rainy days are a “dime a dozen”, now The golden days, are too. I have been on spring break the past week. I spent the Easter weekend at Jennys’ home, and the next four days, that followed.
The Easter bunny had hidden brightly colored eggs for the little girls to find on Easter morning. The darlings rose bright and early, and ready to shine. What a commotion ensued, as the girls donned their little frocks and shoes , in great haste, to find those eggs. Tres came for Easter dinner. It seems the rabbit had left chocolate at his house too . . and so he bestowed his nieces with delightful eggs and bunnies-
Tres’ days in Elizabeth City, are in the short rows. He graduates in just a few short weeks, with the highest gpa in his field. He starts a job, in Wilmington, three days later.
Jenny has been like a “second mother” during his stay there-and the little girls are just smitten with their uncle. . . Will and Tres became the best of friends, so I expect tears in abundance, when he leaves. I know that I will cry, for it was of great comfort to me, just knowing they were together and had one another.
The week was filled with good meals together, stories for the little girls, books, dolls and at long last, ice cream. I tucked the sweet memories deeply in my heart, for they were too beautiful, not to.
I came home on Thursday evening, to a warm welcome, from Christian, the boxer and the naughty gray cat.
The next day, as I was sorting out the affair of tasks, after time away, my head was swirling with business. No matter how much tidying, laundry, or unpacking I attempted. I could not stop the rush of thoughts about documents and big decisions-an unrealised, old dream and a new unfamiliar path, looming ahead. I finally, worked myself in to a state of gloom and was certain of impending doom. It had been decades since, I last had such dreary notions.
Certainly, I had to think such thoughts. The old farmhouse sale, is scheduled for May 12th, after all- surely, I had to consider housing, at my age! on a very limited income. . . and the price of everything, sky-high! On top of that, my decisions would impact my loved ones, as well.
Oh, what a toll worry takes. It is like a thief, really-and I had apparently left a window up, and a door wide open.
I now, truly felt ill. . . Then, something “out of the blue happened”. A dear friend, of over thirty years called . She uncannily always catches me at crossroads. I had thought about calling her for several hours, but decided to sulk, instead. She listened to my woes and wondered if God allowed me this time to ramble so that I could , with clarity, proceed, as I ought to. I could have deemed it, a divine exploration, I supposed later. This was sensible and I no longer felt the fear of being left to my own feeble devices. How foolish, I had been!
A bit later, Tres called. Tres calls to check in, but rarely to have a long conversation, on a phone. After we confirmed plans for our upcoming gathering, Tres talked about his own future. I did not say a word about my quandary . He talked about his first plan to live out west, then another idea he had was to move to a large city in NC-things took a turn and a better opportunity arose. . .much closer to home-and his Sarah. He was glad that he had entertained different options. He had calmly and methodically, evaluated each one-unlike me. He told me these things, without any idea that I had been diligently brewing a “tempest in a teacup” for the the last few days.
Somehow, the spell of despair was broken, by these conversations and the house was tidy, as well.
The next morning, I awoke to a lavender sky. Birds were already singing as I was collecting dishes to prepare for our gathering, at mid day. We would all meet at Mamas’ house and spend time together before Monday came and changed everything. It was a lovely day. We all agreed that the meal was especially good and Mamas’ cake was a fine grand finale.
We all ended up outside afterwards. Delores had bought Jenny a quilt she had made for her. (Delores has made a quilt for each of us} . . and sweet tokens for all of us. Everybody got something. Delores is a thoughtful person and is especially good at finding just the right thing for everyone. She gifted me with geraniums. They were in bloom and boasting with large apricot colored blossoms.
Moments later, I opened my April birthday card. Delores had hand written a message inside . ,” If you weren’t my sister, I would want you to my friend.” was written within the message and jumped out with flashing beauty. That sentiment meant something, that I never want to forget.
When you are young, you are so very accustomed to change. All experiences are new, after all. After a very long while, one sorts through their collections. We draw conclusions. We can see in hind sight, which ones we manufactured and which experiences, we did not. Often, we classify events -some are regrets, some are triumphs-some bear repeating and some do not.
