“The creek had risen” and my ears were ringing, as I read the email, saying the closing, that was to happen in a mere three days was off. I had worked for several weeks on the little cottage situated on a corner lot, where “the sidewalk ends”. That very day, I had proudly announced to Kyle and his friend, Bo, that I had put the last of the essentials in place. Now, I can “ice the cake”, I said happily. With my friend and landlord, very sick, I had spent some money and labored like there was no tomorrow, besides. The thought of losing the ONLY rental that I could barely afford AND take my pets . . the thought of moving everything back . . .was daunting. I called Jenny and she read the contract. This really is not allowed to happen, legally she announced. Tres was devastated and had his ire up, as well.
I was just stunned. The next morning, I called the realtor and with no answer, I called the realty team. Later, we learned that the realtor was quite ill, but the company made sure that I retained the rental and joined forces to sell the house . This was of great relief to me and satisfied my family. Two days later, I slept in the cozy little rabbitpatch cottage on Bonnet Street”.
I knew full well how the daylight fell on the place, but I had never been there past the twilight time, so I sat on the front porch and watched this new world. I saw when the sky blackened. I saw a few stars shining, unhindered by the streetlights. The neighborhood was very quiet and the folks start turning the houselights off just after dark, I noticed. It has been unseasonably warm and I felt so disoriented with all the changes, anyway, that I could have sworn it was an evening in June, instead of late October.
I stayed out for a long while, pondering the events as of lately. I did feel relieved that the realty company were so supportive , but I still wished that things hadn’t become so complicated for so many folks. I was sad for the ones that were sick and for their families. I was sorry for the wild scrambling the realtors were in the midst of. I certainly pondered the unfamiliarity of everything for me.
Was this little rabbitpatch a very temporary dwelling or could I expect to see spring arrive there? Truthfully, we never know the future for sure, but must so many things change so suddenly? My job had changed, my income reduced and now living in a small town, in the absence of field and wood. So many ways for thoughts to ramble! It didn’t help a bit that we are without internet-and me locked out of my diary, anyway.
The house was as silent as could be, which really made the night seem more somber. I did have a place to rest, after supper . . and loved ones to bless. These things consoled me and I chided myself for making such a big production over a few twist and turns. I knew that God did not see these past six months as chaos, but instead, as an orderly plan. I reminded myself, that true reliance on God, is not born from a sense of human power, but from recognizing our lack of power in many circumstances. I should be observing what transpires and gleaning from the experiences, what can serve me. . . .when “the creek does rise”.
I went in and read til I fell asleep.
I have so much to say , for many things have happened in my absence . . yet I can scarce think how to begin! Words and thoughts are all jumbled up and come out scrambled and senseless. It all started when I sold the old farmhouse on the rabbitpatch. Somehow, I was “locked out” of my blog, I realised a few days later. I was extra busy, so I thought I would tend to that shortly.
That was in September. The closing day was October 15th, and so I began hunting for a rental to make due til the dust settled. I told everyone that I knew, that I was looking for a modest home and implored their help. Meanwhile, I packed boxes. I called several businesses for rental homes, in every spare minute. I was aghast at the cost of renting. It was three times my house payment, on average -and nobody allowed dogs! After a few weeks, I was a bit concerned about my situation. One house was adequate though I thought it expensive . . but they wouldn’t allow a dog on any terms. I started driving around the small town, that I worked in, every day after school looking for empty homes. One day, I saw a small hand made rent sign out front of a dreadful little house in a quaint and charming neighborhood. The yard was untended and had an unruly hedge lined yard. Trees were covered in ancient vines. The house was every bit as old as the one I was selling . . but smaller. Somehow, a farmhouse had remained snuggly nestled in while darling little cottages with neat yards had sprung up like poppies, all around it. Of course, I called about it, anyway. Pickings were slim!
As it turned out, I knew the landlord and his wife. The price was manageable, if I was careful and best of all . . Pets were allowed. I made an appointment to see the house the next day. It was the dirtiest house that had ever seen and I was certain, that the smell would remain forever etched in my mind. On top of that, what color was the walls and the doors and the windows and the ceiling?! Everything was the same peculiar color. It was as if brown and purple and beige and pink were combined to make some shade of color . . but what it was called, I could not say. The house did have a few things going for it. The neighborhood was pristine not counting this little house on the corner. Pets were allowed . . .and it was the only house I could find.
Mama went with me the next time. The landlord had painted the walls a beige color, lighter than it was, but still odd. The smell had gone from “worst ever to just bad”. He said, he had some more things to do to the house, in our last conversation . . .and I agreed, with all my heart. A few days later, as I was scrubbing dirt and grime and gathering rubbish, someone came in and said, the landlord had suffered a stroke. I was stunned. The landlord is my age and seemed as fit as could be. It was a dreadful shock and I cried for he and his family at that very moment. I was grateful that though his recovery was expected to be lengthy, recovery was a possibility.
