On this Sunday, I woke to the delightful sound of a steady, gently falling rain. I had slept soundly, after a busy Saturday . Waking up to rain, is much more satisfying than waking to an alarm shouting out. I was shocked to hear the mocking bird singing, in the midst of a shower. I am convinced that a mockingbird will sing under any condition, as I have heard their songs at night, too.
With it being Sunday, a pot of beans is simmering and I have peeled apples for a bread pudding. If the rain slacks off, then I plan to quarrel with some hateful vines that are trespassing, in places like the “Quiet Garden”, and around the sycamores, which belongs to the running periwinkle. If it rains all day, then at long last, maybe I will shop for geraniums. Empty flower pots look sad and lonely to me.
Yesterday, I began painting the ceiling in the laundry room. I would have finished, except, I ran out of paint. I do not like to paint ceilings, but what a difference it makes. I also set about to straightening up the storage barn. I got two large items out to donate, and since I had to make the drop off, I tackled the china closet .. . and then a cabinet. How I came up with three more boxes of things is beyond me. I thought for sure, that after the truck loads that left from here, last summer, I was finished. I have been quite particular about what comes in to the house, ever since. Still, I managed to fill three more boxes full of things that might be useful to others that I just do not need. I also did laundry . . .This is why I slept so soundly, that I can not recall a single dream.
Just before noon, the table was set and a meatloaf was browning in the oven. Between showers, I had made a mad dash to the herb garden and collected chives and apple mint. I later, regretted not gathering roses, as well.
Suddenly, the wind picked up, the rain started pouring heavily and it thundered. That is when Mama and Daddy drove up. I was frying cornbread. Christian asked me if we had an umbrella and I looked at him, stunned, he would even think such a thing! Of course , Mama did -so Christian sprinted to them, and helped them in the door.
We all enjoyed the “Sunday Dinner”. Mama and I especially like the bread pudding. It had stopped raining, by the time Mama and Daddy left. That is when the weekend projects caught up with me (and the bread pudding)- and so I took a nap.
I did eventually go out to tackle the vines. I do not take pleasure in such work, but it is so very necessary. Southern vines are ruthless characters. It is a dirty, itchy job and forces you to go in to dark nooks where you are likely to encounter all sorts of calamity. I made good progress, but welcomed the next shower, for it gave me permission to stop the awful chore.
I did find an azalea that was robbed of its’ blooms, is now recovering. That was good news. Christian and I both sighted rabbits today. This will soon be an ordinary event. It is the eve of the season when the territory will host dozens of young bunnies . . .and the fragrance of honeysuckle influences the country air . . so very sweetly.
It rained off and on all of Sunday . The rabbit patch was in good order and the territory was improved somewhat. I was quite happy about the contents of the past days. There was a time to work, a time to rest and a time to gather with loved ones.
I am glad for everyday . . .but I am especially glad for Sundays.
A lot has happened in the last few days-so much that I was still in Elizabeth City, on Wednesday. My mission was to care for Lyla. . . and to be the “chief cook and bottle washer” . I saw a good many robins . . .and buttercups, on every day, as well. I sat on an old rock . .. and attended the “early service” on a regular basis.
I do not think it proper, to share the details of all of the circumstances of the week, for the sake of those, who are still recovering, but first one thing happened, and then another- and it took a toll on Jenny, who is expecting her second little daughter, when summer ends.
Oh, how much it meant, to have an “early service” . They were mild, beautiful affairs, and so very restorative, though the young squirrels scampered about with recklessness-much like humans do in their youth. I did not fault the little squirrels for disturbing the peace . . .but the cardinals did. The male cardinals were quite gallant, in protecting their nests, and a row often ensued, as a result. In the midst of the chaos, dogwood blossoms rained down like April snow, falling on the tender grass.