Our response to both heartbreak and victory-really means everything. This lesson is a tiresome one-and a life long one. “Sometimes “Silver linings” are as slow as “molasses in January” to appear.
Since, I have faltered, in this lesson, I know first hand what Not to do, now. Until further notice. I will bake my bread, find more flowers, and try my best to “look to the hills”. . .which I should have done in the first place.
At long last, I have been able to visit my grandchildren. One weekend, I went to Elizabeth City. Another weekend, Mama and I went to Raleigh. It is with gladness, that I can write, all is well, with our family.
Lyla is growing up, right before my eyes-and I am still shocked! She has lost several teeth now and does not have a single ounce of “baby fat”! She reads books! She will be a seven year old, in April. Oh, these golden, shining seven years , have zoomed by. . .cruelly fast. Little Brynn is still cherub like. She loves to pick flowers. Jenny said a dozen dandelions were in her book bag yesterday. One day, she and I took a stroll by the laughing river She learned the names of several flowers and bushes. . and has been using them in conversations. Ryan hasn’t grown an inch, but he is bright and agile and sweet as any pie, ever made. I introduced him to Bob Ross, while I was there. That was an instant success. I also read “The Tale of Mr Jeremey Fisher” . It was a favorite of his Dads’-and Ryan loved it, too.. He retold the story, with many details, afterwards.
Seeing my grandchildren, acted like a tonic on me.
Days are mostly mild now and showers are liable to pop up. . .quite fitting for this time of the year. I wouldn’t yet plant tomatoes, but there is no harm in thinking about it. The geraniums still come in at night, sometimes.
The very small yard has clumps of green grasses in places, that are growing in an uncivilized manner. There are songbirds now, singing sweetly-and a small community of squirrels making hasty decisions, as they avoid cars and folks. That is about all the “wild” going on . . on Bonnet Street. I have seen the rabbit a time or two more. I wonder how he likes sidewalks. . for, I fear, I am “homesick”.
Maybe, it is because of spring’s arrival-maybe, it is the “sidewalk”. . .but, whatever it is, I just can not deny it. I miss the countryside with its’ big sky over the old trees. I miss seeing the sunsets, and rain coming across the fields-and the millions of stars that are hidden by street lights. The sight of the moon, and its’ milky light, falling through the windows , is an awful loss. Then, there are the whispering pines and the dainty violets along the garden path-and maybe, most of all -is the quiet sound of the territory. Silence . . that is often only broken by the mocking birds, and at night, the whip-poor-will calling out. I no longer care, that the grocery store is just minutes away.
It was bound to happen.
Now, I am sensible enough to know, that we do not always get what we want. I know that I can have happiness, wherever, I abide. I know the farmhouse is big and needs big repairs . . . and I am just like “that old gray mare”, as well. There are a lot worse things going on in this world than a homesick heart-and I remind myself of that, when I am whining about fields and trees and birds. . . .but, I have found that it is best to be truthful at all times. I know that, too.
After thinking about such things, I realised that it seems to be a lack of encounters with nature-wild things in wild places -and solitude, that bother me most. Even a small , sleepy town is just too civilized, to suit me, it seems. I suppose, that to me, there is just not enough liberty in a town, as well. God forbid ,the trash can is not properly placed!
In spite of all this . . . something wonderful has happened.
I know more about myself, than I ever have known. In some way, when you know what aggravates you, you discover what you love.-and what you need.
I liken it to , when I moved into the house on Bonnet Street. Some boxes did not make the move.
I had to sort through and figure out what things meant the most. The truth is for now, I am here , on a small lot in a small house, surrounded by friendly folks, with a sidewalk a few short paces from the porch. Since ,I believe that experiences are the “great lessons” in life, I am not a bit sorry. Instead, I must seek beauty in new ways.
The other day, I scavenged the yard for little wildflowers, to press. (I have several projects in mind to use them) In those moments, the world was hushed and quite serene. The same can be said when I am baking bread. I find it very satisfying and besides, being better for us . . it is better to us.
I know these things are small steps, but they are making a difference for me. Living close to the earth and with the earth . . is all I have ever known. All else, just seems shallow and artificial, to my primitive spirit.
