Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Card Houses on Braided Rugs

When I was young my cousin and I would play on this braided rug made by my grandmother. It was the biggest of her braided rugs in the home she and my grandfather built once they sold the farm. Sometimes we'd spread out on all fours and try to figure out what garments owned by family members had been woven into the strips of fabric that we were playing on. Creating a braided rug-especially such a large one, was quite the undertaking. Besides preparing the braided strips, our grandmother had to clean the garments and strip them of buttons and zippers. But none of that mattered to us when we discovered those braided rugs were a great place on which to play. And when it came time to find some packs of playing cards and create our card houses, that huge braided rug was the perfect place to do it. The little grooves the rug provided gave us anchors for our creations.

We'd both start by leaning two cards firmly together. After that, we were on our own in designated areas atop the rug. There were no instructions. No plans included inside the pack. It was up to each of us to construct the biggest-most ingenious card houses ever. Sometimes designs would spread out horizontally and then up. Others would just go up and up and up. Some would have garages. Others chimneys. Some had sidewalks or streets out in front of them. Very often card fences enclosed the structures. They were quite the site. No two places were ever alike. Once the building part was complete, the playing began. We'd visit each other in our card homes. Park our cars on the card street. Climb the card fences. Go for a walk on the card sidewalk or ride our bikes or skip our jump ropes. If we were hungry we'd go inside to our card kitchens for lunch. If we got tired, we'd take a nap on our card bed. We had so much fun. But most always that fun abruptly ended when our card creations came crashing down-by our own doing or someone opening a door and creating a breeze or someone moving the rug or an older brother playing demolition derby atop that beautiful braided rug.
(Shown in the photo-2 of my children 'just a few years ago' with their dog)

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Old Enamel Chairs

It's that time again. People are bringing out their lawn furniture put in storage before the snow arrived late last fall. As they empty garages, sheds and barns, each piece is given a good look over. While most will be cleaned and set back in place by pools, in yards and on porches, others might need a fresh coat of paint. And still, some chairs and tables and chaise lounges might be tossed out and replaced by something new and shiny. These days, fancy swings and gliders come with all sorts of gadgets. Sometimes they look more comfortable than they really are.

My mother bought wooden lounge chairs dressed in a canvas stripe pattern. If you picked a chair up, you could move a rung on the bottom to adjust the angle of the chair. The further back the rung was put, the further back you could lay. Those chairs were great for catching some rays. Except for a hammock-style swing that went side-to-side, those chairs were about as fancy as any outdoor furniture came back then.

I don't have any fancy types of outdoor furniture. My taste goes back to when my grandparents lived on the farm. Of course times were different then. Gadgets weren't included. But no one cared. And either do I. I can still see white enamel chairs sitting outside the farmhouse. My grandmother would sit in one as she shucked peas or cut up green beans or did mending or brushed hair. I always liked the enamel chairs. They were fun to sit in when just a kid. You could rock back and forth and try to catch yourself before falling over.

My old enamel chairs are out of the barn. They have been cleaned off. They are sitting under the maple tree waiting to be enjoyed as spring moves towards summer. While I don't rock back and forth in them anymore, my granddaughter does. We laugh as she tries catching herself before falling over. Old enamel chairs don't need gadgets. They're fun all by themselves!

Sunday, March 27, 2016

The Easter Bunny in the Rock Wall

For a few years now my granddaughter and I have been tracking a bunny we've seen out back-by the barn, hiding in the garden and disappearing in the rock wall. My granddaughter has always felt the bunny is no ordinary bunny. She's convinced it is the Easter Bunny.

We didn't see the bunny all last summer or fall. But a few weeks ago when her little brother was here for an overnight, we both saw the bunny by the rock wall. We were so excited. I'd thought the worst had happened but the bunny proved me wrong. Adding to the excitement of seeing bunny, I'm certain I saw a few little ones skampering along beside her.

