Winter came in last night with a cold and mighty wind. It matters little to me that the calendar does not yet declare it is winter at the rabbit patch. All of a sudden, the wind blew with a force, that sent branches flying against the farmhouse and there were even snow flurries of wild, fine flakes . This morning, a substantial amount of autumn leaves had been mercifully swept away to places like the patch of young woods, in the far corner of the territory. What was left of them, lies in heaps, hither and yonder, as if I had raked them, myself.
This morning, the ground was frozen and the faint smell of wood smoke hung in the air. The temperature was in the twenties-and sure chilled my southern blood. The school children donned mittens and cheerful hats with fringe and tassels. We were all disappointed that the snow did not stick and that we had to carry on as usual. In the south a snow day is like a holiday. My friends from up north, that have relocated here, all tease us about this. In Farm Life, and most all of the rural communities, it is the farmers that clear the roads. We are likely to lose power, too. I have no clue how to put chains on tires, and it doesn’t matter, for none of us are going anywhere.
I came home today and made a small fire in the den. Christian has been sick, but he kept the fire in the wood stove tended. Sitting by the fire, I came to a decision. I have decided to take the rabbit patch off the market, until late January. We are in such a state of disarray with the floor repair and the painting,- and until recently the untidy condition of the yard, it just makes sense , to me, to consider an “interlude”. Of course, I have cleared this with my sister, Delores, who is a realtor, in Raleigh-and with Will and Tres, (pronounced Trace) who are business minded and dependably advise me, in such matters. It is Christmas, after all and I am not likely to enjoy any aspect of selling a house, during the holidays. My realtor is in agreement and so we made it official today.
When things are in good order, and Christmas has passed, I will once again post a “for sale” sign under the old oak tree and hope for the best. Until then, I will continue readying the rabbit patch for the new lives that will call it their own, and dream of my next rabbit patch with a cozy cottage, where I will plant roses-and maybe tomatoes. Winter is a good occasion to dream.
Kyle is determined to get the Christmas tree up. The living room is about finished and I see no reason, not to go along with him. Once the tree is up, I will wrap the secrets in the Christmas closet, in pretty paper. I love to wrap presents and take measures to make sure they are attractive. The papers all match in an odd sort of way and ribbons are hand tied . Name tags are hand made and so it is quite an affair altogether. People either love to wrap gifts, or detest it. There seems to be no in between.
How happy I am to announce that the carpet is being installed as I am writing this. I did not get anxious about such a small inconvenience, really-but I am quite relieved and happy that order is being restored. I had gotten used to gathering my clothes and shoes from the hall way and my dresser, which was in the middle of Christians’ room. I learned to adapt to the conditions while I waited for the new floor. Living on the remnants of an old farm has been of great profit to me. I have learned what to do with “interludes” (or how to wait). I suppose “practice makes perfect” rings true in facing minor adversity. . .still, I am so very glad the ordeal is almost over.
I am hopeful that in a short while, Kyle will have his beloved Christmas tree . . .and I will have my shoes, back in the closet . . .and maybe, when order is restored and at last, the Christmas tree twinkles, I will muster the courage and try again, to make cookies.
Dear Diary, I am glad for shelter when a cold wind blows. I am glad for the chance to hope and dream. . . I am glad for Christmas trees and” interludes”. . .and I am very glad for for lessons learned from living on a rabbit patch.
I was up long before dawn, this day. I was at the early service in the back yard of the rabbit patch, standing under a sycamore, not bearing a single leaf, when morning broke. After a few dimly lit days, the bright light of dawn was a welcomed sight. It is still cold, but I have quite a fondness for a friendly, cold morning-the kind that does not burst pies , but simply demands a good, heavy coat.
I like the winter landscape. There is something so pure about it. I like trees under any conditions. At the rabbit patch, there are always branches scattered about, on any given day. They drop leaves without mercy- and the sycamores shed their bark and litter shards of it, on the territory. The oaks drop acorns, yet I love them all in spite of everything. The rabbit patch is a sanctuary for songbirds, because of the trees. In the summer, the shade of an old tree, has made a difference for me on many occasions, in months like July. Now, they all stand bare and look so very noble. At night, when the sky is laden with stars that shine through the bare branches, they look like Christmas trees, using only a little imagination.
At long last, the kitchen table is again a place to eat. Laundry has been put away-so has “Christmas” . The Avon glass is back on the shelves and so are the “white books”. Even the piano, has been put back against the wall, and the “Home Sweet Home” picture hangs above it, again. All of this happened before ten am.
