“Most Especially and with Utter Devotion”


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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.

Untethered


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. 
Sunday
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.

 

 

 

 

 

Where the Dove Lives


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 .

 

“Come Rain or Shine”


It is early morning as I write this.  . . the tender hour, when the light of the day is born.  I “write ” all day long, in my head – but it always takes  a morning for me to gather my thoughts to pen them.  Often, they are like wayward children running wildly, in all directions!  Sometimes they shout and sometimes, they peek out shyly from some shady bracken. For some odd reason, they all come home, in the mornings.
I have almost got the rabbitpatch civilized!  There are but two barns left to tidy and a large pile of old leaves awaits, but I am “down to the short rows”,  as my Pop used to say.  I suspect, not many folks use that phrase today, or have an inklng what it means.  If you have ever chopped a field , then you would.  The long rows were situated n the middle of the field-and it seemed you would land there, about mid day.  The blessed short rows were on the outer edge, allowing a tractor room to turn around.  To encourage one another, my cousins and I would call out to one another “We are almost at the short rows!”  I can only imagine that when Grandmama got the announcement, she scurried to the kitchen.   
One of the barns is a one day affair.  It  is mostly just dirty, but the other barn is a different story.  The oldest barn is a massive two story structure, known around here, as a packhouse.  The packhouses, of yesteryears, were meant to store crops.  Dried tobacco was taken off the sticks, they had been tied on, before curing in fired barns.  Farm children learned the nursery rhymes in these barns . . and babies slept.  I suppose “raised in a barn”  rings true for many a country child. 
My old barn got converted to uses for gatherings.  The upstairs had four or five old iron beds for “primitive camp outs”  Those were golden days, but alas, tin came loose, an upstairs door fell off and there is a large portion of rotten flooring on the bottom story. Tres says, “tear it down” . . but I declare if the right one comes along, they might make a go at salvaging it.  Trse is usually right. He is sensible and I am hopelessly sentimental, after all.  Still, I am going to do what I can in that old  enormous relic.  Upon my prowling in that old barn , I discovered that the swallows are back! 
I may be the only fan of these little, startling birds.  Besides being delicate little birds, they can be warriors over their young and take to swooping and diving at harmless folks, just getting a shovel.  You can’t even bribe them with food, for their diet is mainly flying insects.  I get in their good graces by just sitting in their presence.  They seem to soon learn that there isn’t a bit of malice in this human and will tolerate my presence. 
Barn swallows, like the grape vines and winter wheat, serve as clocks and calendars for me.   Sunshine determines  the length of a day.  What a beautiful contrast such things are, to jarring alarms and obligations on a calendar. I went about the business of cleaning out and sprucing up.  I do love to work and make things better, as I always say . . whether or not we are having a picnic  -but this time we are!  The children and grandchildren are coming this weekend and a picnic is planned.  It has not rained here in a long while, but the forecast says it may, that day! 
I do have a shelter, and you can believe the housekeeping is completed there.  Several tables have been scrubbed and painted, the walls are washed and the little china cabinet fairly shines !  Living on this rabbitpatch is a full time job!
Besides all of this commotion, Tres and Sarah  have birthdays on Wednesday!  They are going to the mountains to celebrate and so they will miss the picnic.  I gave Tres two solar lanterns and a flashlight that does everything but cook biscuits!  Sarahs’ gift is to remain a mystery, until she opens it. 
I left for Elizabeth City after  Tres had opened his gifts.  Lyla attended preschool this year though she could have gone to kindergarten.  I was so glad for that .  Her graduation was on Thursday.   That morning, Brynn and Lyla put on fancy dresses.  Brynn wailed the minute Lyla left with Will, for Lyla had to go early.  Jenny said that Brynn cried whenever Lyla left the house. I did not expect to, but I  cried too, just hours later.  I was so moved that slow  tears welled up and splashed like a very lazy waterfall, during the program.  Next year, will be very different, as I know all too well. I felt, like Brynn . . “Lyla . . was leaving the house.”
After the pledges and songs,each  childs’ name was announced and “and what they wanted to be, when they grew up” was declared.  Many said firemen. one a police officer. One wanted to work on old trucks with his daddy  . .and one said, artist!-my Lyla- and I was thrilled!  Shortly, after lunch, I was headed back to the rabbitpatch.   . .”with visions of sugar plums, dancing in my head” -and why,  did they have to grow up so very fast.   
I found the rabbitpatch, as tidy as I had left it. The table  cloths, that I ordered were in a box on the porch.  I ordered cloth ones that were the traditional red and white checked.  The forecast does not deem a single day of the next three, suitable, for a picnic.   We need rain so badly, that I will not complain.  My rain catching buckets are all bone dry and even the hydrangeas are weepy.    The truth is . . “Come rain or shine” . .  .the children are coming home!