For the next two weeks, I worked nights at the little house. I took over the painting and added an ivory color, which softened the palette of the interior. Kyle trimmed the hedges and cleaned the yard which made a huge difference. The landlords’ wife, honored the verbal deal, that had been struck and was pleased that the old and little house on “Bonnet street” was being tended. Sister Delores made curtains and bought cream colored mums for the front porch. Tres and Sarah spent a weekend hauling large furniture. Mama kept us fed. Love was showing up everywhere and the little house smelled sweet and shone fairly. Neighbors dropped by to brag on our progress and express their gratitude that at long last, the neighborhood was without blemish.
A day or so later, I called the realtor to get details on the time and location of “the closing”. She said to check my emails. That is when, I found out that the buyers had changed their mind . . .
I think every emotion known to mankind, has washed over me and through me, this past week. Joy, sorrow, excitement, dread, fear . . you name it . . .I have felt it. I have cried while hanging sheets on the line and moments later , felt gladness as I walked by the oldest barn. I have stood very still, in my thoughts and then rushed headlong in to the future, within minutes. . . .for, I have sold the farm.
Those of you that have a history with the rabbitpatch diary, will remember the “incident” a few years back. when the same thing happened . . .and then it didn’t. Circumstances changed and so I remained here on the beautiful, very old, remnants of a farm. In light of that, I know for sure, that anything can happen, but at this time, all indications are . . that I need to pack. . . and not put another thing in the freezer.
I am packing . . and haven’t any idea where I am going! It is a very odd notion to entertain, for my personality . . but here I am, today washing seashells, collected decades ago by five children, for they are going with me . . .wherever that is! I have not got as much to do, as I could. I spent a summer, decluttering the place, now two years ago. I have honored that decision ever since . . .with the exception of books. I must have given away a thousand books that year-many to the school and I supplied quite a bit to a library and made a donation to a used book store.I probably still have at least a few hundred, that I could not part with. Many are intended for the grandchildren and will be doled out in time. Until then . . . they are going with me, too. There is no way around it-moving from one place to another, is hard work. . . .but that is not what I have been crying about. It is the land.
Something happens as you tend to earth. It happens as you plant. It happens as you water what you planted. It happens as you cut thorned vines and pick up thousands of branches. It happens when you work in the hottest hours and it happens when you are caught in the rain. It happens when you clean up after a storm-and when you sit in the shade of an old tree. You find out where the doves are nesting and where the wild rabbit runs. You know where the evening star shines and where the first rays of morning light fall. When the earth feeds you . . well, you are grateful and probably hopelessly in love. . .even with the fields that you do not tend and who can claim the sky? Yet somehow, you feel like such things are your own too. This is what I cry about.
Then, too are the “precious memories”. As I traipse the territory, I have flashes of pictures, from days passed. I see Grandmama raking leaves and I have seen my daddy walking, looking for something to fix. I see my dear uncles, Randy and Speedy sitting on the porch and Aunt Carolyn, behind the barn causing a commotion of some sort. I see a dog, that I loved, faithfully guarding the place. I see a fine evening meal celebrating Will and Jennys’ engagement . . and the Christmas tree shining through the windows. I cry about all that too. If it weren’t for me getting older and that old barn falling down, and several windows about to fall out and that dreadful sun room . . .
The community doesn’t make it any easier, for I am convinced that some of the kindest and most noble people on the earth, live right here in Farm Life.
I met the buyers, a few days ago and I loved them right off. The wife and I took a stroll so, I could tell her about the flowers. She just admired everything. The husband was busy making a list of repairs. He wasn’t even scared of that old barn! The visit acted like a tonic on me. The rabbitpatch will be loved and saved by these folks and I will be cheering them on. Until further notice, I will be packing and seeking a place to rent.
I have never rented and now must learn that business. It seems that a lot of land lords do not like dogs nor cats. I will not bring it up that Christian is a musician, either . . .and what in the world is “renters’ insurance”? Please pray there s no “Home Owners Association” in my future, either, for I just can’t be but so civilized! In the meanwhile, I will continue packing and dreaming of a quaint cottage . . the next rabbitpatch is somewhere . . .after all.
The past week has been anything but dull. Plenty has happened . . .but everything pales in comparison to Lyla starting school.
I was there, that day. Lyla was so excited that she hopped right in bed , the night before earlier than usual without a single complaint! The next morning, she popped out of bed, before sun up. She was so merry and I had to play along, but my stomach hurt and my eyes stung. Brynn slept through the whole thing.
The school is but five minutes from the house. Lyla chattered, and Jenny reminded Lyla to be kind, helpful and respectful . . and to wash her hands. I was stoic and said things like “Oh, there is the playground!” as if, nothing momentous was happening. She got out of the car, and I watched her growing smaller and smaller in the rear view mirror. Now, I could cry, for you all know that I am overly sentimental.
I left Elizabeth City just after lunch, for I started school, the next day myself. This year, I am working in a reading program. Books are dear to me and I love them as much as I love music. Oh, I hope to inspire the students to embrace the love of reading and to recognize fine literature.! I have been quite nervous though, for it was like starting a new job, to me. I am happy to announce now, that the first week went well and I think that I may love this new place along my journey.