Last evening, the night before Easter, with the geese flying and the sun setting over the fields, I went out back for a walk. I didn't get very far. As I came up the incline near the rock wall, I was astonished to find colorful Easter eggs lying in the grass. They were beautiful-sparkling-magical under the glow of the sun disappearing. Something told me these were not your ordinary Easter eggs. Slowly I bent down and touched one. It was a little wet. At that moment, I heard a scurrying by the rock wall. I turned and out of the corner of my eye I caught a glimpse of a white, puffy tail. I knew it was our bunny.

That's when I realized my granddaughter was right. Our bunny really is the Easter Bunny and our bunny was getting ready to go hippity hop-hopping down the Bunny trail. She'd painted the eggs and put them in the grass to dry. I'm sure she has more eggs and tons and tons of candy packed and ready to go.

You see, when you believe like a child believes, even a little bunny living out back in the rock wall really, really can be the Easter Bunny.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Clicking Easter Shoes on Sidewalks

When I was growing up it seemed as if it was always warm outside when Easter came around. I'm certain I remember green grass, flowers blooming and the sidewalks bare. Having sidewalks bare was about as important as a basket full of candy. That's because Easter was the ultimate day for dressing up. Everything was brand new-the fancy dress, the fancy hat and white gloves, and shoes that would make a clicking sound when being pranced about the sidewalk.

Lucky for us we were blessed with a downtown full of stores. One in particular was a shoe store owned by my uncle. He carried all the latest styles for Easter. Everything from patent leather to saddle shoes. And if the shoes chosen needed polishing at some point, my mother made sure she had white liquid shoe polish in the cupboard. We never ran out of the polish since my mother was a nurse and needed to keep her duty shoes white.

So the shoe store was the first stop. It was usually busy with everyone out shopping. After the shoes were bought, wrapped, and ready to go, we went further down the street to a sprawling department store offering frilly dresses, some with layers of crinoline, shiny buttons, or matching jackets. If the weather was cool, a coat might have been added to the mix. Even more fun than picking out the dress was trying on all the hats. There were hats with pretty fabric flowers. Hats with long tassels. Hats with netting. Small hats. Hats that looked like a square box and hats that looked like a summertime sun hat. Once the hat was chosen, gloves, a purse and fancy socks were selected.

When we made it back home, everything was put carefully away until Easter. And when that day came, on went my dress with layers of crinoline. Then the fancy socks and sparkling white shoes and fancy hat usually kept in place by bobby pins. Topping everything off were my pretty gloves. Then I'd open the door and the Easter parade began. My fancy shoes would click and click on the sidewalk as up and down I went. I loved my clicky shoes. Only problem was they never stayed white for very long.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

The Old Music Box Sitting By The Front Door

Right as you come in the front door of our home sits an antique table and on top of that table sits a small collection of things-all treasures in one way or another. I can't say why something ends up there. I do know every single piece offers meaning as you enter the old place that used to be part of a working farm but has long since ceased operation. Perhaps the most interesting and most popular item on that oblong table, judging by my little granddaughter's reaction, is the antique music box.

I don't know how I ended up with the family heirloom. My grandmother must have given it to me at one point because I do recall talking about it with her-asking questions, rewinding it over and over. I remember the music box sitting on top of bookshelves in the living room of the smaller home where my grandparents moved after selling their farmhouse. But how and when it came into my possession is a blur. I'm just glad it did. Now, whenever I come in the house or walk by it, I am happy to see it sitting there amongst the old candlesticks and crocks and tins and a rock with the word, "Welcome", painted on it. More often than not, I think back to those times when I was young and loved turning the key on the bottom to listen to Lara's Theme. My granddaughter does the same. Sometimes she'll carefully pick it up and take it into the living room where she'll ask me to play the pretty song. A "few" times I've told her a little bit about the movie associated with Lara's Theme. She knows I went to see it more than once. She knows about the pretty woman and the doctor walking into what looks like an ice castle and how they travelled by sleigh to get there.