 

“The Best is Yet to Come”


It is a very cool morning and quite early-barely light, as I write my first words of this day.  Some hours, I love more than others . . .morning hours are some of those.  I gather my thoughts as I watch the day bloom with light .  Hope wells up in my heart like a fountain and there is a sense of well being.  The grandeur  of  a sunrise, humbles me every time.  It is  just never “old hat”.
I said before, that I had never seen such an early spring-now I say that  have never seen such a long one, too!  In the south, spring weather is usually a brief affair.  . . a few weeks of pleasant days and then it is hot!  I am not sure what to make of it-and neither do the irises, nor the privets nor the fireflies, for they are all doing now, what they usually do in mid June.  So are the thorned vines.   My last diary entry was left as “waiting for the dust to settle” .  Some of it has.
It seems that I am soon to be semi retired.  I did reach that golden age of 62 in April, after all.  This will mean a much tighter budget.  . .and God forbid a calamity of any sort arise.  I do not mind being frugal.  It is about second nature to me.  My elders drilled the “sin of wastefulness” in me, til at last it stuck.  That ought to come in handy.
I love pretty things as much as the next person, but I do know the difference in want and need.  What I do need, is more time with my loved ones, for the grandchildren grow wildly fast.  There is my mother, who deserves more than I give her  – and my sisters and there is nature . . .and I can afford  all of that!  Maybe in some odd way, “I hit the “jackpot!”
Now, on the way to that conclusion, a lot happened.  My thoughts were muddled and so I cleaned and painted the linen closet. My laundry room got a thorough cleaning.  Flower pots got painted and  so did the back door.  The territory around the rabbitpatch is almost something to brag about.  Each  completed task seemed like a small victory.  
In grief, I do not move.  When I am hurt, I sulk.  When I am sad,  I wallow in my misery and can barely think about supper. . . but worldly concerns, make me work. I suppose everybody that drives by the rabbitpatch knows I have had something on my mind, lately!    . .and  “lo and behold”, the rabbitpatch looks so happy! 
Mothers’  Day was a a happy occasion.  Delores, Dana and I spent the night at Mamas’,  Connie is a nurse and had to work, so she celebrated early with Mama.  Jenny said that Lyla made her a card and put it under her pillow. How, sweet, I thought.  Another sweet story is that Tres is back at the rabbitpatch! 
Tres finished  school and took the summer off to work.  How glad I am to have him sleeping under my roof again.  Thank Goodness, he had enough gas to get here, for he came on day one of the “shortage”.   
Now the work week progressed, without fanfare, which is the best kind of week, to me.  Children gather fragrant blossoms along the edge of the woods and hunt for turtles at recess.  (none of them would dare even bother a creature, but will sit and watch them, instead.) I have several students that sell fresh eggs and how proud they are of their speckled dozens.  I hear stories of new kittens and well mannered dogs are walked by older students daily, on campus.  A new puppy came to visit one day. Many students don crowns made of clover, these days.  All is not lost, I think. How hopeful, the “heart of a child”  can make you.  How good it is to think, that no matter how many dire circumstances, that modern man creates . . children still make jewelry from  flowers and search high and low, for kittens . . .in months like May. 
Time has passed in all sorts of happy ways, since that turbulent week, a fortnight ago.  What seemed so impossible, has lost its’ punch.  The truth is, I was facing things that I hadn’t any control over the outcomes. We  like to think we always “get a say” in all things – and we usually do.  We get  so used  to that feeling that when something, we can  not prepare for, pops up, we are shocked-and  are liable to be rattled, when it does. 
Now it is said that “hindsight   is  20/20”.   Looking back, what really happened, was simply a change of plans.   . .my own plans. Maybe, my plans were not the ones, intended for me . . maybe they were too shallow . .or too lofty.  I am choosing to believe, that no matter the reason . . “The Best is yet to come.”

