Sunday, April 22, 2018

Ballerina With Wings on Ice

Before last weekend’s April ice storm I’d filled the bird feeders out by the clothesline. It’s a clustered bunch of bird feeders. A few are made of wood now worn with plastic dividers chipped in the corners. One is made of small, colorful pieces resembling stain glass glittering out in the elements. Once the ice storm hit with howling winds and snow falling, many of those seeds in the feeders went flying. Many ended up on top of the ice covering the ground while even more of them ended up under the feeders. Seeds just sitting there on the ice and under the feeders attracted a variety of birds but more often than not, only the big birds were able to conquer the slippery ice; then grab some seeds and take off to a nearby tree to enjoy their just reward.
Of all the birds that were out there, it was one little bird that caught my eye. She was very small but determined. As my son Brian and I watched her fight for a seed, we found ourselves cheering her on. There is a very slight incline in the yard leading to the bird feeders. You probably wouldn’t even notice it but if you are a tiny bird with thin little legs and the wind is pushing you and the snowflakes are knocking you down as you try to put one thin little leg in front of the other in order to get under the bird feeders where some prime seeds are resting, you’d notice that giant incline. You’d probably feel like you were climbing Mt. Everest.
I’m sure that’s how the little bird felt as she tried and tried to get under those feeders. Sometimes she’d get part way then the wind would take her swirling around and around the ice covering the ground making her look like a beautiful ballerina with wings giving the performance of a life time. On a few occasions one of her legs would be up in the air as if she was doing an Olympic-style program in the backyard. Once we saw her pushed by the wind so far away that we thought we’d seen the last of her as she crashed into some leaves frozen in the ice. But that never happened. That only spurred her on to victory under the bird feeders. Back she came stronger than ever and away she flew with a mouth full of prime, delicious seeds.
You see this little bird was a fighter; conquering blue jays and cardinals and sparrows and robins and morning doves. She was determined. She was Forrest Gump and the Little Engine Who Could and Dumbo and Cinderella and Susan Boyle and a U.S Olympic Hockey team who beat those Russians and Rosa Parks and Rocky and Rudolph and Stephen Hawking and Andrea Bocelli and so many more. She was anyone physically or mentally handicapped who gets up every day and puts one foot in front of the other. She was the underdog who keeps trying; keeps fighting; keeps going and she was those bullied by cowards who stand their ground and give it right back to the spineless.
There certainly is a lot going on out at the bird feeders. More than I ever realized. And when it rains or snows or the wind blows or the ice falls some of those birds stand up and fight for what they believe in.
I like that idea.

Monday, March 19, 2018

Flying Out a Kitchen Window

On my way back home one day last week passing by farms and fields a story my grandmother would tell came to mind. Whenever my grandmother told the story she’d laugh right out loud. So did anyone who was listening to her talk about the time when she was a little girl sitting at the kitchen table playing and acting silly with her siblings. Eventually her mother told her to stop but she kept on playing. In fact my grandmother played so hard that she ended up running around and around that table so fast that she went flying out the kitchen window. Whenever she’d get to this point in the story my grandmother’s eyes would widen with a twinkle and the laughter would get uncontrollable. She’d always end her tale by saying it was a hot summer day and the window was wide open. While she didn’t get hurt she did ‘catch heck’ as she’d describe the aftermath from flying straight out that window after being told to stop.

Once in a while I’d take my grandmother for rides out in the country and as we’d go along I’d hear stories about way back when working farms were scattered about the countryside like rugs throughout a home; where families with familiar last names were raising children and tending gardens and plowing fields and milking cows and filling haylofts with picky bales of hay through the month of June. One time while riding along she told me that story again about falling out a kitchen window as we approached a certain farmhouse.

“Slow down,” she told me. “That’s the place where I flew out the kitchen window.”

Problem was that particular window was no longer there. Someone had added on an enclosed front porch and replaced trees with shrubs and a cinder driveway with a paved, circular drive. I asked her if she wanted to stop. She told me no.

“I’d rather remember that place as it used to be.”

So much has changed since my grandmother went flying out of that kitchen window. Most of those farms she recalled are now vacated, torn down or have new owners with unfamiliar names. Yet despite so much changing, so much has stayed the same, like the smells of the earth awakening to spring undeterred by winter trying to hold on as streams begin to trickle alongside roads and wander about the fields while the crows and geese keep flying by and little kids keep playing after being told to stop and then ‘catch heck’ in the aftermath.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

A Favorite Old Record Album

As the snow keeps falling in this month of March I am reminded of my mother and a 33rpm vinyl record album she played over and over again on a record player which was part of a fancy console complete with a radio featuring both AM & FM channels as well as a space to store albums.

