Today is no ordinary day at the rabbit patch-today is my fathers’ eighty third birthday. People like to brag on their family, and I am no different. . .but believe me, I have every right to. There is no need to exaggerate as the truth is sufficient and proves my point, that I come from nobility. He was born on March 15th, 1935.
Daddy grew up on “back roads.” Money was scarce, which meant food and clothing were too. His father was loved by all and handsome, but terribly undependable as a father. Daddy does not hold it against him, and so I do not either. . .still this left it all up to Grandmama to raise her four children -and she did . There were no government programs in those days and Grandmama did not not drive. Somehow, she raised four children, and everyone of them are honorable people. Daddy has an older brother, a younger sister and a younger brother.
He walked to school and carried his shoes,, so as not to wear them out. Even as a young child, he worked on the farm performing tasks like a grown man. He made good grades in school and in high school, was urged to go to college and become a writer. That was never an option for a very poor country boy. Instead, he joined the army. He excelled in sharp shooting and somehow mechanics, becoming a helicopter mechanic that tended the helicopters for President Eisenhower . I suppose hunting rabbits and keeping old tractors running paid off in the long run.
Daddy had high expectations for his children. We were expected to be courteous and respectful. We were to do our best in school. We learned to work and not to be wasteful . . .and we always had well made shoes. He was a strict father and needless to say, saved me from a lot of foolishness when I was a teenager. Daddy was dependable. . . and still is.
I have a notebook, that I record the details of Daddys’ life in. The collection of memories make me cry and yet fill my heart with pride, a few pages later.
Next week, the family will gather to celebrate Daddy and Christians’ birthdays. Today, my sister, Connie took him out to eat and treated him to a shopping trip. I stopped by after work with a gift and treats.
Of all the blessings this life affords, a loving family certainly trumps most. Parents teach us, care for us and sacrifice til it becomes habit. My daddy has done all of that for me. . .but above and beyond that, the “sermon he wears in his shoes” has been a mighty force in my life. Throughout my childhood, Daddy helped me catch glimpses of the Father by the way he lived -and the way he loved. He took away some of the mystery of the “Heavenly Father” day by day-and of all the things Daddy gave me . . .that has made the difference.
Who knew, that deep inside, a poor little boy walking on a back road, carrying his shoes-and probably hungry, lay the heart of a warrior? . . .a mind intelligent enough to overcome the odds? Who would have known, they were looking in the face of nobility ?
Last night, it snowed at the rabbit patch. It was merely a dusting, but schools had a two hour delay on account of it. A cold wind blew producing cracking and rattling noises, making me curious . Peering out, did little good as it was pitch dark. Today, what blossoms are left on the peach and pear trees are dingy and the sycamores dropped a few more branches. Even so, the day faired off with bright sunshine, but the wind remained steady and gusted all day, as is proper March weather. The next two nights are expected to be below freezing, and so I will tend a small fire each night. Soon enough, the luxury of gazing at a cheerful fire and thinking of nothing in particular will not be afforded, for country dwellers.
Some day, the fierce wind will be tamed into a gentle breeze and we will all face the aftermath of winter. Small fires will be lit in barren gardens to burn the many gathered branches. . .and we will all pray that the mower starts back up. We will disturb young rabbits and find wild violets as we tidy up . . . and take notice where the songbirds are building their nests. Such things await . . .but today the wind blows wildly and without a bit of mercy. . .and so, to sit by a small fire is of great comfort.
This is also ideal circumstances to bake bread. Having a great, great grandfather named Henderson McDuffy O’Leary, and “St. Patricks’ Day but a few days away, I made Irish soda bread tonight. The bread paired well with the chili we had for supper, and it was good practice- as Jenny and I are to bake bread for the gathering on Saturday.