The grand finale of April was sweet and May took up where April left off, with mild, sunny days. In the mornings, Lyla and I would visit the playground, that is just a short distance from Will and Jennys’ house. Often we took cereal or stale crackers for the ducks and geese. There was an unfriendly goose in the lot, who hissed between gulps of our “peace offerings”- which were not working. Most days, Lyla and I had the playground to ourselves. Thankfully, Lyla would get hungry before noon, and so did not make a fuss about leaving.
After lunch, Lyla and I would strike out again as it seemed sinful not to. The climate was just perfect, and besides, the irises were blooming. We walked to the river passing manicured yards. Each one had neat flowerbeds tucked in selected areas. Some of the porches had wind chimes that tinkled in the light breeze. Picket fences marked the property lines, so daintily and in such a friendly manner. Even the sidewalks were swept clean. I did not have to jump a single ditch, nor tangle with briers, on this walk. Everything was so tame and civilized, unlike the territory around the rabbit patch. When we came upon the river, I realised that the river was a wild place, after all, rolling along on its’ own accord.
-Several times, this week, Lyla and I sat on the flat rock, in the secluded nook, by the bridge. The rock arches out of the water and several folks could take refuge there, if need be. It is a good place to “get still” . Lyla and I are always quiet, when we sit on the rock. I did not teach her to sit in silence,-but we are both affected , and do so. We listen to the “laughing river”, we feel the steadfast rock beneath us and leave the place with a satisfying peace. One day, Lyla said “the river has the hiccups”.
We took the long way home, every day, for the mock orange is blooming. It is well worth the time and energy to go out of your way for the mock orange, in May. It is a “show stopper” in spring. The blooms are one of the sweetest fragrances I know of. On the long route, we encounter two that, I feel it is safe to say, are now “old friends of mine”. We brought Jenny a sprig most days. Lyla is always determined to gather flowers for her mama, when we are out. Lyla has been very disappointed with the clover flowers, that she especially loves, for they lack fortitude and wilt promptly.
By Wednesday night, things had settled some, and so I prepared to leave, the next morning. I drove straight to work and so it was late afternoon when I actually got home. Kyle had mowed the lawn and the roses had joined the irises in proclaiming the season. It was a lovely sight. Cash. my loyal boxer, made a big production over my arrival. My cat, Christopher Robin, did not bother to act sullen, this time, but instead preened, purred and strutted like a “big shot” . . .and he is every bit as important, as he thinks he is, if only at the “rabbitpatch”.
After an especially good supper, I went out to say good night, to the world. The stars were bright and shining brightly-and had the same effect on me as the old rock. I did not need to utter a word . . . yet my heart “spoke volumes”. . .about all sorts of things . . .even old rocks.
“Miss Edie” said it was going to rain-according to her arthritis. She was right. It started before the early service and it rained all day. It was a steady rainfall that maintained a soothing rhythm, all day. This rain would have been quite suitable for sleeping or watching an old movie. I was quite sure I could have written a charming piece, under such conditions. None of that was to be, but the rain was lovely just the same. I remembered Mama always said “April showers bring May flowers.”, when I was a child.
On account of the cool, rainy day, we had soup for supper. It was a hardy vegetable beef variety and it is likely, that it may have been, the last soup of the season, as we do not eat soup in warm weather.
A silvery fog was settled over the rabbitpatch when I woke, on Wednesday morning. The sun looked like a silver dollar, when it rose from behind the old barn. The territory looked like a black and white photograph that could have graced the cover of Pops’ beloved “Progressive Farmer” magazine , many springs ago.
By mid morning, the sky was a very bright blue and the sun was shining boldly. A child brought me a handful of clover flowers and I breathed the scent of them deeply. I love the sweet, green fragrance of the clover. Though, a patch of clover is the most likely place I know of, to get a bee sting, (for honey bees love the clover, too) , I am always happy when the clover blooms. I was never too keen on making necklaces and crowns, from them, as most children are. It is a tedious work, but my cousin, “Cookie”, was quick about it, and she made crowns for the both of us, while I searched for four leaf clovers, to press in heavy books. Even today, I am apt to do so.