Rabbitpatch Business


I suppose that I can say with  certainty, that spring has truly arrived at the rabbitpatch.  Barring some patchy frost,  a week ago,  the days have been fair and the sun generous, as of lately.  This is the earliest spring, that I  ever remember.  If it were up to me, I would declare Easter this week, for the dogwoods and azaleas are at last in bloom.  Jasmine and wisteria now drape the woodlands .   Pastures are green and the fields are planted.  How grateful I am for the landscape as it is very reassuring to me that “all is not lost”. . .and in fact, the best remains.  Maybe everyone could at least all  agree that a pot of geraniums is “a thing of beauty”. 
The anniversary of Daddys’ passing, was just after, I returned from Raleigh.  My sisters and I met at Mamas’ to spend a night or two together.  None of us could comprehend that Daddy left us a year ago. Grief is so complex, I think.  Often, I try to divert myself from heartbreak.  I will plant and mend and clean . . .just to let those details fill me.  Other times, I willingly rush headlong into the sorrow.   There is no “rhyme or reason” to grief.  I go from “acting almost saintly” to an awful disposition in  a flash!  I miss my father every day , that is all I can say, with certainty. 
On Saturday, I left for Elizabeth City.  I had not been in a while longer than usual.  Lyla is now six and  has lost her first tooth – both big milestones to this very sentimental “Honeybee”.  Brynn converses easily these days and is out of diapers!  She is two, and I am bewildered by that as well.  I  always say that time is the most precious commodity, we have and I declare it again, in light of the grandchildren.  Childhood is so very fleeting . . and I am so very greedy.  I just can not get my fill of these happy hours spent holding little hands.  . .so off I went, for a visit . . .and  walked right in to a “surprise party”!   
My birthday was on Sunday.    I knew that  Jenny would have a cake and the little girls would make cards -but what a shock to see Brant, Sydney and Ryan, Tres and Sarah standing in the kitchen, when I walked in!   
The next few days were spent swinging the grandchildren, watching Brant, Tres and Will play basketball and eating all sorts of good food.  I left with fine soaps, chocolates, a set of glasses with honeybees on them and sweet memories to tuck in my heart.  That was some birthday!  What a happy, peaceful  time . . . and so very brief. 
Since my return to the rabbitpatch, all sorts of business has  sprung up- complicated business, that demands “the wisdom of Solomon” to tend .  One after another, they all popped up like a row of daisies!  Each issue hinges on another, making it all the more complex.  The only one, I am at liberty to write about, is selling the rabbit patch.
  Daddy has been passed a year, and at last, I have mustered the gumption to spruce the place up and work towards my “little house” dream.  What sparked this was a call from from a realtor friend who had several clients looking for older homesteads.  This sounds promising and it inspired me to tidy the place . . just in case.  From there, other things happened. Now, we are all well, so no one should fret-and in time the “dust will settle”  This bit of chaos will smooth out like it ought to.  Remember, too, any business rattles me. 
I have noticed,  that when things “roll merrily along”, and make good sense to us, then, if we have a faith -we are all to happy to practice it.  Maybe we think, that  if we are good enough, surely we can expect blessings.  I am certainly in this habit . . but I stay on alert, not to be a “fair weather believer”.  When things do not make sense , or an outright calamity  descends-and most especially, without  any fault on my part . .THEN, is when I can truly get the  measure of my faith.  Just a day or so ago, I literally,  asked God aloud -“What are you doing?”   . .so I am often “found wanting” of genuine substance.  I always try to remember folks with circumstances more dire than mine . . but sometimes, I find myself too childish, to do so.  Once, I remember saying to God, “I am tired of thinking about starving children, to make myself feel better!”    (Now you see, how very far from good, I can be.)    I am so thankful for mercy, when I remember my many short comings.   Still, with my long lamentation, I have some good news.
All is not lost, even on folks like me, who behave poorly, at times.  I spent the days doing all sorts of chores. As I cleaned a very dirty barn, I went over the  many details of my circumstances.  As I worked in the “Quiet Garden”, getting scratched by thorns,  I considered the many scenarios of how things could unfold.  As I painted the garden benches,  I contemplated what to do next.  By the time I was watching a little fire burn in the garden,  I was tired and had exhausted myself mentally with all that thinking.    Now, God at long last had something to work with. 
I admitted, that I could not see a single solution clearly, and  how to proceed  was  still a mystery.   The bonds of vanity are stifling.  Somehow, I knew  that there was an intricate fabric being woven-my fabric and woven  by the Hand of God .   That beautiful “peace that passes understanding”  is very real and what liberty to not feel so responsible to resolve things that are out of my own feeble intellect. 
If it seems  to you that I exercised my faith as a last resort , you would be about right.   Since the onset, I had gone through  the motions of   praying and reciting  inspiring verses.  . .but  a fear was ever present .  I have always struggled with where my responsibility  ends with things .
Right now, the rabbitpatch is sorted out nicely.  The  tender blooms of the narcissus, lend their sweetness to the air.  I have seen two young rabbits and listened to a thousand songbirds.  The first rose has bloomed and the peach tree is full of promises.
To me, these things are miracles.  Though some people may live and declare they have never seen a miracle . . .I see them everyday.