It really is much easier to live on a street in a small town-easier on the body. Yard debris goes to the street instead of a garden, to be burned on the rare day, when the wind isn’t blowing. Thorned vines do not thrive in “tamed” spaces, so there is no endless battle, going on. You can order food, already prepared, to your doorstep. If you need anything, it is just five minutes away. I know such things are endearing to many people. It is really a sensible argument . . . oh, if only , I was sensible!
The last few years, I have been through one rabbit hole after another. I have prayed and tried to figure out about where my next home is. My financial situation is lacking any fanfare. That must be considered. . .as well as several other important matters.
I have always had difficulty knowing when to “let go and let God” as is often said. It seems when I have exhausted my heart and mind, is when I can “let God”-and sadly, not a moment before.
Until further notice, I will be listening to the gentle church bells, and gathering flowers and celebrate, “This day, that the Lord has made”. . . .and bake.
It is March, your birthday month. I think of you everyday, and most especially now. We all still shed tears when remembering the times that you were here, with us. Mama tends your grave, with loving care. Delores makes quilts out of the shirts you left. Connie takes tools to Mamas’ house, for she is the most qualified, for that place. Know that she keeps the house in good order. I tell our stories and plant flowers.
If I ever find the place to plant trees, I will, for I remember how you loved trees. Oh! peach trees are starting to bloom-and as always, we are expecting bitter cold weather today. Like clockwork, the wind roars these days. I remember the kites you made. They could soar . Over the fields they went til they were just tiny as sparrow,. to the eyes. I suspect, that few fathers come home from work and fly kites with their children, til supper.
You would have loved what I saw a few weeks ago. There were four bluebirds at a bird feeder at your former home. They were in quite a ruckus. How darling they looked with their bright blue feathers filling the space like confetti. I am glad that you taught me to love birds. I will never hear a bobwhite, that I do not remember us sitting outside on warm evenings , having conversations with a bobwhite. . . and then looking for the first star. How peacefully, I grew up. I still look for the first star.
Some days, I listen to the same music you loved, when you were here. Many days, I just can’t. Sometimes, it is just too hard . . . to remember.
Even remembering the seasons when we were at odds, pains me. You were such a strict parent, and it aggravated me, during my teenage years. I didn’t dare argue with you, for somehow, you had convinced me that you knew more than I did. Some way, you made me think, that it was an awful sin, to be disrespectful. Somehow, you made me be (mostly) obedient. It seemed to me, that no matter how much I sulked and distanced myself . . you were always there. Today, I know it was your love that was always abiding, whether I liked it or not.
Since, you left, much has happened. . .and in such a short while, really. “Our way” of life is disappearing with every minute that passes. I suppose each generation regrets losing something beautiful. The things, that one generation calls valuable-even precious-may not be deemed so, by the next. I am thankful, that the gifts you bestowed on your children, were not the “temporary sort” . . . and so they remain. Having good parents is a gift in itself.
Neither you nor Mama were ever afraid to enforce rules, or responsibility. In fact you seemed to be on a mission. You already loved us, but it was important to you to make us all lovable to others. I often say that I knew everything, before, I went to school, about how to behave properly.
No matter how gallant your efforts were, not every lesson “took’ with me. When I fumbled and stumbled, you always said the same thing . .”You knew better!” Oh, how I hated that. But, you were right. I did know better, for you had drilled “better” in my heart and soul with diligence. I still tell myself that now, when I am tempted to act otherwise.
There is another thing, to mention, which I am grateful for. . .the way you loved Mama. I could write a book, on your fatherhood, but you were also a good husband-and I do not take that lightly. You and Mama were a steadfast union-and that made a difference then-and now. You both worked hard, you at a job, and Mama at home. How valuable that proved to be. We really had the best of everything, as children.
It is no wonder, that you are missed by all of us. Thank Goodness, that you did not leave us “empty handed”. . .but instead, laden with self esteem, accountability, perseverance, sensibility and gratitude. Because of you, I have seen nobility . . . so I know what it looks like. As it turns out, . . I really do “know better.”