The only sign of Christmas at the rabbit patch is a poinsettia atop the refrigerator and a full “Christmas closet.” I did manage to tie a red ribbon on the simple wreath on the backdoor-and put a new candle in the “welcome home” lantern that hangs outside the back door. For many years, the Christmas tree is always trimmed on December seventh, Kyles’ birthday. It feels odd not to have done so this year. Hopefully, the painting in the living room will be finished this week, then we too, can declare our “Christmas Spirit” is alive and well.
This is the first year that Lyla has at least some inkling about Christmas. She is just two and a half, after all. She had her Christmas with her paternal grandmother, Miss Claudia, this weekend. Will comes from a close-knit family, and so there was a big family gathering at Miss Claudias’ home with lots of happy relatives and good food. I take great comfort that Lyla lives close to her big and happy family.
Jenny put her tree up, about a week ago. When the lights were lit, Lyla exclaimed “I love Christmas!” over and over. When Lyla was taken to the Christmas parade, in Elizabeth City, she said ” Well, I love parades!” Jenny, decided today, to make a gingerbread house with Lyla. She bought a small kit, and all was going well, til Lyla ate part of the roof-I guess Lyla loves gingerbread houses too.
I can hardly wait to see Lyla. I have been missing everybody lately. The last few weekends have been spent working on the farmhouse-and I have a bit over a week of school left, as well. There are still more than a few tasks to be completed, here at the rabbit patch, so I must bide my time and remember all there is to do while I wait.
It seems to me, while children wait for Santa, mothers wait for children.
The bone chilling rain is about to wind down, it seems. But for just a few measly degrees, it would have been snow. Southern folks either love the rare event of snow or hate it-I love it. The early service, at the rabbit patch was quite uneventful, on account of the rain. . .unless you consider, that light came to the world- and with it a host of opportunities. I thought about this in the silver silence, for the mockingbird did not sing today.
Two birthdays happened this week. My son Kyle had a birthday on December seventh. Kyle is my fourth child. I adopted Kyle from Colombia South America. He was just two years old. Kyle is a hard worker and handsome too. Kyle has to be outside despite the conditions. My Kyle was a rascal as a young boy. He “sold” the neighbors all sorts of things I had sent him to deliver. Things like cake and hand me down childrens’ clothes. Once, he put Christian in a wagon and collected donations for some operation that was bound to come up. He tied a tricycle behind a neighbors’ truck, and convinced him he needed a new transmission, for a short while. Thankfully, I had kind neighbors, who were amused with his antics and did not hold grudges.
One Christmas, many years ago I did not have any money for Santa. My husband had died, and I was barely keeping the lights on. I called my children together and told them I could not help Santa this year. The pain of that moment, is still remembered. How, I thought could such wonderful children, not have a Christmas with at least a gift. Brant was around twelve, and was the oldest. Brant said “Mama, could you just help Santa for the little boys?” Tres and Jenny loved the idea and agreed with all their little hearts. I was overcome and fighting outright bawling. I was so deeply touched and thought how pure my children were-and right as I thought “my children are perfect” . . .Kyle piped up and said “That could work!” Oh, my Kyle -lest I became haughty, saved me! Rest assured we had a merry Christmas, after all-and Kyle saved his money, and bought me a bar of soap!
My sister, Delores had a birthday on December eighth. I was an almost red haired child with freckles and then Delores was born who was a pretty child, with blue eyes and the cutest little face. We were friends, and partners . In the summer, we spent hours under the grapevines with our dolls. In the winter, we played in the woods. In the rain we played in the barn. Delores was the perfect companion for childhood. We were known to pull hair and would scrap like naughty boys, on occasion, however. Once, Delores was riding a pony in a parade, she and I were having just outside the backdoor. I was playing a dime store flute that made an unnatural sound. The pony took to jumping about. Delores was pleading with me to stop-but instead I played louder. The pony, finally started bucking and threw Delores off. Delores got up and marched over to me in a rage. She literally knocked the breath out of me. We had those moments and many more like them, but Delores believed in me and made feel important – that does a lot for a child. The same can be said today. Delores remains a devoted and loyal sister.