Silence is Golden.


It is that time of year when the rabbitpatch looks just a bit wild.  It is always a brief affair and one I have come to look forward to.  Not yet, has the territory been tended , other than branches are piled in the garden, for the day that I am brave enough to burn again.  All sorts of uncivilized blossoms dot the countryside.  There is the wild mustard  and the ground ivy . . .and the chickweed.  The bees are not complaining, so neither will I.   The violets are back.  They have a quiet and pure beauty -shy, but dignified – I will not utter a single complaint about them either.  How carefully I step along the footpath to the garden these bright days! 
The quiet garden, is awake, now too.  Old branches don tender young leaves.  The bench to rest and dream upon needs painting and there is some tending required in general.  No matter how kindly, I speak to the roses, I  will get scratched in the unmerciful battle. 
Now, the peach and cherry trees have a few “early bird” blossoms in a sort of prelude, to their long awaited finery, yet to come . . .but the spireas are in full bloom.  The stark white tendrils of a spirea are dazzling and that is putting it mildly.  The spirea is only seen on old homesteads, these days.  I wonder how shrubs like spireas and “Sweet Bettys” and snowball bushes -and quince,  ever fell to the wayside.   Of course I am sentimental about all things.  I just never can abandon a thing of beauty.     
When ” flowers appear on the earth”,  seemed like a fine time to gather, so we did.  We met at Mamas’ for a mid day dinner and an Easter egg hunt.  Christian played his guitar for Lyla, Brynn and Ryan, while Delores and I hid the brightly colored eggs  by daffodils and in clumps of clover.  The eggs sparkled in the sunlight and  were easily in sight ,  for this was Ryans’  first hunt!   There are few things more delightful than watching young children on an Easter egg hunt, I think.   . .and more than  ever I deliberately seek the purest forms of beauty, these days.   
When a gathering ends, life always dulls and regular readers know I  am likely to mope . . but I could not help but brighten at the sight of the winter wheat field, across the road , from the rabbitpatch, upon my return.  I was “raised on field and wood” and now in my later years, these things are still as beautiful to me as they ever were.   Extreme and rapid progression or” leaping without looking”, has yet to  taint, the serenity of a field of winter wheat.  It is the greenest green around and nearly shouts vitality and life!  The trees are singing too.  . .sweet, soulful melodies composed by watery jade leaves.  It is no wonder that mornings are filled with the joyful and unceasing chatter of songbirds!  Now, with first light and the birds, an alarm clock holds even less   value at the rabbitpatch. 
Some of you may remember, that a month or so ago, I declared a time of quiet, for myself.  I have adhered to it and what results!  When one is quiet, observance becomes your means of education.  Truth shines more clearly and seems to loom right before your eyes!  Truth has always been important to me and I have sought it with great fervor.  I have been easily fooled countless times and left bewildered, too. How dull and fruitless it is, “to lean on your own understanding”.   
Watching life, does not change the facts – but it sure does require a lot less work on my part.  Please understand, that “watching” does not mean a lack of participation. In fact, I am finding that my desire to participate hasn’t diminished at all. The difference, is an increased awareness of how to act… and when to.    . in short, how to proceed. “Being still” is all it is cracked up to be. 
By now, I am convinced that I have never had an original thought -or said anything first.  Many a sage implored all of us, to do this very thing.   . .and how many  times did my elders say, “Silence is golden” ?  
They were just right about everything.