Mama had a birthday. Last Friday, she turned eighty years old. In light of that, My sisters and I, after months of deliberation, decided to take Mama to see her cousin, Yvonne. We had a car packed by ten am, on that day to head to Salter Path, NC.
Salter Path is situated on a small island just an hour , and the best part of another, from Mama’s house. Yvonne and her family, have called it home for more than fifty years-in fact, they are a well known family there -and not only because of their well established shrimping business, nor because of their admirable work ethic, but also because they are good people.
In summers, long past, Cousin Yvonne would load her car up with her four children and hid inland to see all of us. I loved those days. The cousins and I would play in the shade. Angela and were close in age, so we were fast friends. We wrote letters for years, as children rarely used a phone. The boys were so cute-and quiet. They weren’t nearly as rambunctious as every male cousin, inland. The baby Debra Lynn, was adored by all of us. It was always a grand event, when they visited. Cousin Yvonne was and is a happy, smiling person. She is Mamas’ first cousin, and the granddaughter of “Mama Hodges”. She was the least stern of the adult relatives and because of that, we were “good as gold” in her presence.
Mama and her sweet cousin kept in contact, but visits became few and far between. I suspect , we kids kept them busy. At long last, we were united again, for Mamas’ birthday. It was as if, we had not spent years apart. Right off, we were crying and chattering. It felt like a “homecoming”, of sorts. . .it felt like it was everybodys’ birthday!
They are a loving lot to one another. They were to us, too. We left their home on the blue sound, tumbling by, with lovely memories-and shrimp! . . .vowing to visit more, as we ought to.
Now nothing else could compare to that afternoon, but we had several nice meals at some local restaurants and one morning, we went to the beach. We visited several shops. One night we took a personality test. That was interesting. My results were quite accurate. I have taken this same one before, and as it turns out, I am still a procrastinator and I still can’t bear lists nor schedules.
We came home on Sunday. It was another spring like day. We all dreaded parting and whined about it as we tidied up the cottage. We all agreed that this was time well spent . . .and that Mama had enjoyed her birthday.
Monday came along-and that changed everything. Even the chill of February returned. Now, there were routines to follow and housekeeping. I am quite satisfied with my work and even the chores of tending a house, but often I thought of my cousins and I missed them. I thought of Mama, turning eighty. Of course, the world is full of frightening news-and I thought of that, too. What a contrast of things to consider.
Life can be very somber sometimes. The last few years, have been somber ones. Fear and anger have resulted in a sort of chaos. This lingers heavily. If there has ever been a time for us to examine and define as precisely as we can, what we love, what we truly value and what matters most to us, it is now. Somehow, in this time of suspicion, greed and all sorts of division, we must seek that “peace that passeth understanding” with a zeal. In some way, all the static, seems to make this effort, easier, for the circumstances almost implore us, to do so. Whether we want to or not, we will discover who we are. Dire circumstances tend to sharpen with precision, our senses . It is as if, the truth pierces obstructions, to find us.
To counter, all of the harshness, I strive to maintain some sort of balance, in hopes it will preserve my sanity. For this reason, I look for violets, and sprouting lilies. I listen to music and read inspiring passages. I think how Mama was so happy on her birthday weekend. I plan for Hayleys’ wedding celebrations. I hope to paint a picture soon, and if all else fails . . . I think of my loved ones . . and I will remember my cousins.
Last week was hazy and dimmed. I reminded myself, that wonderful things were happening . . .somewhere. I watched folks taking walks, or driving along and it actually stunned me. My own world was so hushed and lacked the content of the week before it. . .such lovely content, too. Oh how I longed, to cook supper and read or watch T.V. Maybe, I am an awful patient, for on top of everything else, I became grumpy. Thank Goodness, my family took it in stride. It is good to write that, at long last, I feel good enough now to repent. . .and have the chance.
I suppose that if many were to examine my very simple life , most might find it dull. It certainly is not. Frills and fanfare are a plenty. They just show up in ways less recognized in the current state of frenzy, of most lives. A closer look, may be warranted -at any rate, I missed everything, that week.