Brant, Sydney and Ryan came on Friday night. We all spent the night at Mamas’. Ryan is as adorable as ever and says whatever he wants to. My boxer, Cash came too and right off, Ryan said, “That’s a big dog.” rather matter of fact like. He was delighted with “Nanas’ box of trucks, cars and tractors. Brant remembered several of them. Ryan also loved the same keyboard that Christian did, as a child. The boxer laid beside him as he played.
Once I was in the den, reading one of the books for school, and from the kitchen, I heard the lilt of the voices of my loved ones carrying on in conversation from the kitchen. How happy I felt and realised, that was something else, that I loved. On Friday evening, when stars were filling the sky, Sydney took Ryan out to see them-of course, I was quick to follow. I remembered Daddy showing me the stars and pointing out the constellations, in that very same yard. Daddy was not a good teacher at things like math, but he was wonderful when it came to trees and birds and sky. He was never impatient with those subjects. The next morning after breakfast, Brant and Sydney went to see other family. I stayed with Mama for there was a ruckus at the rabbitpatch!
I did finally and officially put the house on the market and ever since, there has been a steady flow of folks coming to see it. The house must stay perfectly clean at all times and the yard too! . . and me! . . .and the boxer! With the place at its’ best and the “sea of lavender” blooming, it is a bittersweet time. I walk around the yard and wonder how I can leave it and so I tell myself, “the barn is falling down.” I remember those sweet years that the house was full . . and I say to myself . . .”the place is empty now” I look at the stables where the little goats slept and I say . . “now you have grandchildren.” I remember all the very hard work and remind myself, that I am older now. I have less money now too and that is a factor.
I know, it makes good sense to move . .but my heart has never been sensible. I console myself, that I have had the gift of living here and in some way , have been preparing a gift for many years , for the next family. I often talk about living simply and how I ought not to take such stock in “stuff” . I stand by that philosophy . . but I admit that I am still smitten with the old drafty house and the old trees and the patch of young woods. I try to remember those hateful thorn vines to snap me back to reality. I can not do for the rabbitpatch what it needs. I must’nt be selfish, but I know that I will miss it. We all miss some one or some thing or some place. If we do not, it is because we never loved-and that would be more tragic.
Somewhere, there is a lonely little rabbitpatch just waiting for me to tend it. I am sure it will need roses and an apple tree! I bet there will be vines to cut and I will want a clothes line and geraniums. I hope there are shelves for my books and neighbors to bake a pie for, ever so often. Where will I put the Christmas tree? I must write a poem right off, and Christian will play his music-any rabbitpatch would want that. The boxer and the gentle cat will need a cozy corner. . .and best of all, the grandchildren will run in the door shouting “Honeybee!”. . .and so I will love again.
I have often thought that imagination is vital for the soul. When we are wondering, what may befall us, we ought to imagine something wonderful instead of gloom and doom. Besides, we probably all have a story, where something that seemed dreadful happened, and yet, it turned out to be ok-or even better for us.
The only thing that I know for sure is no matter how things turn out . . .I will be expecting a “very bright silver lining”.
Sweet August . . .when “white moths are on the wing” . . when gardens lack their former vitality and you can smell the corn drying, in the thick air, at twilight . . .has been hot. It is hot at eight thirty in the morning, scorching by noon and there is not enough coolness in the evening for the weary. Mosquitoes buzz happily and wreck my “early service” and I have found that my prayers , under the stars are “short and sweet”, in August.
I was in Elizabeth City, last week. It was hot there too . . .maybe more so than here at the rabbitpatch. Even a small town has a fair share of concrete -and that makes a difference. Still, the little girls and I managed a few walks and a picnic! The four days, that I spent there were wonderful and full of shining moments. I declare that Lyla is such a good and caring sister for Little Brynn. Lyla reminds me of Jenny, who was a stern but loving second mother to her brothers, when she was growing up. Brynn is becoming quite compassionate. Brynn is not yet three, yet she noticed that a woman walking, seemed sad -and Brynn was probably right, for what a sad countenance this woman wore.
We had supper at “Aunt J’s” one night. Aunt J lives just a good walk, from Will and Jenny. Wills’ mom and my friend, “Miss Claudia, was Aunt J’s sister. Like everyone else, I love Aunt J. Jenny prepared a perfect meal and served us like we were royalty. Then we had ice cream sundaes!
I left on Thursday, quite melancholy, knowing, this was “the last hurrah” of my leisure visits . . for it is August, after all. I start school on Monday.
This was also Tres’ last weekend home. He would be leaving on Saturday. I started moaning about that, the minute, that I got home. I did not shed a single tear in his presence, for Tres is so sensible, it would have shocked him to see how unreasonable, his mom can be. Instead, I packed a bag of food and school supplies and sent him off with the best fake smile, that I could muster. August is just full of “good byes”.