I started dabbling in genealogy, while my paternal grandmother was still alive. She was a tremendous help and filled in stories that official records could not. She remembered her grandfather as ” kind and jolly “. It must have run in the family for the same could have been said about her. Grandmama showed me where her grandfather was buried at a little church in the “Hollyneck” community just an hour from the rabbit patch. I still remember that day. There was an ancient oak tree that shaded his grave. Grandmama and I stood there a good while. Years later, I found Hendersons’ brothers’ grave in a family cemetery , at the edge of a field just a few miles away. I cried at the sight of it. I had looked for it for so long. Kyle and Christian were quite young and were tired of traipsing through the country that day. When we located Uncle Enochs’ grave, they ran to collect wild flowers from the ditch to place on it.
Though, both brothers had settled in the south, they fought with the Union in the civil war. Uncle Enoch was a captain, and his grave was marked with a Union stone, as proof. Both brothers survived the war, and lived many years afterwards.
Many of my ancestors were writers and musicians. No one ever earned a living by these things, but one did publish songs she had written. We embrace our Irish heritage on any given day. Just a “drop of Irish blood” and yet, we are especially apt to brag about it on the holiday. I do not know why we think we can lord the facts over anyone . . .for we all know that . . . “Everyone is Irish, on St. Patricks, Day!”
Night lifted and the day was born-that is how the “morning service” went today. It was a silent affair, without a lot of fanfare-unless you take in to account, that a new day was born, and with it the chance to live it, to love more deeply and hopefully to understand something more.
I grumble every year over the “changing of the clocks”, so as is my habit, I will do so again. My regular readers know, I do not like clocks, in general. In fact, I realised again today, that every clock in my house is wrong anyway, save the computer and cell phone. The coffee maker and the stove flash out 12:00 in red light, yet that does not stir me. The one chiming clock, says it is 12:00 too, as it has needed batteries for more than a year. I suppose I will not waste moments changing the clocks.
In the summer, time is irrelevant and somehow, I survive. I guess, it all started when I was growing up on the farm. The clock did not wake me -the smell of coffee and breakfast did. The sound of rain meant, not to rush. The sound of a tractor, meant to hurry. The sun felt hot by mid morning and we were hungry by “dinner time” roughly noon. The school said I had to learn to tell time, with plastic clocks. I remember feeling quite “grown up” when my parents gave me a watch, . . but it promptly became a bracelet. Dogs know what time it is without such contraptions. Cash is always on alert, when I drive up. He and Christopher Robin (my cat) are always sitting side by side looking in the direction, I drive in from. Somehow, they know when it is Saturday too. They sleep later and accept breakfast later-but on week days they are up and whining as if they are starving. I suspect they fear I will leave without feeding them- and it will be a long time til “a clock” says I can come home.
Jenny called this morning to tell me about Lylas’ latest dream. We have both, always encouraged Lyla to tell us about her dreams ,when she first wakes up. Jenny asked Lyla today, if she had sweet dreams and Lyla said “No!” Lyla went on to say, that she had taken a yellow letter from Mother Goose and then lost it. Mother Goose was angry and pinched her. Jenny told Lyla it was just a dream-and Lyla replied “well, that pinch hurt- and that goose is angry.” Lyla is not yet three.
Because birthdays are more than a day, at the rabbit patch, I fixed pancakes for breakfast. Yesterday, Christian wanted cheese biscuits. I also put on a pot of navy beans for tonight and a pot of chicken and quinoa soup. Kyle is not likely to touch the quinoa, so I added mushrooms too, as Kyle will not eat those either. The weather is cool and gray, so conditions are good for cooking such things. While, the pots simmer, I am scrubbing the kitchen floor and cabinets-and listening to a sermon. Whatever time it is, I am making good use of the hour.
Wouldn’t you know the sermon was about dreams? And . . wouldn’t you know I knocked that chiming clock off the wall, as I was cleaning? It is a big, heavy clock and the only one I really like. The chimes are low and soothing . . so I scrambled to catch it-and I did -with my shin. I had to laugh, in spite of the aching shin. I think the clock deserves a battery. ..and I ought to stop complaining.
The light was too weak, to cast even the faintest shadow all day. I spent the whole day cleaning and somehow I came up with another box of items to donate. I plan to put the house back on the market soon and there is so much to do to prepare for that. I am not going to even attempt cleaning the territory until the winds of March subside.