I returned to work on Tuesday. I had missed a full week and was actually nervous about finding my rhythm again. It ended up being a productive day and went along quite smoothly. Tuesday was also, “Mama Hodges'” birthday.
Mama Hodges was my great grandmother. She lived to see my first child, Brant. Mama Hodges was old when I was growing up or so she seemed. Mama, Grandmama and Delores and I made weekly visits to Mama Hodges’ two story house, surrounded by flowers. Inside the place was “hot enough to cure tobacco”, for Mama Hodges had a huge warm morning stove, that was on year round. We sat in the pristine living room. The adults talked, the children did not, except to greet Mama Hodges and respond, that we were fine, when asked. Delores and I sat as still as “church mice” on those long week day mornings. Looking back, it was like going to Church. Children were to be clean and quiet and abandon their natural inclination to move and giggle.
Once in a great while, Delores and I were allowed to sit on the front porch. I suspect now, this depended on the content of a conservation the adults needed. In those days, children were not privy to any adult business-and that included most things from “light bills” to someone selling an acre of a farm. The only other thing that got us out of the house, was to eat a piece of pound cake. Mama Hodges mostly always had one, on top of the refrigerator, secured in a tin cake dish. Her kitchen always smelled like, she had just cooked a pound cake and dumped a generous amount of vanilla in the concoction.
Children were not allowed to ask for food at anybodys’ house. It was considered rude to ask someone for their food. In fact, if we were offered something, we were expected to glance at Mama, as to know whether we could accept. This was not a harsh rule. It made me think about the the needs of others and to recognize acts of generosity. The way, Mama explained the value of manners, in a nutshell, was two fold. Firat, it let other folks know, that you were thinking about them and showing respect for them. Second it let every one know that you someone loved you enough to teach you how to conduct yourself. She was right, for I declare that practicing good manners does make you think bout others til it becomes a habit. Mama did not concentrate on which fork to use, but instead on conversing (Do not interrupt whoever is talking, watch your tone and facial expressions), how to respect my elders. (We were taught to give our chair to any standing adult, they were served first at gatherings and so on), respecting the property of others(Do not ever run in a house, jump in a house, shout in a house . . .etc.) Looking back, I guess I learned a lot of good manners from visiting Mama Hodges . . .and going to church.
Thankfully, Delores and I were never denied a slice of that golden pound cake-but the minute it was in our hand, we were banished to the porch, for not a single crumb was allowed on Mama Hodges’ kitchen floor. . . at least not on our account. . . .If a crumb did fall, It was immediately picked up, by Delores or I. (A child always picked up anything dropped by anybody}
You can believe we said “thank you”, before we took off to that porch too.
To this day-and especially now, I am glad to have been loved in this way. Now, Mama Hodges was not a harsh person. I do not remember her ever raising her voice. She did not coddle us as if we were fragile , and liable to break at any given moment, though. I really learned more about my great grandmother, after she died.
She was considered the Belle of five counties. A few very old photographs are proof of that. She bore four children and was widowed early in life. My great grandfather, Joseph, had a heart attack, when he was just forty years old. Mama Hodges wore black and white gingham house dresses, every day , but Sundays for the rest of her life. On Sundays, or special occasions, she wore black dresses with white collars.
A story, that I have told before, bears repeating. Joseph and Carrie Hodges were farmers. After his death, Mama Hodges must have found herself in dire circumstances, for not long after, the farm was to be auctioned off to “the highest bidder”. This would have been sometime in the 1930’s. I can not imagine her predicament – heartbreak, shock and becoming a widow, suddenly, and with four children. I did not know this story as a child and so do not have an account of her state and as I said . . I truly can not imagine how she bore it.
On the day of the auction, the local farmers showed up. To their credit, not a one would bid. Mama Hodges bought her farm back . . for one dollar. I can not tell or write this story without crying. It is too beautiful, too noble and too inspiring, not to.