She bought the massive console as a gift for the family or so she said when it was delivered days before Christmas one year when I was in Junior High School. Thinking back, I believe the main purpose of that console was for my mother to play a particular song from one of her favorite Dean Martin Christmas albums. The song was titled-“A Marshmallow World.” She played that song not only in December but all through the winter months. Each of us in that household knew every word, every pause in that song. We’d automatically sing along without even realizing it. My mother was a fanatic Saturday morning clean-the-house-thoroughly kind of person which meant I had to pitch in. Dean Martin made that torture go so much faster.

When I went outside today and took a walk in the snow, those words of that particular song came back to me-every single one of them including the pauses. It certainly was a Marshmallow World out there. My mother would have loved it.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Quilts Hanging on a Front Porch

When I drove by the Amish home with quilts flying in the breeze as winter was thinking about turning to spring I couldn't help but stop. With the colors and detailed craftsmanship of those beautiful quilts hanging by clothespins against the simplicity of the home and the barn set off to the side and fields still holding on to patches of snow, the scene was breathtaking; looking more like an oil painting created by a master himself. Of course if it had been created by a master, that master would have had to contend with puddles of yuck and smells of the barn animals and the earth waking up.

On my way home I thought about my mother. She would have loved seeing those quilts flapping about. I know she would have worried they might let loose and end up in the mud. That's because she was a skilled seamstress. Her tailored suits and coats were sewn to perfection. Every dart and every seam; every button and button hole; every zipper and strip of bias tape-all were flawlessly sewn or created. She preferred Vogue patterns. Her material was the finest. And then-there were her quilts.

When my mother was in the process of making a quilt I was amazed at the exactness of every piece she'd cut out. Each had been measured. So many little pieces and she knew where every little piece would go. Her color schemes were breathtaking. It took her several visits to the fabric store to decide which bolts to finally choose. Putting those bolts of fabric together was so time consuming. Colors and designs had to compliment each other. There had to be contrasts but they had to be subtle so as not to stand out. They had to blend. They had to be present without screaming for attention. The end result always took my breath away; just like the two quilts did-hanging from clothespins on an Amish front porch as winter was turning to spring.

Monday, February 12, 2018

My Favorite Month for Art Class

Growing up I always thought my cousin Joe was so lucky having his birthday fall on February 12th. To be born on the same date as Abraham Lincoln was certainly something to celebrate. But that wasn't the end of it. The celebrating continued on February 22nd, the birth date of our 1st President. That was the icing on the cake-the birthday cake that is. And nudged between these two historic dates was Valentine's Day which meant there was a Valentine Day's party in every classroom. Instead of cake, cookies and/or cupcakes were served. February was an overload for celebrating. Whether it was Abe's tall hat or George's ax or bright red hearts, February was made for creating and that's why it was my most favorite month when in elementary school with Art Class being my most favorite class of all.

I had no use for arithmetic. It was too exact. I did like reading but Art Class-that was the class where my imagination was allowed to soar. Using big, fat crayons we'd draw big top hats on large pieces of white drawing paper. Then we'd color them black, cut them out and give them to our teacher. A few days later we'd discover top hats hanging in classrooms, up the stairs and in the hallways. After the birthdays had been celebrated, we'd be able to take out top hats home to hang on our refrigerators.

Nothing had to be exact in Art Class, not even hearts since the hearts could be any size and any shade of pink or red. They could even be white. Some could have paper lace glued on them. Others could be cut just so to make a chain of hearts. Some could be used as decorations on handmade Valentine cards. Some could have faces on them. Some could be stapled or glued to the front of a large piece of folded paper with the sides stapled or glued which turned that paper into a folder to hold Valentine's.

Whatever one could imagine, that's what a heart became in February in elementary school. Ironically Music class took on a special meaning as well that month due to the fact our music instructor's name was Miss Heart. It really was! And all through that month we sang songs-from the heart with Miss Heart!

Saturday, January 13, 2018

A Tin Dollhouse Full of Dreams

I hadn't thought about my tin dollhouse (similar to the one shown) in years which is sort of ironic since I spent so much time sitting in front of it playing and pretending. This past Christmas as I was deciding what furniture to buy my granddaughter for her dollhouse, the memories of my old tin dollhouse came to mind. That made my purchasing of that dollhouse furniture all the more important.