Today, is a far cry from a birthday celebration at the rabbit patch. Clean laundry is on the kitchen table, folded to be put away. The laundry must share the kitchen table with the presents bought on Wednesday. The counter is full of the clean Avon decanters and somewhere are the “white” books. I am painting the built in shelves so that order will be restored, shortly and the glass and books can “go back to where they live”. The hall remains the only “walk in” closet, I have ever had, due to the roll of carpet in the bedroom floor. . .and we have “company coming”. For months, the house and yard were in pristine condition. Now that I have torn up the floor in the bedroom, several prospected buyers want tours. I turned down the first few thinking it was an awful time-now I have decided to let them all come. We are making improvements, after all . It is a bit ironic that every leaf is off of every tree and lying all over the territory as well. Selling a house, is not for the faint of heart. What a nuisance it is, to have kept order for so long , only to be caught “between a rock and a hard place”. . .however, I am throwing caution to the wind, as I do not pray in vain, and am convinced the future right owners will present themselves at the right time. . .and under any circumstances will fall in love with the rabbit patch, just as I did a long while ago. .
The last few days have seemed like a winter prelude. A cold chilling rain has fallen for the last few days-today, all the day long. Lamps burn in odd day time hours and “winter clothes” have been retrieved from closets. It is the time to build a fire-and tend it for long periods of time. The trees are all but bare and look black in the dim light of day. The landscape has changed and no longer bids us to spend the afternoon outside, but for a winter walk. Now, more than ever home and hearth seem to mean more, than they do in months like June.
Wednesday, was the annual, grand shopping spree for us. Mama. my sisters, my niece and I spent a day together , for Christmas. This was our seventeenth venture. It is the only day of the year, that I shop all day. I do not have the heart of a shopper. In fact, I am more inclined to make do with what I have and live as simply as I can. . . but it is Christmas, after all, and that changes everything. I do shop a bit all year long for the holiday and therefore avoid many worrisome details. My own children and I, also have always kept Christmas small and personal. Our gifts are things like bars of fancy soaps, fine coffees, books, art and writing supplies-and always guitar strings for Christian. When I go to Wilmington, I am always noting what is NOT in the kitchens, and ought to be. I take stock of linens and towels too, for my children will never ask for anything. They are a grateful lot and that for me means more than anything under the tree. We do indulge ourselves with lavish meals that take all day to cook and all sorts of holiday fare. In that way, we are extravagant.
Connie always drives Mama and I to the destination, that day. Connie is a much more capable driver, than me and she has the vehicles to support our purchases. We left not long after eight and met Delores, who drives from Raleigh, at a midway city. At the first store, I found exactly what I had wanted to get Tres . At another store, I found exactly what I had wanted for Will. Since, my family is loyal to the “Rabbit Patch Diary”, I can not go in to further detail, but “suffice it to say” I was quite satisfied at the end of the day.
Just before noon, that day ,we had been to several stores. My niece, Hayley and I had been hungry a good while, as we neither had the good sense to eat breakfast. When Connie called it “lunch time”, we did not complain. Lunch provided us all the fortitude we needed for the “second shift”. I must applaud Mama for her gallant effort. I knew her knees had to be bothering her, but she did not complain one iota. Delores, who could be a professional shopper, and I am quite serious -had discount cards for every store we went to, and allowed all of us to take advantage of that. Mama and Delores like to look at clothes, and did so wherever we landed. Connie and I like dishes, though I remained stalwart and did not bring another pretty dish back to the rabbit patch. (I have not yet forgotten the weeks of decluttering in July.) Hayley and I like books and art supplies. Hayley loves make up, too-I can barely apply cold cream. I bought chocolate as I always do, around mid afternoon. We pass it around and find the will to finish.
It had been dark a while, when we got home. Everybody has to call Mama when they walk in their back door, to let her know, we all arrived safely. I thought it must have been time to go to bed, but come to find out, it was just past six pm!
The “Christmas closet” in the farmhouse, holds more secrets now, than it did, before Wednesday. . .and I have another memory to add to my collection of things I want to remember . . .and it happened on Wednesday.
I all but missed the early service this morning. I slipped in late-but in time for communion. Thankfully, the rabbit patch does not keep an account of such things. The mockingbird did not sing, either. Cash, my dog and his best friend, the gray cat, Christopher Robin, slept through the whole thing. Night became day, without a big production. The territory simply became lighted. Yesterdays’ rain made the leaves drop until the land looked “untouched by human hand”. My grandmama used to say “that idle hands were the devils’ workshop” . As a child, this scared me senseless and I would find something to do that very moment. Now, I can honestly say, that “idle hands” are at least one sin, I do not have to worry about.
On top of being late for “the early service at the rabbit patch”, I cut it short. I had laundry washing and a paintbrush in my hand, within thirty minutes. I think it is safe to say, I will not bake cookies today.