Greatness may not be as rare as we think and not reserved for only a few. This winter, I have heard several stories of greatness that showed up in people this world would never recognize as anything other than ordinary. Plenty of people sacrifice their desires for others . They put the needs or wishes of others, before themselves. This is a great act of benevolence. Many people work in a service of some sort. They are not in it for the money. I met an older woman, living in a shelter, due to a series of unfortunate events. I met her because, she could not stay in the shelter from 7am to 7pm. My house was on her routine walk. She used a walker as she went along. After a few weeks, we were in the habit of conversing. She taught me a lot about bravery, gratitude and fortitude. What wealth she doled out to me.
Over a hundred years ago, when life lacked prosperity, a congregation of farmers assembled to protect, serve and give what they could, to a neighbor. Foregoing a chance to profit, they would not bid on Mama Hodges’ farm. The “golden silence” of those men, must have been deafening.
.Mama Hodges raised my grandmother and her siblings on that farm . . . and some of her descendants still call it “home”, today-almost a century later.
Snow on the little rabbitpatch was a lovely sight to behold. The cottages on the Bonnet Street , grand or not, all had lights shining from their windows, making the place charming and cozy. There wasn’t a bit of movement and so silence filled the air. Kyle and Christian went out with the boxer and then the world wasn’t as quiet. I made snow lanterns while the boxer leaped about. The boys had a wild snowball fight. We must be the only children on the block, for not another soul was in sight. We came into a house full of the smell of fresh baked bread. That was a nice day.
That night the powdery snow became ice. We did not lose power, thankfully. Jenny told me the adventures they had with snow. The girls could not get enough of it and were exhausted by evening. Brant has to work in such conditions, but Sydney and her parents made sure that Ryan enjoyed the day. The pictures they sent proved it was a memorable event, for all of them. They built a snow family, with a cat-and when Brant arrived, Ryan had sled rides. It is safe to say, that not a single one of the grandchildren went lacking in joy, this day!
I do not work on Mondays, and schools were closed. I have a lot of reading to do for my job and a bit of paperwork. There are also a few little projects to do in the house. An extra good supper is planned, for I have the extra time.
My youth was full of bigshot dreams. Life winnowed them out, until at last, I ended up right where I ought to be. I wouldn’t have guessed how much pleasure could be derived from just tending the house and cooking for my loved ones. I never thought big enough to understand the joy of growing flowers or having pets or writing about such things. No one ever says, ‘I want to be a grandmother, when I grow up”, yet it is one of the best things that could ever happen to us.
Today I sit in another drafty, very old house as content as I can be. . . and thinking about what to cook for supper. It does not take “fame and fortune” to live happily, as it turns out.
By Wednesday, only remnants of snow, in shady nooks, remained. There was sunshine-clear and brightly shining -but it has been cold ever since the grand event.
Believe it or not, another winter storm is in the forecast for the coming weekend. There is a chance of snow again. Snow or not, it will be brutally cold. Kyle asked if I would make crepes again, at the prospect of snow.
Thursday, was a busy day. I left school, later than usual, then I had several tasks to accomplish. I felt unusually tired . . but it was the headache that stopped me altogether. I do not suffer with headaches . . not even occasionally. It was the worst headache, that I could have imagined. My eyes hurt, so that I could not hold them open. My ears hurt, my throat hurt- so I went to bed before seven! The next morning, which was Friday, I woke with body aches and weakness. The headache was better. A test confirmed my suspicions . . I had covid. With the headache reduced to just an awful memory now, I just feel like I have a cold-or a mild flu.
As I was remembering my elders, that morning, I thought first of Aunt Josie, for it was her birthday. Aunt Josie, my moms’ sister, had married quite young. She married an especially handsome man who was in the army and off she went so far away, from everything she knew. Aunt Josie was either very brave or madly in love (or both) to go halfway across the country-away from the farm-away from her family. Back then, folks did not travel as they do now. Both Kansas and Texas seemed like foreign soil, when I was very young.
Maybe, I was four or five, when Aunt Josie came back to the farm. By then, she had two little sons. There had been so much cleaning and scrubbing going on, that I was quite certain these people were quite special . . and they were. I still remember meeting them for the first time in Pop and Grandmas’ living room. I do not remember when, but my cousins, Chuck and Chris became more like brothers to me than cousins. They remain that way, to this day.