I have noticed patches of green grass here and there, in the yard, and every morning, a small flock of robins can be found in the herb garden. The remnants of winter are clearly upon us.
Sometime, in April, the wisteria will act as a garland for every willing tree in the young woods and the scent of wild honeysuckle will be thick in the air. Until then, I will celebrate the last days of winter . . .when the trees do not yet keep secrets and wild violets lie just beneath the soil. . .for no matter how I measure time, it always seems to slip away dreadfully fast.
The following story was written, not long after Christian was born-now twenty-five years ago. Do not let the term “fairy” fool you, for this is a true story. I was there and this is my account.
Not long ago, there lived a mother, who had four little fairy children.
One morning in March, a miracle happened- for this mother was given another.
Her four fairy children searched through the land, for the finest things it did offer- Each wanted a gift, reflecting the love, they felt for new fairy brother.
When each little fairy had finished their quest. they said to the child and their mother,
“We come in thanksgiving, to celebrate life, and bearing gifts for our littlest brother.”
The first fairy was a boy child, whose spirit was fire the fire was the gift that he gave. . .and a strength without fear, he gave the small dear- so to run in the woods, and dance in June showers- may you ramble in woodlands in freedom for hours- stopping only to climb the tree, nearest the sun and to race with the deer, just for the fun.
“Live well with this spirit of fire” he said, and it was then, that the new fairy smiled.
The only girl fairy had eyes warm and enchanting, so that sunflowers grew, wherever she glanced. . . and and so that was the gift that she gave-
“One must look to see beauty. so my gift to you, is a kindness in which to see the world through. May you gaze at creation, with patient eyes, not missing the splendor of winter night skies- nor whisper pink roses, nor emerald grasses- may you notice the grandeur of each day that passes.”
Again the little babe smiled.
The next fairy brother, so carefully chose, the gift he intended for the child, that he loved. . .and that was the gift, that he gave.
“May your reason, be just-and careful-and true, guided by the wisdom, of those before you. Might you take time to wonder, at all that you see, and then to imagine, what more there might be- always consider, what else there may be.”
Then, the new fairy child smiled, once again.
The last fairy child nearly sang out his gift. His voice was a small one and filled with good cheer, and that was the gift that he gave.
“I give to you happiness, I give to you glee! We will laugh together, you and me! Celebrate joy, as we do your birth- and may you enjoy a lifetime of mirth!”
It was then the new fairy child giggled.
The mother of these fairies, had thought long of a gift, as she wasn’t a fairy as they. And now at long last, this mother of fairies knew just what she wanted to say.
“The gifts you dear fairies, have bestowed on your brother are certainly some of the best, but I have a gift too,that I know in my heart, will be treasured as much as the rest.”
The mother then gathered all of her children, her eyes began to brim, and said-
“The gift that I give to my youngest son, is the four little fairies before him.”
And then the new fairy child laughed . . .and the heavens joined in the laughter- and the mother of fairies,and all of her children to this day, live “happily after”.
March winds continue to blow scattering anything not nailed down, in every direction. The bradford pears have all but lost their dainty blossoms, and in their place, are young leaves, the color of jade. The porch rockers remain kneeling, lest they are tossed hither and yonder, and broken up in the process. Winter coats are still necessary, as the wind is cold and the nights are colder. Still, the daffodils bloom. . .This is March, the typical, familiar March, that sweeps through the “rabbitpatch”, as if it has an old score to even, every year.
The purple martin birds have sent their scouts, which are really the “elders” of the flock. They always appear in March, back to their summer home, from previous years, the same home of the generations before them. The martins “set up housekeeping ” and sing tropical songs, with trills- perfected in South America, where they spend their youth. . . hence, their unique melodies. Many people house colonies of martins, including my sister, Connie, who spotted her scouts, this week. Special birdhouses with many compartments are erected in wide open spaces. If you hang your laundry out, on any given morning in June, you are likely to hear the song of the purple martin.