By early afternoon, I knew that the ladder would spend another night in the farmhouse. As I painted the wall, where a roller couldn’t go, I noticed the crown molding looked mighty dingy-as did the ceiling. Both needed painting. I did my best to convince myself, otherwise, but the verdict was “written on the wall” so to speak. I consoled myself, that it was kind of like doing something for the future owners. I hoped they had children-and that the children had a pony-and little goats. Just before giving them names, I stopped carrying on-but it did help lift my spirits. It felt different to improve conditions for others, instead of for the sake of selling it. I felt the same way, when I planted the rose bush in the spring.
The sun was shining by late afternoon. I made a mental note to wash the windows. I worked steadily. When Kyle needed the ladder, I was almost glad of it. I went to the kitchen and started to try and restore order there. I had taken everything off of the built in shelves as I painted. One shelf has a collection of white covered books. Those I dusted. Another shelf, has Grandmamas’ old Avon decanters-all white of course. I took to washing them. I have written before, about the relaxation that comes with hand washing pretty glass. This was just the remedy I needed. I caught faint whiffs of the old fashioned perfumes and remembered those familiar fragrances that adorned all of the country women, in my childhood.
The Avon Lady was a regular visitor to the farm, when I was growing up. I never knew her name, but I remember she was a sweet lady with silver hair-and she was always wearing “church clothes”. She would give Delores and I little lipstick samples which thrilled us. We put them in our pocketbooks with our Sunday gloves, and things like acorns and bottle caps. The Avon Lady was well received-if it was winter, but sometimes she had the misfortune of coming when Grandmama was cleaning out the freezer or canning tomatoes. I remember Delores and I running in the backdoor joyfully announcing “The Avon lady is here!”- And grandma saying “durn!” on more than one occasion. That was strong language, in those days. Children were not allowed to even say it.
By the time Kyle was finished with the ladder, the kitchen was in proper order, excepting the white glass on the counter and the white covered books stacked on the kitchen table. I told Kyle to put the ladder back in the living room, for I had lost all of my gumption, while washing the glass.
We did not finish every chore on the list, but had made a gallant effort. I have been working on the rabbit patch for a long while. The house is older than it has ever been-I am too. I think now, I needed the rabbit patch as much as it needed me. Surely the barns look better with roses painted on them and a yard full of flowers and apples, couldn’t be anything but appealing. The rabbit patch taught me how to be resourceful. I learned to live carefully because I had to-now I do so because I want to. When the moon rose over the field, behind the old barn, I found it difficult to hold anything against the territory that fed us-or the house that sheltered us. . .even though there is a ladder in the living room-and my dresser is in the hall way. . along with my shoes.
Last night, was the night of the “Holiday Concert”, at our school. This is a huge event and requires months of preparation. I am happy to report, that all went well-and many shed tears. When two hundred children play violins together, those not prone to, will cry.
I drove home under a full moon with a full heart. I no longer drive at night, unless a real need arises. It is a common occurrence for country folks to encounter deer on dark nights. The deer act like squirrels and will dart right in your way. There is rarely one of them, so if you miss one, you better stop and wait for next ones. In light of this, I drove slowly and prayed. I pulled into the rabbit patch, which was bathed in a milky wash of moonlight. I stood outside of the old farmhouse for awhile, surveying the beauty of the luster on the territory. Even the leaves, that have been perpetually falling, wore a sheen and added to the scene. I felt so tenderly loved, to have been shown such a sight.
I almost missed the “early service” this morning. Thankfully, I saw the day break with a gentle, golden light. A mockingbird sang as soon as the light had dispelled all darkness and convinced me to write about it. I was reminded of a poem, I love by Oliver Herford. I always recite it, in early December. . “I heard a bird sing, in the dark of December-a magical thing and sweet to remember” …
A lot of tasks will be tackled this weekend. We started a list on Monday, and added to it, until, it was a lengthy and barely possible mission, for mere humans. I have started the touch up painting in the room, where that awful hole used to be. A pot of chili is simmering and inspires me for the noon break.
After the Noon Hour
I had not made nearly the progress I had hoped for, by mid day. At least, the chili was just right and lived up to its’ reputation, as a “comfort food”. I decided I would simply go from one task to another and hope for the best. On a whim I decided to make cookies. I was taking a chance on that, as though cookies may be my favorite indulgence, I am just not a good cookie maker. Christian bakes them perfectly every time.