I could choose to “look on the bright side”, for it is also a time for new beginnings as everybody loves to say . . but I will probably sulk a while, before I say that. It is written, “there is a time to mourn” . It is a good thing to be positive, but life is not always roses and sunshine, and to deny sadness, is like a denial of what it means to be human. I do not want anything ugly dwelling in my heart. . .not bitterness or anger, not dismay or sadness . . so, I let feelings wash clean through me, til the beauty of what was lost, outshines the sorrow of losing it, til moving on is more desirable than wallowing – and so when it is a time to mourn, then I do. . .whether it be for such things as a fallen sparrow or a grown up son leaving in August.
My very good parents did not and could not have shielded their children from unpleasantries . Foals were still born, sometimes and dogs died. Some books did not end “happily ever after” and every race was not to be won, though we ran our best. My parents showed us all of life, shadow and light . . and that has made the difference.
Often, I think that recovery from disappointments -and imagination, are some of the most important skills, to teach children, as they will with great certainty, need both.
It finally rained on Sunday and cooled things off. The sky was full of thunder, and I suppose everyone in “Farm Life” was full of hope. I went out and saw huge, steel blue clouds moving overhead. They looked like whales swimming along the horizon. I watched the rain coming across the field. Rarely does rain “sneak” up on you, in the country.
I spent the afternoon, preparing for what seems like a “new job”. that starts on Monday. I confess, that I am almost nervous about it. My niece Hayley , starts a new job too, on Monday and niece Dana has her first day of college. Tres starts school on Tuesday. Nephew Brandon, starts on Monday. Jenny has started a part time job. Oh . . .August came along and just changed everything!
The territory around the old farmhouse is following suit and changes almost daily. Yesterday, the loosestrife sported some blossoms, and the roses are fading. The beloved morning glory is clambering wildly now and ever so often, a dry leaf will fall from a sycamore. The wild mulberry is full of promises for a spectacular show, soon to come and the grapes on the very old vines are not as green as they were a fortnight ago. In this way, I measure time.
Humans may race about at breakneck speed , but nature is never frantic. The world can get mighty loud and commotion springs up at the “drop of a hat”. We get so accustomed to it, that somehow we seem to have “acquired a taste for it’. Nature , on the other hand, whispers its’ fanfare.
Oh, how I love the silent, wild wood, with its’ beauty and lack of racket. ..and the fields that lie quietly and do not boast of their magnificent and mighty value. I have never seen a sky, that did not humble me. I have found something new to love also, for one night, Lyla, Brynn and I were looking out out a window and saw an evergreen with clinging raindrops, lit up by the moonlight. It shone brightly and Lyla gasped at the sight.
August, with its’ heat, mosquitoes and changes . .is at least generous in some respects . I musn’t forget to love August, too.
It is early now, as I write this and a steady rain is falling across a dimly lit rabbitpatch. I was looking forward to writing in the diary, for days. Mornings are my favorite time to write and rainy mornings are the best, so I was delighted and woke up smiling. Only the boxer and the gentle cat are here with me. Christian is at work and Tres went to see Sarah for one of his last weekends home.
His senior year starts in about a week. I dread seeing him pack up to leave. I will mope and trod about forlornly for a while , when he does. I am hopelessly foolish, when it comes to departures. Practice does not always make perfect! I just never got over that “empty nest” thing and at the age of sixty two, I do not aspire to do any better.
Mama and I have been busy. After our return from Elizabeth City, we headed for the lake for neice Hayleys’ graduation party. My sister Delores and Dana came with us. I looked at Hayley with her friends and wondered when she grew up?! For a moment, I saw her at six, full of spunk and curls . . now here she is all grown up and on the brink of everything!
Delores and Dana spent the night at Mamas’ that night and we all left for Raleigh on Monday. I would stay with Brant and tend to little Ryan while Sydney tended to obligations with her work. Ryan is a gentle natured child. He loves tractors, tools and books. I think he has already figured out his “Honeybee” , for he asked me for ice cream, for breakfast, the first morning. . . he settled for oatmeal, though.
Mama and I came back on Thursday. On Friday, I cleaned out several kitchen cabinets, washed clothes and scrubbed floors. I picked peaches too, as there was just enough left on the tree for a small pot of peach dumplings. The white peaches have a week or so more to go.
On the footpath to the clothesline and garden, I noticed that the “magic lilies” were blooming. Magic lilies spring up overnight, with large pale pink blossoms. I have often hoped to eavesdrop one night and catch them in the act! . . but you never know when this will happen, so I remain filled with curiosity, for I lack the stamina to appease it. The loosestrife is packed tight, along the way -so are the floss flowers. It is no wonder that the lowly and a bit uncivilized footpath to the garden, is a favorite place for me. . . and a lavender sea awaits. I love that lavender sea with hues from periwinkle to violet.
Lately, I have thought a lot about things that I love. Little things or small moments, are sometimes like a flash of shine, in the day. We all have them, if we just take an account of them. Somehow, I did. Could it be, that I did so, while at that “crossroads”? I did think, more than once, that somehow, I was lost-and was surely the only person on earth that could get lost standing still. That is when I became on high alert to things that I loved.