When the clover blooms, the evening air is especially sweet.
When I was pulling out of the drive way, this morning, I noticed “Miss Sylvias’ Irises” were blooming. They are a delicate lavender, and always remind me of watercolors. Miss Sylvia was the first person, I met when I moved to the “Farm Life” community, now twelve years ago. She came to welcome me and presented me with a cookbook, which is a collection of recipes from the women in the community. Most of the dishes are “made from scratch” and the book quickly became my favorite one on the shelf in the kitchen.
Miss Sylvia has been gone a year now. When I see her irises, I remember when she played my piano at Christmas and sat in the shade with me in July. I remember the stories she told me about the former days at the place I now call the “rabbitpatch”, but mostly I just miss her friendship.
Also blooming, along with the iris, are the wild roses in the woodlands. They clamor the nearest tree and act like a garland of fragrant pearls. Now, the vines cascade along the woodlands’ edges and sway so gracefully. The blossoms are clusters and do not favor their “high society” cousins found in tended gardens, but they are lovely enough to make you want to write a poem.
Now that the evenings are milder, they beckon to me, like a long lost friend to come out to bid the world good night. With the moon, almost full, the countryside looks bathed in a holy light-and just glancing at the mighty heavens, dispels fear as good as anything I know of.
Dear Diary, I am so glad it is Aprilwhen the wild roses bloom. I am glad for clover and moonlight . . . and memories of a friend, who gave me irises to plant.
I was glad of many things this morning at the “early service”. The last few days have just tumbled by like a merry river. With today being Sunday, I had “Sunday dinner” to look forward to, as well.
I had planned to fry chicken, as Mama really enjoys that. Daddy would like the steamed cabbage, and I had a perfectly good ham bone that warranted use. Even though black eyed peas, seemed “out of season” I had some on hand, and so the pot of “January” peas were simmering by nine. As I was making the dessert, Jenny called and said she and Lyla were coming. I was as “happy as any lark” ever dared to be. I was glad I had decided on making cheesecake bars as Jenny is quite partial to cheese cake, in any form.
Meanwhile, the morning warmed up coaxing a few more rosebuds to open. It seemed the day would be fair, which only made me more cheerful.
The meal turned out well. Lyla said the prayer, insisting we all hold hands. She said simply, “thank you Jesus”. No one can accuse her of “praying like a pharisee” .
After the meal, we all went outside and sat near the old sycamores. Lyla and Christian took off to the small orchard out back. They ended up under the old grapevine. Lyla was enamored with the “secret place” and spent a good deal of time there, with Christian. Christian said she liked watching the birds building nests.
I have my own memories of playing under an old grapevine. My younger sister, Delores and I spent many summer afternoons in the shade of an old grapevine. To us, it was a house we shared with our dolls. We never bothered about husbands, but we had more than a few dolls. If one of the dolls got sick, the “house” suddenly transformed in to a hospital. Sometimes it was a school and the year Delores got a cash register, it became a grocery store. Mama would wash cans and save boxes til we built a good supply of stock. We also collected what we could for furniture. Things like buckets, turned upside down, for chairs and picnic benches for beds. I am so glad that Mama insisted we play outside, instead of inside watching TV, for those were happy times.
We developed quite an imagination, which I think may be one of the most valuable qualities, a person can have. Imagination is the heart of compassion as we can feel the heart of others, with just a bit of it. Imagination also helps us more easily understand the behavior of others -even if the behavior is poor and can cause us not to judge harshly. Besides that, Delores and I were really practicing for “real life”. Our dolls were precious, good, naughty and sick on any given day, much like our real children would be.
I wondered what Lyla was talking to Christian about, but I did not dare interrupt the spell of those moments. I did ask Christian later, what Lyla was doing, all that time. He said she pretended all sorts of things . . .and so he did too.