March comes along, bearing such gifts as wind, blossoms and purple martins . . .and fair children, too. Today is Christians’ birthday. Christian is the “baby” of my five children. The fact, that he is now twenty-five years old, makes little difference to me-he is and always will be, the “baby”. I was in my early thirties when Christian was born. Brant was almost ten, and there were three others behind him. Truthfully, I worried that I would not have the same zeal to raise him as I had before. Where would I find the gumption, to on top of everything else, make baby food and wash cloth diapers? How would I have time for leisure strolls and the time to read poetry to a baby? It shamed me to no end and so I now worried, that as we awaited his birth, he knew, my doubts.
The day before, Christian was born, Kyle and I took a long walk and had milkshakes later. I remember, like it was yesterday. Not too long after midnight, Christian was born. Every fear, I had vanished, the moment I held him. “Gumption” washed over me like a baptism. “Love covers a multitude of sins” , rang true again. . . as it always does.
Brant, all but took over housekeeping and Jenny abandoned her dolls, for now she had a real baby. We all strolled together and when I cooked supper, Christian had four baby sitters. I had never factored in, that Christian would inherit the wealth, of having four siblings that were on the same mission, as I was. . .to make sure he grew up loved and cared for. They read poetry and sang “Ave Maria” in latin to him. They played their violins for him. (Christian thought every child played the violin, for a long time.) They took great pains not to “spoil” him, too. Tres would bring little tractors within a few feet, to entice Christian to crawl to them. Christian did not point at something and whine, to get it. I had warned the older ones, that the “baby” surely needed to walk, as they did, and that “catering” to whims would be quite unkind. Tres took it to heart and did not allow anybody to hinder Christians’ chances of climbing trees or rambling in woods.
Of course, I wrote about this and of course, Christian has grown into a fine young man. He has one of the purest and most compassionate hearts, I have ever know. He is an artist to the core. He writes, paints and is a musician. He has bought medicine for a neighbor and is apt to carry groceries out for seniors. Not long ago, I lost him in a garden center, and found him loading mulch for an older man. If it sounds like I am bragging . . .I am. I can not deny my blessings-all five of them . . .and it is Christians’ birthday, after all. My children are -“the gift that keeps on giving”.
Now, Christian plays his guitar for Lyla and at Christmas, he handed me a handful of money and asked me to buy art supplies for her. “We” have not yet raised a perfect child, but we have come mighty close
And now for the very grand finale . . . .Jenny is having a baby!
It is expected to happen sometime, in early September, and there is no shortage of zeal nor gumption, from any of us. This baby will be born “with a silver spoon, in its’ mouth” . . .for truly love is a silver spoon and the only one that does not tarnish. . . .believe me . . . I know this as a fact. It is one of the few things, I am certain of.
There is an old saying that goes . . . “March comes in like a lion-and goes out like a lamb.” I can attest, that so far, there is truth in this. The wind gusts yesterday were over fifty and they blew all day long. The river, in the small town, where I work has been blown off its’ course. No longer is what lies beneath it, a secret. Boats, waiting for outings in May, are now stranded on the bare sandy river bottom-or toppled over. Just opening a door was a dangerous task, yesterday, as it was likely to fling open wildly. Driving home, a trampoline flew across the road, in front of me. It all started ,after midnight, on March first.
I came home from work, to a yard littered with branches. They were everywhere. I saw a pillow from a porch rocker tumble by as I walked in. The outside chairs were all topsy turvy, yet somehow, the spirea held onto its’ dainty little flowers, in spite of the mighty gales, sweeping across the territory. The Farm Life community, where I live has earned a reputation for horrendous wind storms, but today we were not alone, as the March wind was blamed for all sorts of catastrophes, hours away, on the evening news.
This morning, before the early service, the sky was a dark purple and the moon rays shone in patches. The effect was powerful and beautiful. The wind still blew, but not with the same force. However, by the time the sun came up, the wind seemed to have recharged and was “taking up where it left off”. This was not the day to clean the yard, though the temperature was mild enough. It seemed to me, that this day was best suited for cooking or reading. . . as many are, for me.