I love open windows . . and most especially those with sheer, white curtains that flutter in a playful breeze. If my gentle cat, “Christopher Robin” is dozing, behind the curtain, then I am pleased, at the sight, all the more. I love the drowsy hum of a window fan and the tinkling sound of my neighbor laughing in her yard, as I hang sheets on the clothesline. I love patches of sunlight falling through the leaves and bracken in the young woods, on the territory. I love the darkness just before dawn and waiting for the day. I love pastures filled with horses- or even just a couple. I really love old trees. I love when Christian plays the piano and floods the house with his tender melodies. I love it when moon shine spills in to the farmhouse . . .oh, I could make this a very, very long story, for there is so much to love. Being still, may be a lot more, than “it’s cracked up to be”. As it turns out, that season of hush, is waning for me, as is the summer.
I will be working this year, in a far different capacity and not as much as in years past. I start next week. At least, the dust finally settled around that predicament. Between, now and then, I am going to see the grandchildren in Elizabeth City and hope to have visits with several cousins. . .and I will keep seeking more things to love, as if my life depends on it . . .for in some ways . . .it does.
I have done a good deal of “traveling” this summer . . .but have only left the rabbitpatch a half dozen times or so. I spent the last five days in Elizabeth City. How good to have a leisure visit with my beloved daughter and grandchildren. I feel quite indulged to have such a privilege. I see first hand, how the girls “find their day” , how they play, what things they celebrate . . . in short, “who they are.” I treasure the moments, thoroughly.
Little Brynn, at two, has a lot pf expressions as she talks It is adorable, just to see. She has the face of a cherub. any way. She gave me several lectures about healthy food and the value of brushing teeth. Brynn can carry a tune like a little songbird, which delights me and she knows what a rose is and also a crepe myrtle. She stands in her mothers’ shadow, most of the time.
Lyla is quite self sufficient and quite organized. She continues to have a great sense of compassion and therefore is tender hearted. Lyla starts school this year. She is as ready as can be, academically -but , I am not so ready. Of course, I cried when she lost her first tooth. Childhood is just not long enough to suit me.
The summer here, has been a bit cooler, than in other years, but that week, was a hot one. The air was about sultry in the evenings. The mimosa tree took full advantage of the conditions, and sweetened the air generously. The mimosa tree is quite a common sight in the south. Every patch of wood and field is host to the mimosa. I have never known any one to plant them, many yards have a mimosa. If you have one, you are bound to have two, as the mimosa springs up freely and without a bit of reservation. It may be said, that the mimosa trees are “a dime a dozen”, so to me they are a miraculous bargain. The same can be said of fire flies . . .and stars.
The rest of my “traveling” has occurred right here on the humble soil of the rabbitpatch territory. There is a routine -I gather fallen branches which takes several strolls. I take account of the grapevines, and the fruit trees. I cut the wicked thorned vines and look for poison vines-and I am thinking the whole while. I have made good progress on this remnant of a farm. Everything is tidy, so there has been some profit in my meandering.
Aside from that, I remain at a “crossroads”, of sorts. I came to this place a few months ago and still, I stand dazed, almost rooted to the same spot. If “patience is a virtue”, I at least, have accomplished that. I liken the situation to receiving some announcement of upheaval with a “no action required on your part” included in the closing salutation. Certainly, there is some action on my part-I am filing for social security and I am putting the house on the market-but in both cases, the process is slow and the results of either are vague. . .So, I stand . I have stood so long, the place is starting to feel familiar-not as strange as it used to be. The thickness of “this fog”, still obscures my vision. . .but fog being mysterious . .also , creates a heightened sense of awareness. My mind went down a hundred “rabbit holes” and I “backtracked” quite a bit. I stumbled from one circle to another, never leaving the spot, I fell in to. . .and that is how I ended up with a very tidy rabbitpatch!
Sometimes . . .I act like Peter , “I do not know Him” and sometimes I am like Thomas, “Show me”. This confession shames me, but one must know the truth, to be set free. I do not like life altering circumstances that seem to shift like sand in a whirlwind. I confess that too. Then again, it is those very kind of circumstances that teach the greatest lessons. I chide myself for saying it again, so consider this my own personal necessity to “second” the subject.
My maternal grandmother, used to say “you can laugh about it or cry.” as she was snapping beans,not even looking up -and most especially when neither she nor I could fix something. How pert that sounded in my youth! How wise it sounds now.
Meanwhile, the peach trees hang full of gold, and the the grape vines and the pear are full of jade. Apples are scarce, so the squirrels are making haste to eat them extra green. The black eyed susans are in full bloom and almost glow. These things remind me, that as it is written . . .“To everything, there is a season.”
Mama and I took a short but sweet trip to Raleigh a few days ago.. We left on Monday and came back on Tuesday. Sydney had to be somewhere or another for most of Tuesday, so Mama and I would care for little Ryan, in the meantime. Ryan has such a sunny disposition, that it can hardly be considered work to tend to him. He is a happy and loving child with a gentle nature. . .at least according to his Honeybee. The day after we returned, I started gathering what I needed to file for social security. Business of any sort renders me bewildered . It was the same way, whenever Daddy tried to talk to me about carburetors. At least, I got started, I suppose.