A light rain was falling so there would be no yard work today. By mid afternoon, I had finished two of the chores and then did paperwork, which is my least favorite duty. The cookies, though not burned, were hard and such a disappointment. I am going to practice when things settle down-of course, that is seldom, as of lately.
I turned the lamp on before four pm.-it was that kind of day. I finished the dreadful job of paying bills and ate a hard cookie. I thought about Christmas .
This Wednesday, is our annual shopping trip. My Mom, sisters and I will meet in a neighboring town, as we have done for close to twenty years-and shop. This is never a frantic venture, but more like a visit, though we do get a lot accomplished. It is an ALL day event. Mama starts out, caring about every detail of her shopping. We all help her find the right gifts for the grandchildren. Mama wonders, is that the right color, does he really want this . . etc. By mid afternoon, she says “Just put it in the cart.” It is tiring. I do not shop much and I am quite amazed at all I have not seen, before. I try to avoid dishes altogether. likewise, candle shops, coffee shops and places that sell french milled soaps. I do spend a fair amount of time in bookstores. Mama will too, if they have a couch. If I see Delores, rummaging through bins of small items, I will head in another direction, as she is not satisfied until she has seen every item, often looking for four just alike. When she does find them, she may or may not buy them. Connie is no nonsense and sticks to her list in a militant manner. She tells us what time it is often. I must get my thoughts organized before Wednesday.
With my bed and shoes in the hallway, it is a bit overwhelming to think of bringing more stuff in the house. There is also not a sign of Christmas anywhere at the rabbit patch, yet . . .other than a poinsettia from the concert on Friday.-and the hard cookies. Hopefully, the ladder will be out of the way, shortly.
Tomorrow, I will go back to my list of tasks, with the fortitude, of Connie. We will do what we can and I will do my best not to complain, as I go along . . for it seems so very ungrateful. If I am tempted to act poorly, I must remind myself that truly, I have been given to, all of my life and I ought to take stock in that – and I ought to consider what do I give back? How generous is my heart? It is the Christmas season, after all, and a good time to think on such things.
The spirea has tiny little blossoms, at the rabbit patch. A few of the azaleas do too. The roses are still blooming-and why not? It does feel like April, after all. For the last three days it has been seventy agrees or close to it. Only the trees declare it is autumn.
Every day , I come home to the rabbit patch and work on the yard til dark. I have already had to clean sections of the territory twice, and I am predicting I will do the same next week. It is an odd affair to clean deep layers of leaves from the Quiet Garden, while pink roses are blooming and the uninvited black-eyed susans, seem to have caught a “second wind”. Even the air feels like the time when birds are nesting.
The unseasonable temperature is quite easy on the “shoe-string” budget at the rabbit patch . . .and I am grateful for that. Still, it does not inspire me to put the Christmas lights on the porch . . .just yet.
This week is an especially busy time. This is the week of rehearsal for the “Holiday Concert” at our school. There are over three hundred students involved and a million details that come with it. The carpet has not been installed in the farmhouse, where the hole used to be. This means, what used to be in my bedroom, is now in the hall. The leaves are still falling . . .meanwhile, someone else called to tour the house and property. For months, all was well. The house and yard were tidy, but “first one thing happened, and then another” and so the current state of affairs, is that the rabbit patch house is in shambles and the territory is strewn. It will be most difficult to see the charm of the place under such conditions. Still, I do not grow faint of heart, for the rabbit patch still beckons with a most friendly persuasion.
The moon rises over one field, and the sun sets over another. Nights are quiet and the peace of them wash over you like a tonic. Old trees give shade and younger trees bear fruit and pecans . . Things like roses , jasmine and honeysuckle bloom on the land-like ” a love that does cover a multitude of sins”. For a country dweller, the rabbit patch is a haven, of sorts. While it is “in the world , it does not seem of it”.
December is upon us, no matter the mild climate. The Farmers Almanac forecast, declares December, a mild and rainy time. I will take Christmas however I can get it. Gingerbread is good, no matter the weather. I will watch old movies such as ” Holiday Affair” and “It Happened on Fifth Avenue” . . and I will read “Redbird Christmas” again. I will listen to songs, my grandmother sang and remember how well, my Aunt Agnes played the piano.
Christmas used to take so very long to arrive. This no longer rings true for me. Now, a season comes along and passes by and I notice none of them are slow. To me, Lyla and I were watching young rabbits not so awfully long ago. . .and October was just yesterday. Maybe it is this way, because of all the details, we inherit as adults. Whatever the case, December is suddenly here and this changes everything.