A Fire, A Visit and Birthdays


Wednesday, was Christians’ birthday.  He is my youngest and the last one at home.  No matter, how old he gets, Christian will always be the baby.  His brothers and sister, never let him forget it.  We had a quiet dinner and a strawberry cake.    I had taken Thursday off, as I was going to Raleigh to watch Ryan so Sydney could work on Friday.  Sydney usually works from home, but she had an appointment on Monday as well, so I was happy to oblige. 
I was up early, on that fair, Thursday morning.  I took a stroll at dawn around the territory. Daffodils were blooming, birds were singing and the first long strands of sunlight were washing over  the countryside.  When I came upon the garden, still half full of debris from past storms.  Kyle had recently added a small pile of leaves and so I thought to burn it.  I would have time to hang a small load of clothes, after the smoke cleared, with time to spare.  I started the fire and went  back in to have coffee and read a little as I always do. It wasn’t so very long  that I went to the clothes line.  To my horror, the garden was on fire!  
I was gathering buckets,when Christian was fixing breakfast.  I told him, that I intended to wet the yard around the garden, for now there was a strong wind blowing.  Christian said :it was not a good day to burn, with the wind . .”but there wasn’t a bit of wind, when I started”  I interrupted.  I was calm, so he was too.  I came back for two more buckets.  This time, Christian decided to see for himself.  By now, I was beginning to worry as the fire was heading to the the patch of young woods.  The wind just kept picking up, as well.  Christian started helping, for he was worried.  No matter, we could not keep up with fire that seemed to jump over soggy land-and in all directions.  We called the fire department. 
I was so ashamed of myself and all of the running with buckets of water had taken a toll on this old lady.  I apologized several times, and then left Christian to conclude the fiasco.  I was drained physically and felt so thoroughly foolish.  What a damper, on the otherwise, peaceful morning!   When  I had recovered and the fire department had left,   I continued the plans  for my departure . 
Sydney was waiting outside while Ryan napped.  What a welcome sight.   
The days flew by.  They were filled with long strolls , good meals and wonderful conversations.  Ryan prefers wild life videos and farming videos, intended for farmers.  At a bit shy of eighteen months, he talks about plows and combines!   Ryan is a small child and quite agile .  He knows at least half of the alphabet and the sounds of the letters, which has shocked me.  It is uncanny, but Brant and Sydney hadn’t a clue, this was spectacular. Ryan has “beauty and  brains “. . .according to his Honeybee, at least.   I left on Monday, while the first blooms of the cherry could be seen.  It was Daddy’s first heavenly birthday, though I doubt Heaven has clocks and calendars.   . .but here on earth, we do. 
Hence, my sisters and I had devised a plan to gather at Mamas’.  Delores presented Mama with a quilt,that she had made from Daddys, shirts.  No one could top that!  It was a work of art.  It is hard to believe that this is a new hobby for Delores.  I am thrilled that her next project is my own celtic quilt. 
The day was destined to be a somber one, but it was less so, sharing it with  loved ones. 
Grief subsides, but it does not leave us. Really, grief is the remnants of love.  It is an odd feeling and always  an unfamiliar  feeling  -to lose a loved one.  I will never again “lose a father”, so that experience is odd, for there is nothing to compare it too, and it can not come up again.  The other part of this sorrow, is losing someone that loved me.  I remember first realising that particular  sense of loss, when my  maternal grandmother died.  I was a child, but fully comprehended that idea. Someone who really loved me was gone.  Decades later, my paternal grandmother died, and once again, that same sentiment,  occurred  to me.  I was much older, but felt as frightened as the child I used to be.  I felt more alone, right off and less brave, than ever.
Grief is a long and  complicated business. . . it is also a very certain component of life.   Those in mourning, seem to share some common denominators.  There are more than a few thousand books written  about the subject and always there are “studies”, to confirm this.  . . but  what do with grief is in reality, a very personal affair . 
I am erecting a statue in memory of “Daddy”  -in the form of an apple tree. . .and a “Hall of Fame”,   for I will tell my fathers’ story til it is”old hat” to his great grand children.  I will try to live as he taught me to . . . and make a birthday cake in March. 
 
 