Out of curiosity I looked up Reuge-the maker of the music box. It is a family business with its beginnings based in Sainte-Croix, Switzerland, started in the late 1800s. To learn the music box has roots reaching back to the Alps didn't surprise me. I don't know why but I knew there were museums located in that region dedicated to music boxes and singing birds. I love history. To me, everything has a history-a story. Even a little music box now sitting by my front door and when you wind it up, it plays a most beautiful love song.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Whiskey slings to the rescue

Growing up I never understood how my mother could get irked by my father. To me, he was near perfect. He had a sense of humor. He never yelled at us. He always gave us whatever we asked for. Over summer vacation, I'd stay up and watch the late movie with him. My father most always fell asleep. When we were old enough he'd let us drive his old funeral van around the backfields. Once I had my license he let me take whatever car was in the driveway.

One week night when I was in my freshman year of high school, my mother had to go somewhere with one of her sisters. She left my father in charge. The only problem was he had a cold. I had a cold too but it didn't seem to matter. My father was the one sick. He was the one sneezing and blowing his nose. I was too but he retreated to his bed-covering himself up and telling me to turn the heat up because he was chilled. I told him I was too. My father didn't answer. Instead he asked for another blanket. After I got my younger sister and brother to bed I was going to go to bed as well. But that proved impossible. My father had a cold! Stop the world. He was sick!  When I brought him a second blanket I stepped on tissues he'd thrown on the floor. That was it for me. I'd had it. I was irked! I remembered something my grandmother told me after my grandfather had been sick.

Going to the kitchen, I took out a bottle of whiskey. After pouring a good amount of the stuff into a glass, I filled it the rest of the way with very hot water. I added a bit of lemon and nutmeg, stirred it and took it to my father. He loved it! The drink warmed him up. It even cleared the stuffiness in his nose and head. He wanted another. I made it in a flash. When I went back in the bedroom, my father was laughing. He'd thrown off the blankets and was sitting up. Once he drank his second whiskey sling, he started yawning and giggling at the same time. I told him it was time to go to sleep. I covered him up and turned the light out. I think my father was snoring before I reached the kitchen.

When my mother returned, she asked me if I'd had any problems getting my brother and sister to bed. I remember staring at her. She asked me what was wrong. I told her about the whiskey slings and what a pain my father had been.

"He's just a man," she explained. "And when a man is sick, he becomes a baby. Good idea giving him those drinks!"

After that night, I'd sometimes find myself more understanding of my mother when she'd get irked at my father. Especially when he was sick!

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

The Howl of A Train

Like so many small communities, my hometown had a functioning train depot many years ago. I don't remember much about it nor do I recall the trains coming and going. I've seen photos and heard stories and understand its history-a history wrapped about our country's history of growing and expanding with people taking the rails to travel-with industries using the trains to ship their goods.
I took the above photo of our train depot more than a few years ago. At that point in time, it'd been closed down. Travelling by train was becoming a thing of the past. Unfortunately my hometown lost this piece of history to a fire. Gone went its marble floors and the hustle and bustle. But one thing that hasn't disappeared is the howling of trains passing in the night.

Living about an hour from Ottawa and two hours from Montreal on the U.S. Canadian border along the St. Lawrence River we are blessed by the howling of trains on the Canadian side drifting over the river, chugging along day and night, 365 days a year. Their rail system is strong. Their depots in hometowns all along the way are open for business.

When I was growing up in the country, my cousin and I spent so much time outside playing and skating on the creek. Many evenings we'd skate under the stars. Even when it was snowing and blowing we'd be down there swirling about the ice. Eventually we'd find ourselves lying atop the ice-talking and laughing. But when that chugging and clanking and howling of a train passing by echoed over the river, over fences, through the fields and trees, we'd stop our talking and laughing and listen. I remember imagining who was on that train. I wondered where they were going. I found myself wanting to go along for the ride. In some ways, I did. Imaginations are wonderful.

I can still hear the trains. They are still passing by over the river. They wake me up. They put me to sleep. They stop me in my tracks. They hypnotize me. They make me feel happy. They can make me feel sad. Whatever my mood, they still make me wonder who is on them and where they are going. Business men. Business women. Families. Lovers. The lonely. I'll never meet them but they feel like old friends. They bring me back to those star-filled evenings skating on the creek with my cousin. Talking. Laughing. Sharing stories until the howling echo drifted over the land silencing us.

They make me long for a depot lost to a fire and a simpler time when a community along a river was serviced by trains coming and going-singing their soulful songs.