I finally decided on a pot of chicken noodle soup. While it simmered, I ventured out. The wild hyacinths were blooming and appeared to be shivering in the wind. I felt pity for them. The daffodils were in the same predicament. I hadn’t the heart to tell them, it is supposed to frost this week. I got a very few branches up and realised it really was a lost cause today, to do about anything, outside. I came in and started planning a “Sunday Dinner”. It has been a while since I have cooked a Sunday dinner and I happened to have bought a pork roast and turnips on my last trip to the grocery. I also have carrots and potatoes on hand. I thought if I cooked a pot of green beans and made a dessert, it would be a fine meal. With that settled, I thought to do some painting. So I painted a lavender bird-and then some lavender tulips. Just lately, I have grown most fond of the color lavender- in the palest shade imaginable.
The day dawned fair and bright. The strong wind was now a friendly breeze, though “time will tell” if that remains so, today. There is a mystery about wind. How, I wonder , does, it blow steadily in the day, reaping havoc, and then retreat suddenly, in the evening hours- only to rear up again, the next morning? This happens often. I am sure there is a scientific answer, but I am content to think that the wind sleeps . . . and somewhere, birds are lavender.
I did not tarry long at the “early service”. I prefer slow cooked food and that meant I needed to start the noon day meal in the morning. I thought to make a special dessert, as the meal was so easy. I remembered “Mandy”, of “Pansy & Ivy” had made a strawberry pound cake, for Jennys’ birthday . . .and I did have strawberries . . . and Mama loves strawberries . . .and I had gotten the recipe. In this way, I convinced myself to make the cake.
Only when I bake a new dish, do I use a recipe. I commit favorites to heart. Mandy had told me how she made the cake, but after what seemed like thirty steps,I had her send it to me. Mandy likes precise instructions and amounts. I do not think she cares for terms like “pinch” “dash” or “dollop”. Her cake was a smashing success and a lot to live up to. I read the recipe over and over-put in the oven, begged it not to stick and prayed. I do not trust “bundt” pans, in general, but I talked mighty sweet to mine, as I filled it with batter. Then I looked at the clock, as I will not rely on smell, this time. The roast will have to make do with the 350 degrees, the cake demands. . .for “what the cake says, goes!”
I took another chance at yard work, while the oven earned its’ keep. The wind was steady, but had lost some its’ punch. I got a good patch cleared for Mama and Daddy, to walk to the back door. I also gathered a load of trash that came from only God knows where. I have not yet ventured to the orchard and the “Quiet Garden” looks like “The Secret Garden”, BEFORE the beloved “Dickon” came along.
At last it was time to cool the cake and the recipe said fifteen minutes, and so I did. I laughed at myself for feeling “spellbound” over a cake. I think this is what I hold against bundt pans. . .you must get the cake out of it, and hopefully in one piece. I remembered that Mandy was adamant about the cooling process, so I was too. It “paid off” because the cake dropped on the plate without losing a single crumb. It seems, I have made amends with the bundt pan.
Of course, the cake is now named “Mandys” strawberry cake”. It matters little to me, the origin of the cake . . it came from Mandy. I think we all do that. I have laughed at my cousins, Martha and Marsha for they have a pie named after me, and a neighbor Miss Joyce, named a casserole after me. . . and there is “Jo Dees’ barbecue chicken” and” Aunt Agnes’ apple salad”. . . . Woe to the “Southern Living” magazine staff, if they were expecting any credit .
Mama and Daddy came in as I was stirring the gravy. I creamed the turnips, carrots and potatoes all together. All went well and would have been perfect, had I not put ice cream on Mamas” cake. She was too polite to mention it, but I noticed her treading quite carefully as she ate around the ice cream. She finally said that she did not like ice cream. Now I, was surprised that I didn’t know this and also because it never occurred to me that there was such a condition! I like ice cream and can not think of one flavor, I wouldn’t eat at any given moment. I remember one year we had an ice cream cake for Mamas’ birthday! To my knowledge, she never said a word against it. So now I know, that along with macaroni and cheese, crowder peas and split pea soup . . . Mama does not like ice cream.