All the Difference


March did not come in “like a lion” this year!  February left softly and suddenly, just as softly . . it was March.  I have been with Will, Jenny and all of the grandchildren the last three days, at Brant and Sydneys’  home in the capitol city.  
The temperatures were mild and showers fell ever so often. One day, the kids and their parents crowded in to a car and attended a drive through dinosaur exhibit.  Lyla knew the correct names of each one and what features determined the species name.  We really don’t know how, she learned all of that.  Brynn said some of them were scary and Ryan came back growling. 
Another day, we all took a hike to a small secluded playground.  There were two hills to climb,but I was the only one that complained.  Ryan found a mud puddle while the girls tried every slide out dozens of times.  The weather was just perfect for such things. 
On Sunday, after breakfast, we all started packing and cleaning.  Lyla was crying as she was so dreading the departure.  Brynn and Ryan started crying as we loaded the car.  Ryan was blowing kisses, with a little turned down lip and it was beautiful and heartbreaking, all at once.  We were not out of sight, when Brynn started asking, “What happened to “Bubby” (Ryan)?  “What happened to Aunt Sydney”?  “What happened to Uncle Brant”?  as she whimpered.  Lyla sat silently, with tears on her cheeks.  I didn’t want, the visit to end either,  but it was the love that the little cousins had for one another, that prompted my tears.  It is no wonder that they say “Baby brother cousin” and “sister cousin” .  Lyla coined these terms . . . and how accurately, it seems. 
The unusual, gentle arrival of March remained for days, after my return to the rabbitpach.  Nights warranted a soft warm blanket, mornings demanded a jacket, but the afternoons were warm enough to coax some daffodils to bloom.  I always remember being young in the spring.  For a moment, I could smell the dirt, of Pops’ freshly plowed fields. I remembered Daddys’ beloved Purple Martins and the steady watch for their “scouts” that ensued, in early spring – and kites that Daddy used to build, every year, right about this time.  Mama would be making our”Easter dresses” and keeping a close eye on the azaleas, that would put every one elses’ yard in their place, for Mama has about fifty of them and dogwoods too.  What a beautiful spectacle, they still make! . . .and it all happened in March.   
How beautiful, the world I grew up in was, I  often think. I did not feel privileged, but I felt valued. I never felt more  important than another living thing, but I did feel as  important.  One of the most priceless lessons, that I was taught, was not to need so much.  At a very young age,  I knew thoroughly, the difference of want and need.  It was absolutely fine  to wish, to hope and to dream, as long as we understood the difference between wanting and needing. I have profited from that concept all of my life.  I found out out that wants can change, if they are shallow. . . and a lot of mine were.  In some way, this taught me to define my real priorities.  I still use this concept.  Right now, I want a new percolator, for my old one quit on me without forewarning. . . but I need tires for the car, hence I am drinking instant coffee, for now. 
Some things, I learned were not from “the sunny side of life”.  None of us were shielded from  the heart ache of death.  Dogs died and foals were stillborn.  For a child, the death of  a favorite pony was a sorrowful thing and monumental yet, my elders knew that they were not raising fragile china dolls.  We were made to feel ashamed  if our actions warranted it.  How glad I am for that!  It did not cripple us to be held accountable for wrong behavior.  Instead, we sought virtue, for guilt is an awful burden.   
The one thing we were shielded from was the business of adults -and of the world.   I knew from a very early age, that Grandmama waited to iron or fold laundry or snap beans, the same hour, that “The edge of Night” aired. It was also the time for the youngest to nap and the older ones were to complete chores.  It took a terrible calamity, for us to interrupt her . To this day, I am curious about what happened in “the stories” , as she called them.   If a neighbor came to visit, we were to greet them and then scurry .  It was impolite to eavesdrop, after all.   The few times, that I managed to hear anything, they talked of someone not counting the stitches right in a quilt,or a  recipe or why somebody did not go to church, last Sunday. . .  Hardly interesting enough to captivate  .  Being wasteful  or behaving poorly in public, were considered “sins against the family”.   It may sound harsh, sometimes truth is.  There are many times, that I want to act in a disagreeable fashion, but somehow I regain control and  often, just in the nick of time,   I remember that I am still a reflection of my own “tribe”. 
 If I have given the impression, that those days were anything less than  beautiful, then I have failed-and miserably.   We were guarded tenderly and lovingly and because of that, I felt precious   -and besides between the great lessons,  we roamed the countryside for hours,unhindered.  We discovered, explored and developed wild imaginations. 
 I do not know if my elders were born full of wisdom or if they merely mimicked   their own elders,  but the results  are the same and remain, to this day.  The memories of those simple and heartwarming seasons act like a tonic, in the midst of the current chaos and shocks of these modern days.  Who knew, that playing in dirt and playing in the rain, saying our prayers and meandering through fields and woods -would make all the difference?  
    
 

Mama Had a Birthday!