Meanwhile, by the old sycamores, the rest of us sat and shared small talk. The conversation was slow and light hearted . We were glad for my nephew, Brandon who will be attending a university next year. Daddy said I needed a new tire-and then found a tack in one of Jennys’ tires. We all hoped Jennys’ “Grandma Betty” was feeling better and Jenny said she felt the baby move quite often, these days.
When everyone left, I felt like I had been bestowed a gift. . .something rare and genuine. “Sometimes, there are bright and shining moments” . . . .and this Sunday was one of them. This Sunday, was golden . . . and pure . . .and quite beautiful.
April has been a mostly cold month-the early service, on this day is proof of that. The farmhouse is chilly and there are little patches of frost, on the territory, but the songbirds sing anyway. There have been just enough mild days, to declare it is spring . . . and the dogwoods are still blooming. The first rose of the season has bloomed and I saw a fire fly, just the other night, There is the pollen too, which makes us all sneeze , Sometimes, great clouds of it appear when the wind blows through the pines. Certainly, it is spring, but warmth has been scarce.
The past week, was a busy one and passed with great speed, til now, suddenly, it is Saturday. I am especially busy at work, as we are working on the dances, classes will perform at our annual celebration in May. Each class performs a folk dance from the country they have studied throughout the year. This not a small work. I am also putting the house back on the market, which requires a great deal of preparation. The ladder sits ready at all times, in the den and paintbrushes are at hand, for when “the spirit moves within me”. I still need to buy geraniums and meanwhile, the grass grows. I also had a birthday, this week.
Now, that I am older ( I turned 59) birthdays are reflective events and very holy to me. I do not like a lot of fanfare, but Mama did make a cake, and I was glad of that. Kyle brought me flowers and someone tied balloons on the lamp post. I have been known to forget my birthday altogether, but am soon reminded, by loved ones.
Mama really wanted to do something special and I was not much help, as to what. I thought about my birthday this year and realised that my birthday really did not only belong to just me-and I felt I was being selfish. I thought of my parents, who were so very young, when I was born. I am their first child, and I remembered how exciting and overwhelming that time is for parents. I imagined the ruckus it must have caused. I thought of my dear, great Aunt Virginia sewing the last stitches of the delicate gown, I would come home in. I imagined “Pop and Grandmama” being in a state, as I was the first grandchild, born at the farm. (my older cousins were born in Texas, and lived there). The April morning, that I was born, I am quite sure, meant folks were stopping by to find out the news. I bet Aunt Agnes brought a cake and I am certain Grandmama was hanging clean linens on the line. Thinking of all this, it is no wonder, I felt selfish. So I was glad to see my parents on my birthday. It was a lovely sight to see Mama appear with a cake quite full of candles, as she sang “Happy Birthday”. I tucked that picture in my heart.
As it turns out, I had another celebration, which just sprang up. Jenny was returning from Wilmington, and would be passing through this ” neck of the woods”. The next thing I knew Mama was cooking our lunch. Lyla wanted me to have balloons and more flowers- and so I enjoyed a “surprise party” of sorts, just a few days after my birthday.
Today, there was yet another birthday to celebrate. My Uncle Randy, daddys’ oldest brother turned 85 yesterday! Mama, Daddy and I rode with “Miss Edie” to the home of Uncle Randy, an hour away. My cousin Sheila, lives a “door down” from Uncle Randy and tends to all his needs. She is a loyal daughter, and I admire that. She is also apt to laugh-and I like that too. Miss Edie brought a cake and we stopped to buy ice cream. After our arrival, we all chipped in for lunch. First, second and little third cousins came in. I noticed, that Uncle Randys’ great grandson, favored him quite a bit. Oh I hoped he would have the same kind of heart, as Uncle Randy, too, for Uncle Randy is a tender and gentle uncle.