Aunt Josie was a cheerful aunt with a beautiful smile and the handsome uncle Charlie, had a distinct laugh.. . and he laughed a lot. Aunt Josie had learned some new dishes, that were quite unfamiliar to us country folks. She made goulash and spaghetti! In the summer evenings the adults would play cards and listen to Hank Williams, while we untamed kids ran wild as rabbits. . .left to our own devices.
Aunt Josie and I were close, to her last day . . and I still miss her.
The wind was blowing with a vengeance, when I woke today. It was eight degrees and there was but a slight dusting of snow was on the rooftops.
I wasn’t going to make snow lanterns anyway.
I was waiting for snow, the last time I wrote . . . I still am! There were a few snow showers, last weekend, certainly nothing to brag about. Now, a winter storm is forecasted this weekend. Everything here is closed. We are all waiting for snow and ice. Snow is welcome -but ice with all of its’ beauty is known to break old trees and hinder power. We are as unequipped as ever, in the south and so we all stay home. Only those who must, go out. Our emergency heroes, first responders, linemen and other such noble servants, brave these unfamiliar elements so the rest of us are safe and warm.
When the forecast first hinted at inclement weather, I turned my thoughts to my usual agenda for such occasions-food and books and writing-maybe an old movie or two. We are supposed to have this thing upon us for several days. I made haste to get to the grocery store, as I knew full well, pickings would soon be slim. The stores are never at full capacity these days, storm or not. I did find what I needed to make crepes and pizza. Most things needed were already in stock in the little house on Bonnet Street, for I am likely to make anything, anytime.
Jenny had a birthday on Thursday. I used to call her “my little snowbird”, for it was likely to snow on her birthday, the few years that we get snow. Today is further proof of that.
What a treasure, my only daughter is. She was born with the heart of a mother-and a quick mind. These traits show up now, for she takes care of all of us. Jenny pays keen attention to our needs-and acts on it. If I need advice, I go to Jenny, for she has an understanding of my heart, second only to God, I think. I believe her brothers would say the same thing.
Now, Jenny is a mother-of two little girls. She is a sensible and loving mother. The “extra mile” does not intimidate our Jenny and so she knows it by heart. Of all the things that a daughter can accomplish, being a good mother “takes the cake” to me. What could matter more, after all?
I went over the day of her birth, all day yesterday. How clearly I remember the details. Some memories are recalled with precision, even after decades. I had another name picked out for the baby-two in fact for in those days, we did not know if the baby would be a boy or a girl. You had to be prepared for both. The name that I had chosen, for a little girl, was only loved by me. Her father accepted it, but I didn’t think he was so fond of it, either. When I looked at this bundle of wonder I abandoned my first choice. I decided that she looked like a “Jenny” and so she was named in that way. I remember rocking her, by the woodstove, those first days home and neighbors coming in, full of excitement. . .to see our Jenny. Now, here I sit waiting for snow, just as I did on her first birthday, all those moons ago.
While I waited, a pot of soup simmered. I was constantly looking out the window to see if snow was falling from that silver sky. It was about thirty degrees, not counting the wind chill. I have only seen snow falling a very few times, in my life, for it usually falls at night, here-if at all.
When the silver sky, grayed, sleet started. It made a tinging sound on the tin roof. We ate soup and then had a dessert of pancakes with fried apples and caramel sauce and whipped cream. I went to bed soon after . . .still waiting for snow. Kyle woke me at some odd early hour to say, it was at last snowing.
I got up before dawn to a beautiful winter scene. I think we had about four icy inches. My first thought was of the little grandchildren. Lyla has been wishing for snow for two years. Brynn does not remember snow, as she is just three. Ryan saw snow falling last weekend, but has never walked in it or really touched it! I am sure though, that this morning, all are building a snowman and maybe Ryan-a snow fort-knowing Brant.
I am not sure how icy the snow is, for I have been drinking coffee by a window. While, I was gazing out at Bonnet street in winter, a little bird flew up to say good morning. I had never seen his kind. He was gray on the back with a bright yellow stripe on either side of his breast. We stared at one another in a friendly way for a few moments and then he flew off, as if he had an appointment. Straight away, I sought to identify the lovely creature. He was a Myrtle warbler, it turns out, and he is welcomed back anytime.