With a “tropical storm” in the forecast, I spent Wednesday preparing for a brisk wind and rain. The weather folks have been slap wrong for a good while, but I tucked the geraniums just inside the front door and remove the wind chimes . . . just in case. I cooked a pot of dried yellow peas and carrots too . . .just in case. It is an awful thing to lose power and be hungry, after all. On Wednesday night, with a flashlight by my bed, I made a mental list of inside chores to do on Thursday. Thursday morning dawned like any other Thursday. As the hours passed, clouds moved in, and a light rain was falling before noon. Later the wind picked up a bit, but that was all.
I ended up with a sizable bag of clothes to donate . . AGAIN! . . .and that dreaded “business drawer” was reduced dramatically. I now have a folder with social security printed on it . . . and it is terrifying! If I were wealthy, I would not take a trip -or buy jewelry . . I would hire an accountant! To calm myself, I went back to memory lane. . . even though, there was a sharp curve, this time and calamity just around the bend.
Second grade was just awful The school ordered a new curriculum for us . . and we were introduced to Modern Math. Being able to add and subtract, was no longer enough, for now we had to learn how to show our work with parentheses and such. I also had a teacher that inspected our lunch trays . We must eat every morsel . .or else. I learned to stuff my milk carton with “spanish rice” and peas and could pass the inspections that way.
Third grade came and for the first time, I liked school. I had a teacher who could play the piano and she taught us lovely songs. I won a writing contest that year and was selected to read some sort of announcement on the radio. Grandmama would stop everything, when it came on and gathered all of us to listen. We were taught poetry and how to write in cursive and in math . . recite the multiplication tables . . which made sense, thankfully. I liked fourth grade too. I still preferred the farm, but school was bearable especially since the fourth grade teacher read us chapter books daily. Then everything changed.
Grandmama had complained about her arm hurting, for as long as I could remember. She would stand in the backyard, holding her arm against her chest and sometimes cried. She would direct her grandchildren to do all sorts of chores and we would scurry about til the “spell passed.” The we ate supper. Every Friday, on the way to town, we would stop by Dr. Swindells” to get her blood pressure checked and then go on to the A & P.
In the middle of an ordinary night, in July, we woke to a commotion. Delores and I were whisked away to my Aunt Agnes’ house. Pop and Mama took Grandmama to the hospital. The next morning, while Aunt Agnes was cooking breakfast, my cousin Faith played the piano for us . . without us having to beg. Faith played like her mama, Aunt Agnes. Lively ragtime tunes rang out and I was happy. Then Aunt Agnes took us home and the minute, my foot hit the soil of home . . .I knew somehow, that Grandmama had died. Mama confirmed this a few minutes later and I took off running and crying. As I write this, I weep, now, fifty years later. It remains one of the saddest moments of my life.
A few days later, the UPS truck showed up. Grandmama had save up her money to buy me a guitar.
I never knew Grandmama was sick in any way. Sadly, I had gotten use to her arm hurting. I think we were all shocked, really. Pop was not the same afterwards. He wasn’t piddling about the farm a bit. Instead I would find him crying, in the barn or behind it. Sometimes in the living room, in broad day light! (Pop was never in the house in the day time.) Nobody was the same after Grandmama died. Mama was young, heartbroken and thrust in to a new role in the family. Aunt Josie and her family, moved in with Pop, after a while. Within a few short years, Pop sold a large portion of the farm . . .well, everything changed. . .when Grandmama died.
A few years later, I thought boys were cute. I cared about how I looked and what I wore. I did well enough in school . . but I was far from brilliant. I was as shallow as could be and did everything possible . . . to have the shiniest hair. Dolls were replaced with records and earrings. I got a job in town at a dress shop. Even so I was known to walk the edge of the fields in evenings. I would think silly thoughts and write them down. I quit playing Hank Williams songs on the guitar and started playing pop love songs. I did stay out of trouble, for Daddy wouldn’t give me the chance, to ruin my life. The “country, may have gone to town” but I had to be home by ten o’ lock -and not a minute later.
It wasn’t until I had my children, that I had an inkling of just how blessed I had been, in my youth. Back then, the elders sacrificed without complaining. They did not announce it nor expect a badge! All work was valuable whether it was toiling in a field, peeling apples and most especially and with utter devotion, raising the children.
This is why I tell the story and preserve what ways I can, from that beautiful time. I admit, that since then, many areas of life have been improved. . .but the substance of those days . .the simplicity of that time -allowed me to really know my family -and for them to know me, faults and all. Their influence was mighty and still governs, as I speak. Besides that, all of the convenience of these days hasn’t seemed to make such a big difference, for no one has “time to do anything”! If I sound old, it is because I am . . .but I can still remember the sound of my grandmothers’ voice . . .and I do not take that lightly.
“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.