We all came home around mid afternoon. Within minutes of me walking in the back door of the old farmhouse, I was up on the ladder, trying to finish the ceiling, I started a long while back. On breaks, I straightened the pantry and then the closet in my bedroom. Some how, I have a few more things to donate and another collection of trash. I think seeing Uncle Randys’ success at downsizing, inspired me.
It has been a lovely day, mild and bright, though Miss Edie, said it would rain soon-her arthritis is never wrong, she says.
The “early service” on Sundays, feels different, for me. It seems a bit more holy. I am not sure why. The same choir, sings the same songs. The sun is just as generous as it was on any given Tuesday and rain too falls when it will. .still there is “Something About A Sunday”.
Maybe, growing up in the “Bible Belt” has something to do with this notion of mine. I did have perfect attendance in the Sunday School, the first ten years of my life. I think the chicken pox ruined that for me. On Sundays, we got still and said “thank you” . . and it just seemed right, to do so.
What a big production, Sundays were. I slept in curlers, for no apparent reason, as my hair was”straight as a stick” by ten am. Delores had perfect curls all day long. No amount of prayer, ensured curls in my hair. We dressed in our best attire, which meant lace and patent leathers. There was some rule that you wore black patent leathers after Labor day til Easter, when you switched to white. It mattered little if you had a growth spurt during a season, we each got one pair a season. The shoes were especially pretty and would shine, but you had to be careful not to scuff them. Even the under garments were fancy. Everything had lace-that itched awfully bad. It is no wonder, we were able to sit still for the longest hour of the week-the sermon.
Even with tight shoes and scratchy dresses, I loved Sunday School. We sang sweet little songs and memorized Bible verses. We were told a Bible story and then colored a picture about it. I loved the teachers, and thought the sweetest women in the church got selected to teach. I just taught Lyla a song that I remember learning in the three year old class, from “Miss Jo”. By the time, you were in the four and five year olds, “Miss Linda” was the teacher and I learned “This Little Light of Mine”. We memorized the books of the Bible and the “Ten Commandments”. Later, there was “Miss Tillie”and “Miss Faye”. All beloved, to this day. I am not sorry for one minute of Sunday School, for many times now, in hours of need, one of those verses or songs, will spring in my head at just the right moment.
Sundays were observed fully, in my childhood. You best not lose a button on Sunday-if you did you had to put it up in a safe place til Monday. No one would have sewn on a Sunday. Likewise, the washing machine sat silently, as did the fields. it was considered sinful, to farm on Sundays. I do remember, once, my older cousin Harvey did not get dressed for Church, for he had decided to plow. My Aunt Agnes was horribly shocked and threatened him the God would surely withhold rain because of it. Harvey told Aunt Agnes she needed to read her Bible. He said “the rainfalls on the just and the unjust.” I did not laugh then as I was expecting lightening to strike Harvey-what with plowing on Sunday and sassing too. . .now I laugh at this memory, whole heartedly. That was a quiet drive to Church that day.
I do not know why cooking was allowed on Sunday, but I m glad it was. All stores and restaurants were closed., maybe that is why. Grandmama took to staying home from Church, just to cook Sunday dinner for the rest of us. I bet it was the only way she could get a moment of peace. We none dared criticize her as she made things like chicken & pastry, and banana pudding.
In warm seasons, Pop made homemade ice cream. Aunt Christine and Uncle Gene would come. My cousins and I would make quite a ruckus til it was ready. We were accused of “disturbing the peace” often and “God help you” if you ran through where the adults were sitting. If a ball found its’ way there, the bravest one would sneak in “like a thief in the night” to retrieve it. We were also expected to settle our own disputes. Tattling was frowned upon, unless it involved someone being hurt-or property damage. Occasionally, there was property damage.
Those memories are old now, but their impression has served me as a “favor” , all of my life. I knew my people . . . and they knew me. That alone has meant the world, in life. I think of those days, now as the ham is cooked and the potato salad is chilling. Ham tastes better on Sundays . . . and so does cornbread. There is just “Something About A Sunday”.