Dear Diary, I am glad for Sunday, when we gather and bow our heads gratefully , together. I am glad for a kitchen table laden with a meal, to share with loved ones . . .and strawberries put in a cake and . . . I am glad for the time, when the wild hyacinths bloom.
Against all odds, the mild spring- like weather does linger. I do not believe there is a daffodil left, that did not take advantage of the conditions . . . for they are blooming in great numbers. The road that passes by the quiet pastures and fields, through woodlands and to the rabbit patch, is lined with the bright blossoms. They bloom in little clumps, along the edges of the field and by long forgotten homesteads, where fences used to be.
The “Bradford pears” are stunning just now. They are like great billowy clouds of silvery, white flowers and at every turn, I see one, as the trees are quite popular, here. Of course, my peach trees are not to be outdone, and so they too are blooming. Though, I am still not convinced by the flora of the countryside, that winter is all but over, there is more evidence . . . a pair of wrens have built a nest by Jennys’ mailbox. I saw it this past and fair, Sunday morning, as we all had coffee on the porch. Birds are seldom wrong about anything.
My chickens were never wrong about weather. I knew to get the laundry off of the line,if the chickens went in during the day, for rain was coming. They did not mind a fleeting sprinkle, and would continue foraging for the few minutes of a light shower. They knew the difference and acted accordingly. . . .and so I did too.
Today is the first day of March. A light rain is falling and is supposed to fall all day. March is full of plans, for our family. Daddy and Christian have birthdays-and any family with just a “drop of Irish blood” claims it proudly this month. Last year, Will and Jenny hosted the affair. We cooked and decorated all day. Lyla wore a green fairy-like dress and carried a wand with her the whole day. We had corned beef and rye bread-potatoes and cabbage. Mandy, who owns “Pansy & Ivy” brought “Bells of Ireland” for our centerpiece and a shamrock plant in the living room , got all sorts of attention. Jenny had rescued the plant from a clearance rack in the garden center and it has thrived ever since.
March is also the time to fly kites. Daddy made all of our kites out of scraps of plastic and little shards of wood. Mama always had little pieces of fabric, and twine bought for her string beans to “run on”. Somehow, Daddy made kites that flew above the fields til we had trouble seeing them. The kites climbed with force so mighty, that children were likely to tumble forward and drop the twine altogether. When my own children were little, I was determined they too would have memories of flying kites in March. I bought kites, as I have never had any success using tools. On the first windy day, I made quite a ceremony and had the children seated to watch the aerial art of kite flying. I couldn’t get the the thing up for “love nor money”. The kite would rise just above us and then turn and dive with good speed. After a few awful attempts, the children would try to help and it seemed the kite would target one of them to dive upon. . . and every one got a turn. They were squealing and dashing about in sheer fright. There was no chance of our kite ever getting caught in a tree. It was the same, every year. I tried on days when the wind gusts were friendly-and on days when the velocity of the wind was enough to destroy a perfectly good umbrella. The children stood a ways off and were on alert, in case they needed to seek shelter. I have never yet flown a kite.
I was much more suited for hiking and so we often did. When Brant was around nine, we packed a picnic basket and set off for a short trek through the woods, to a very large field surrounded by more woods. It was a favorite place of ours . Sometimes, Grandmama went with us. I remember her climbing a barbed wire fence at the age of seventy five, in those woods . . . and that takes skill. Sometimes we packed up books and read for hours, but one day in March, in that field . . . we found a kite. There was enough string to fly it, but this time, Brant tried his hand at it. In no time the bright, white kite was rising in to a very blue sky. We watched the kite for a good while . . .and no one was injured. I always remember that favorite and long ago day- when it is March. . .and hyacinths are blooming.
“If thou of fortune be bereft, and in thy store, be but left . .
two loaves . . .sell one, and with the dole . . .
buy hyacinths, to feed the soul.” – John Greenleaf Whittier