It has rained every day since we almost had a picnic. Pouring rains, sprinkles and lazy, gently falling showers have rendered the territory a spectacular, soggy mess. I have never seen such weather in the many years that I have called this place home. Twice, I have slipped, attempting to venture out between showers, to survey the watery world of the rabbitpatch. Rain is apparently very good for unruly vines and weeds. I miss the clothes line-and I am quite concerned about the begonias.
I spent the best part of two days on Mamas’ porch. My sisters and nieces came to visit and so did my “cousin Lynn”. How good it was to all be together. I had not seen Lynn in a long while, but she is as clever and funny as ever. I like that she is sensible and genuine. The small gathering left me refreshed and hopeful . . and glad. It never ceases to amaze me that no matter how long you know someone-even for a lifetime -you can keep learning more about them. In that way, you somehow learn more about yourself, as well.
It rained every day, after that special time -up until Sunday, the day of our surprise birthday party, for Brant. Sydneys’ parents had booked a cottage at the outerbanks of NC. Sydney had planned a day for all of us to come, unbeknownst to Brant. It was a long journey and we had heard harrowing accounts of traffic delays. The forecast was bleak, too, thus , Tres, Sarah and I left with ample concerns.
The trip started out fine, just as the day did, for at long last the sun was shining brightly. Somehow or another, the traffic was never once jammed and we arrived with time to spare! When Brant walked in and saw us all there, any doubt I had harbored , vanished into the the thin ocean air. All afternoon, the men played with the children, in the pool. The women visited with one another and produced towels and food as needed. I watched the children having such a big time with the uncles, a father and a “Papa” too. What a grand and joyous time. The families blend so well, I thought. . .what a sweet blessing.
Brant and I took a walk on the longest pier, that I have ever been on. For as far as you could see, was a powdery blue sea. Brant and I have always rambled this earth and so it seemed a fitting conclusion to the day.
Brant is as much like me, as I am. . .only he is better. He is just never unkind, nor does he have an ounce of judgement in him, towards others. He loves all creatures and is devoted to caring for this planet. He buys clothes and shoes from retailers that match your purchase with items for the poor. He is also handy and helpful. Once he quit a job, because his employer seemed to dislike senior citizens, and spoke so rudely to them, that Brant could not bear it. He is a very devoted father, which to me, is as endearing as anything. It is no wonder, that everybody loves Brant’.
If it sounds like I am bragging . . .rest assured that I am . . and I am liable to do so, every chance that I get. I have always made it a habit to praise others for splendid character- Most especially my children. I have not yet raised a perfect one, but I have come mighty close. . .at least when it comes to matters of the heart.
Monday and the days after . .
Now, since the return from the sea, the weather has been much friendlier. Of course, an untended rabbitpatch, is a dreadful sight. With the sun shining, I have attempted to reclaim the dignity of the territory. The mosquitoes are awful, as I predicted, and so I work in spurts. I do love to work on this old place.
When I am by the young woods, cutting the hateful and quite resilient, thorned vines, the shade of “Aunt Carolyns’ rose of Sharons falls on me now, like a loving embrace . . and I remember her generosity and firey spirit. There is also the biggest butterfly bush, that I have ever seen -planted by the “Hand of God” about seven years ago. Wild honeysuckle clambers in an uncivilized manner, everywhere. The tender fragrance of a honeysuckle vine is sweet and never fails to remind of my youth when I walked the edge of field, in the evenings. I work,in a trance amongst such provocations and am quite surprised at my progress most days. It usually takes a rabbit dashing by, to make me snap out of it and realise that I am so hungry! I leave the hallowed ground and take account of my scratches, bites and the dirt covering me. I wash, eat and do something creative in the afternoon.
One day, I painted an old cabinet and set it atop a very old table. Both painted a delicate mint green. I have washed and rehung curtains, hung a very old mirror and hung solar lanterns with merry ribbons hither and yonder. The territory is as full of charm as the law allows, when the twilight hour comes. One day, filled with ambition, I decided to start cleaning up the oldest barn. That is the one with a portion of rotten floor. I retrieved a floor lamp that had been standing in an old corner.
It is an elaborate thing with ornate metal and a real marble base. The globe is surrounded by several electric candles. I imagine “Aunt Caddie”, the former owner, must have set such store in that lamp. I set it carefully, by the door . . and then promptly fell through the floor! I laid there a moment, stunned and pain shot through my hip. I soon overcame the pain with a fear of snakes and spiders-and managed to crawl out. Thankfully, I had fallen not too far from the staircase and so I used that to stand. The pain eased tremendously and so, I left the barn . . in worse shape than how I found it. Of course, I dealt with the wrath of the children, for days afterwards.
Another day, I restored that old lamp and then hung a cheerful flag on the porch.
Regular readers, know full well, that I have been on a mission to live simply for a while now. It began with a major decluttering of the house. Afterwards, the only things left were useful things and things that I have great affection for. Not yet, have I dared to venture back on that decision. I live by “waste not, want not” which my elders embedded in me, with precision. (How handy that lesson is.)