Now today, the crepes are on the menu-and Kyle wants brownies. Christian chose the supper. Until further notice, I will be reading or making snow lanterns, writing or in the kitchen . . .and every time I glance out the window, I will keep my pealed on the silent beauty of a snowfall . . .and for my new feathered friend.
The first light this morning was a pale golden quiet color. How softly the sun proclaimed the day . . like it was telling a secret, in a whisper. . . meant only for the early birds.
I spent the new year with my three oldest children-and the grandchildren. The weather was unseasonably warm. We exchanged gifts right off and then had all sorts of fancy snacks. It reminded me of “old Christmas”, though it was too early for that. The whole time we were together seemed like a constant celebration and I think we were all sorry when it ended. Cold, windy weather was coming and a slight chance of snow, with it. In the south, even a “slight chance” causes a commotion.
I left early on Monday, in thunder and lightening, wind and rain . . .and it was cold! That afternoon, snow fell on the rabbitpatch, but not a single flake stuck. I spent time just watching it fall and paid no attention to dust and dishes.
I have mentioned before, that I do not make New Year resolutions, for first, I can not keep them . . .most especially if the resolution requires some rigid routine or restrictions of any sort. I am weary of them by February-and disappointed in my self. I do self reflect and revaluate and clearly define my priorities, regularly. Once, I am convinced of something, I am likely to be successful . . .but it could happen on a Tuesday in May! Prompts seem to spring up , when I am least expecting them! I became a vegetarian, one year in October and I did a massive decluttering, several years back, in the hot month of July- I stuck to those things.
Oddly, though, just before Thanksgiving, this past year, a “prompt” popped up “out of the blue” and another one, this week. One, is another way to simplify-and the other adds more enrichment in my life. I value authenticity and both ideas support that, so now I am once again pondering “lofty notions”, while I peel potatoes.
I finally took down the Christmas decorations. I always wait for “old Christmas” to do so. “Old Christmas” helps me admit that Christmas is really over and it is always a very spiritual thing for me. There are less distractions, for one and I find that I really can focus more on the Gift, the grandest of all, bestowed on this world. I take it personally. While I disassemble the tree and pack away the wreaths, I feel melancholy and grateful, all at once.
Now winter seems to have finally settled in, in the little coastal town, that I now abide. Skies are often pewter and the trees hold no secrets. I love their bare branches and want to be like them, for their beauty changes , but is constant, in all forms. Jade leaves in spring, scarlet in fall, blossoms, fruit or nuts , resting or not . . . I love trees. In winter, their shadows fall in lacy patterns and I have yet to see two tapestries alike.
Winter is the time to make creamy soups and stews. It is a time to make bread and roast potatoes. . .or make a good pot of beans The smell of a kitchen in winter is cozy and warm. It is a happy time, when the family walks in to such a kitchen . I remember well how good it was to come home from school to Mama frying chicken. Daddy would pull up from work and every day we celebrated, when all were safely in. Those were “golden” days.
I am often accused of being old fashion-and with good reason. People my age certainly know about progression, for we have lived through it and have seen the results. Some of our new methods are wonderful . . .and some are not. It is just that simple. As the world rushes on, I will pause, as needed. I will daydream by still waters and grow hyacinths and read poetry and linger with wild things in wild places . . .so maybe I am old fashion, after all.
The time of winter is a time to remember what things matter. The heart may be fickle at times . . . but not always. Somehow, regardless of intellect, culture or worldly status . . or whether or not we are listening- we know our truth, for it rings out like a church bell. . . and most especially in the quiet of winter.
Now snow is in the forecast again and what an uproar that causes, amongst the southerners ! Southerners either love it or they don’t. It is only a “chance”, but those of us who love it are clinging to it. No one has to shovel out their drive way, for the place shuts up altogether. If we get any snow at all, it is gone quickly, so I am not sure what all there isn’t to love.
In light of even the possibility, I am already plotting. What will I read, what will I cook and most of all, what will I ponder? .