It has been raining ever since, I last wrote.  The world here, is wet, muddy and cold. . . Still, not as bad as in Texas.  In the midst of the watery weather . . .Mama had a birthday. 
With this being her first birthday, without Daddy, my sisters and I planned a surprise.  Delores came the evening before.  Mama expected to see me, the next day but I had been intentionally vague in our conversations.  I think my other sister, Connie had as well.  I arrived in or about mid morning.  Mama was so shocked to see me, that she missed my bags altogether.  I went to cooking collards straight away, as Mama prefers her heaviest meal at noon.  Connie arrived just as the house was bragging about the simmering pots.  Connie brought all sorts of food for us and Mama wondered aloud about that.  Connie presented  Mama with a bouquet and then announced that we would all be spending the night and that my niece Hayley would be joining us later on.  This may have been the first time we successfully, totally surprised Mama. . .  and Mama was thrilled! 
 After a hearty lunch of Mamas’ favorite foods, we looked at quilting patterns.  Delores has started quilting since Christmas and has made remarkable progress.  She has made several already and now has plans to make each one of us one, from Daddys’ shirts.  I chose a celtic pattern.  Connie had been working on photographs, taken on our “day after Thanksgiving” gathering.  She had framed several for us and so it was quite a celebration for everyone.  I must give niece Hayley  credit for the photography. 
Hayley has quite a knack for photography and I hope she continues this passion.  She is not only good at taking pictures, but also has this uncanny knack of being at the right place at the right time.  Thus, she has a collection of bright rainbows, mother bears and cubs and all sorts of fowl under brilliant skies.  Admidst all of this merry making, Connie was on a mission to get me a cell phone. 
I have been through several in the last few years.  One drowned and I spilt a tiny splash of coffee on the last one.  That killed it.  I never wanted a cell, but my kids demanded I had one for driving to see them.  Eventually, they convinced me, that some great calamity was bound to happen and I was liable to go missing . . .if I didn’t have a phone.  I got the cheapest flip cell I could and stuck with that type.  No matter how much they begged me to “upgrade”  I always got another flip.  The kids at school were in awe of my cell and could’t believe it worked!  Many said they had only seen such a thing in old movies!.   Against all odds,  I now have some fancy “smart phone”. 
Connie had a brand new one and after several long calls, it was cheaper to activate that one than to replace what I had, even though I had insurance on mine, for such tragedies, as coffee.  My kids are still in shock, that I got in Connies’ truck to go to a cell store.  So am I.  Connie did all of the negotiating and thank goodness, for “I do not speak the language”!  Connie also got me a “bullet proof” case, since phones at my house are in dangerous territory.   
While all of this was going on, my other niece, Dana was studying chemistry . . .and learning to read “tea leaves”!  Dana is an artist in many ways.  She  draws beautifully and has broad interests .  Dana is as tenderly thoughtful as can be.  She had made a keepsake box for Mama and filled it with miniature trinkets that were remembrances of  Daddy.  She had a little  dog, a toolbox and a small rose quartz-since that was the gem of love.  I so hope she learns to read tea leaves.   
The next morning, Hayley cooked breakfast for all of us.  We hung Mamas’ new pictures after we ate. 
Two of Connies’ childhood  friends came by.  They are both nice and so pleasant.  One of them, Mary Susan, made us laugh with her stories.  She had good content, but it was the way she tells them that was so entertaining. 
We all shared a lunch and ate  Delores’ made from scratch cake, for the grand finale. 
Mama had a birthday . . .but we all left gifted.

Happy Birthday Mama!

 

A Valentine from the Rabbitpatch


 

There is a room with a window, that I like the very best –
in months like February, when nature is at rest.
When the sun shines oh, so faintly, I take to my cozy nook
to while away  a bit of day with a blanket, a dog and a book.
I think my thoughts and dream a bit,without a sense of rush-
What lovely notions wander in, when all the world is hushed.
The sleepy headed roses, the greenness of the pine –
The steadfast, warrior oaks all dozing in a line –
A tiny flock of little birds, as busy as can be-
A flashy redbird lighting up a drowsy  dogwood tree.
Nature says”I love you”  so sweetly in this way –
And so I’ll join the chorus “Happy Valentines’  Day!” 
by Michele Warren (me!)