As I go about my chores, I think . . a lot. I realised how a sense of peace and contentment was ever present, even as I did battle with thorns and poison. I wondered how I could simplify my life more. . .not just with possessions, but my way of thinking too . . .my way of being.
Life may not be as complicated, as we think. I started sorting out, what things do I love?-and what things do I really need? . . . In short, an inventory of what things really matter. Those are the things, I should dwell upon, I thought -standing there by the old field and the edge of the young woods. Just the idea, of truly abandoning unnecessary , trivial things and unworthy matters, made me feel untethered , much like the wild rabbits . . .and my beloved sparrows. Of course,
I am not sure, what prompted my wild and lofty notions, that day. It could be, that so many things have transpired, all life altering and all out of my control, in the last year. That was harrowing -and gloomy. Finally, I can say with full confidence, I haven’t a clue what will unfold . . .and yet, I abide in peace. . .or it could be that, being older and standing by the field, in the shade of a whispering pine . . made the difference.
Though one forecast said different, the day of our picnic dawned fair. One weather station said one thing and another one, said something different. Either way rain was heading our way sometime around mid afternoon or much later in the evening . The station that had claimed a rainy dawn, I discounted altogether . I wondered how the radar, could spin such various tales.
I picked up groceries, put them away and had painted a large metal trashcan by nine am. I proceeded to plant petunias and scrub the kitchen floor. Mama got here around eleven, as I was cleaning the bathroom. I still had to make a cucumber salad and put those very lovely tablecloths out. Jenny, Will and the little girls arrived in time to help me tie up the loose ends . Brant, Sydney and Ryan drove up to find most everything was in place. How beautiful it looked, under the old sycamores, I was thinking, when Will called me to look at the sky. It wasn’t even noon! . . but the southern horizon was dark. Within moments, wind and rain swooped in, turning things over and making us scatter. The wind blew the rain sideways. making the shelters, useless. We saved everything, thankfully and crowded in to the rabbitpatch kitchen. Will made a few mad dashes and ended up soaked. Christian rescued the table cloths and the cooler.
We ate in a disorderly fashion. We had to hunt for the pickles, which were with the ice cream toppings. I had to laugh at how all of my careful planning had turned to chaos so quickly.
While we were scavenging for things like forks . . .the sun came out! I suggested a walk around the territory-mainly because I wanted all to see the fruits of my labor . . and to show Lyla the starlings .. . and where the dove lives.
Brant fell in love with the place, all over again, wiled by its’ charm, as I am. He kept pointing out all of the beloved nooks, the vast views of fields and woods, the many birds and the peace of the place til, I too, was “head over heels” myself, all over again. Of course, I was second guessing my decision to sell the farm.
I was just about to list it officially, when my job status changed. Certainly, I could sell, but also as certain, is that I would have to have another home. A reduced income impacted that piece of the puzzle, with brute force. That is why I said. “one thing hinged on another”. Now, my head and my heart , are at odds again! Must I always land in a brier patch? “Peace will come “, I remind myself. It always does . . .as sure as rain.
That night, the rain returned, Claps of the loudest thunder , had us all jumping. The thunder did not last, but the rain did. It rained most all of Sunday, too. Along with the rain and the loudest thunder, came a brisk , almost cold, wind. It felt like October! Mama and I left on Monday, for Raleigh. It was to be just an overnight visit. Sydney had a meeting on Tuesday and we would tend Ryan. “Tending Ryan” is easy business. He still love tractors and now, building blocks. He sings songs now too. . .and has all but quit eating the cats’ food! Mama and I came home on Tuesday and I went back to school on Wednesday.
This was our last week of the year and the last days of my job, as music teacher. I have mostly come to terms with circumstances, but how odd I felt, packing up things. Memories were darting and flashing like fireworks, as I filled boxes. I could hear the Christmas concerts clearly as I walked to the car.
To combat the nostalgia, I wondered , “what beautiful things await, next year?” I pictured a table laden with gifts, for me to open. They held things like, more liberty to walk in the woods, to see your loved ones, to read more and to write more . . .and many had delightful secrets. It may seem childish, but it worked. We all imagine our futures, at times. I am going to imagine and declare, one of beauty. Besides, we all “walk by faith, not by sight” whether we believe it or not.
Now, for two days rain fell hard and fast. I do not remember ever seeing such a spectacle. Not even hurricanes, have rendered the rabbitpatch so soggy. These were not showers, for the thunder was like clockwork and you couldn’t see past your hand. Since this weather came just behind the day , we almost had a picnic, fields were covered in water and ditches spilled over the country roads. Every rain catching bucket I have is filled to the brim and any other vessel that could hold water, does at the moment. I can only hope that the beloved swallows are hungry, for mosquitoes are sure to follow, such an event. And so . . .for me it is summer. It is the time to stroll by that laughing river. It is time to tell stories and build castles. I will paint roses and cut thorned vines . . and sit on Mamas’ porch and I will cast off any sense of rush (barring another fire). Maybe, I will plan another picnic. . .and I will dream – and I mean to dream boldly .