I remembered what it felt like to be sitting there as a owner of a house-my very own house even though it was a dollhouse-a tin dollhouse with sharp corners that would catch hold of me and hurt or catch hold of what I was wearing and stop me cold None of that mattered. It was my house and I could arrange the furniture any old way I wanted to. I could decorate my way. The pink toilet could have been found in the living room by the painted fireplace on the tin wall. The pink bathtub could have been in my tin bedroom. Or the baby playpen with baby inside could have been relocated to the tin bathroom when baby was crying too hard. The rooms didn't have doors you could shut so baby would still have been heard throughout that tin house. Any doors or windows were painted on the tin just like the fireplace as well as any room d├ęcor such as painted walls and pictures in frames. That meant when Christmas came around I had to do some freelancing. I took construction paper and crayons and went to work. I designed a wreath for the door and a Christmas tree for the living room and put construction paper stockings hanging from the fireplace painted on the tin wall. My home looked lovely. Santa always came!

Another perk of being a homeowner was the ability to invite any friends over that I wanted to even  friends who were so big they couldn't fit inside my home. That didn't matter. My teddy bear and dolls gathered outside and joined in. Whatever was going in in my house, they were included in the fun with the pretend plastic family living inside those tin walls.

A dollhouse is so much more than walls and rooms. A dollhouse can be wood or tin or plastic. It can be ranch style, castle style, treehouse style, town house style, beach style or chateau. Style does not matter. It is the imagination of the homeowner that matters. Their home becomes their field of dreams. What better gift could they receive. than a dollhouse.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

I Think I Found Christmas

I’d ridden by the Amish farmhouse with Christmas wreaths displayed on the front porch a few days earlier. The contrast of red bows against off-white clapboards caught my eye. I didn’t have time to stop but I knew I’d get back there. And I did earlier this morning despite the zero-degree temperature and a light snow making the less travelled, winding road a little slippery. But that didn’t stop me. There was something about that simple house with corn shocks gathered in a nearby field and those wreaths on display in the cold that made me feel like Santa lived there.

I noted tracks leading from the barn to the road. They were from the wheels of a buggy and a horse pulling it. I noted footsteps in the snow. Someone was off somewhere early. Maybe the North Pole?  Thoughts of that someone out in the freezing cold made me hurry along a shoveled path leading to the front porch where the wreaths were hanging from nails. Aromas of cedar and pine and something baking inside brought me back to the times when I was a little girl visiting my grandparents at their farmhouse; especially this time of the year; the time of cinnamon and nutmeg; wreaths being made in the kitchen; an old Singer sewing machine humming and my grandfather’s saw creating surprises like a pine desk complete with a stool-my most favorite Christmas gift ever.

Swirls of snow dancing over drifts took my breath away as I knocked on the door. I could hear a baby crying. I could hear a little one running around. When the door opened I was greeted by a young Amish woman holding the baby. She didn’t invite me in. We stood there looking at each other until I asked about the wreaths. I was told they weren’t for sale. They were a special order. That’s when the baby really started crying. It was just too cold. The mother asked me in while she tended to her little one. The minute I stepped inside I felt as if I was back at the farmhouse where I spent endless hours as a child.  I felt as if my grandparents were there. In a way, they were as the floor creaked and the wind edged its way in between cracks and aromas of yeast and currants and kneaded dough and spices swirling from an oven brought to mind my Grandmother’s Christmas bread. Could it be that’s what was in the oven? Anything was possible. Christmas was coming.

A few minutes later I was asked to sit down at the table. The baby was sleeping. The toddler was peeking at me. We exchanged names. We talked. I learned the other children were at school. Watching her finagle her many duties brought me back to when my children were young. It seemed like yesterday. And yet, it seemed like an eternity. She disappeared for a minute only to return with her arms loaded down with boughs of cedar and pine. She explained she had to finish that special order. Watching her gather her materials reminded me of the times I’d do the same when I had a minute, only I’d be gathering pads of paper with scribbles I hoped to turn into a story if I had the time.

I decided I’d stayed long enough. This mother was trying to create with duties all around her. I stood, telling her I had to get back home.

“I would like you to take a wreath. Pick anyone you’d like, except for the large one, off the porch.”

I told her I wouldn’t take one if she didn’t accept money for it. We made a deal and minutes later I was walking along that shoveled path holding on to a precious wreath of pine and cedar with a red bow and pine cones made by what could have been an elf in disguise if you took in account her spirit of giving.

Driving down that narrow, slippery road I noticed a buggy being pulled by two horses coming towards me. As we were about to pass I felt chills going down my spine. If I didn’t know better the older gentleman in that buggy could have been Santa Claus. I mean he really looked like Santa Claus with wire-rimmed glasses and a beard as white as snow flying in the breeze and a twinkle in his eyes and a smile that made me feel like it was Christmas morning. I saw deer running in the woods. I bet they were on their way to the North Pole. I mean, it’s Christmas.