A Second Look


The last few days have been silvery -and timeless.  The territory looks the same at eight in the morning as it does as two in the afternoon.  – and only the clock knows when it is noon. It has been cold and damp , true to the nature of January.   
I spend a good deal of time by a window, I  am surrounded by my books and plants and the boxer dozes under our shared blanket .   Here, I wish and daydream . . .and remember.  I read   and I  do try to take a walk daily around the territory. 
Tres left on Thursday.  I spent Friday in the “doldrums”.   I had been home all week with an awful head cold and a tooth ache.  On Friday I felt worse than before, but I assured a worried Jenny, it was because Tres left.  Knowing me well, Jenny agreed. 
I have at last, chosen a “study”.  I want to learn to play chess!  Christian has played since he was a mere child.  I was glad of it, -and often wanted to learn, but housekeeping, cooking, mothering and a job, just did not afford such luxury. 
Christian has agreed to teach me, which I find a wonderful idea. “The tables have turned” it seems, for  now, I am the student and my youngest son, is the teacher!   I may never win a single game or maybe I will not even like chess,  for I am not a fan of board games in general.  I want to learn, anyway. 
The “Farmers’ Almanac” said it first, though the weatherman took all the credit . . .there was a chance of snow on Thursday.  This is no small proclamation in the south.  On Wednesday, the children nor the teachers, could scarce of anything else.  It was fairly warm outside, but none of us gave up.  When a child went to the window, I did not  reprimand them, for I too looked every chance that I got.  We have not had snow in a few years, so this was no small prospect for us. 
By three o’clock, an announcement that school would be closed the next day was made.  You barely needed a jacket at the “car line” yet that announcement seemed to confirm, that it would snow.  Children were building snowmen and planning on hot chocolate -and hoping their parents knew how to make the  snow cream, the older ones were talking about.  I had my own dreams . . of coffee and my favorite house clothes, of writing and reading . . and a cake.  The event of snow in the south, is a short lived affair, so we must all do a lot of everything and as quickly as possible! 
The world was bright and white, when I woke on Thursday morning.  Snow was still falling and had hushed the countryside.There was a few inches covering the territory . . .and the trees were just stunning.  I gazed on their loveliness as if I were in some sort of trance, completely engulfed in their quiet but dazzling beauty.  Authentic beauty, lacks the flash, of what we  seem to be so accustomed to.  There is nothing counterfeit or enhanced in nature, I thought, yet I do not find it lacking, but instead, deeply and profoundly beautiful. 
I did make a cake.  Another quest, I have been attempting, is to eliminate refined sugars in my cooking.  I am using honey instead.  I also will try maple syrup and molasses .  Since baking is a science, I have been treading carefully.   This is my third cake, today and so far so good.  I am nervous about cookies, for longtime readers may remember that I had a terrible track record with cookies.  For  only, two short years now, I have been feeling confident .  Maybe, I will just eliminate  the restrictions on refined sugars, when it comes to cookies.  Besides, I feel guilty about altering my great grandmothers’  recipe for tea cakes.    
I finished the borrowed book, as the dark settled in. Outside the window, by the morning table, I saw the magic of moonlight on snow.  I had forgotten all about the full moon.  To have snow and moonlight all at once, was like holding a rare pearl.  “The luster of midday”  , I remembered . . . now with understanding.  In a day or so, only remnants of the snow remained in shady places . . .and many a snow man, now frozen, could be seen in  the yards where children lived. 
  I left for a weekend with the grand daughters, on Friday.  Lyla and Brynn danced and squealed, celebrating my arrival .  They clap their little hands and call out “Honeybee!”  It never gets old.  The cares of this world  grow mighty dim, in those moments. 
It was quite cold on Saturday, but Jenny bundled the little girls up and we went on a winter walk to deliver cake to “Aunt J”.  Wills’ aunt lives in the same  neighborhood and it seems such a short distance,  The wind was fierce and blew like an angry, arctic  gale-and so the walk seemed longer than a country mile, that day.  I am a firm believer in children getting outside a lot and in all kinds of  weather (and all folks really), but how nice it was to come home to a fire burning brightly and hot chocolate!  Tres came over to help Will with an outside repair .  It took all afternoon.  Jenny and I started an evening meal that was both hearty and vegetarian, another new project for me.  
 I came home on Monday.  The snow, followed by days of rain, had turned the yard in to a large mud puddle.   There wasn’t a single ray of sun either.  The countryside looked drab and untidy   . . .so I remembered the irises and the pale blossoms of the peach tree to “tide me over”  for a while.  The earth is  filled with promises, I reminded myself.  This sparked a joy in my heart.  Suddenly, I took a second look around me and noticed the many shades of silver in the sky.  There were all sorts of chestnut and coppery browns and soft greys.  Even the puddles were full of life.  Soon,  lamps would shine through the  old windows  of the farmhouse and the house would smell like supper.  I chided myself for waiting for beauty, while in the midst of it.  Sometimes. . . a second look, makes all the difference.

 

P.S. I can’t seem to add images, these days to my posts!  Take my word for it, when I say the grandchildren are every bit as lovely as ever!