Sunday, February 24, 2013

Buttons and Bows

Over the years relatives would tell me how I used to love the song, "Buttons and Bows." Some would say whenever I heard that song, I would start dancing which probably meant I jumped up and down and all around. I'd also been told my love for the song led to my liking bows in my hair. I guess I had a whole collection of them and liked to change them several times during the day.When I came across this photo I considered it evidence to what I'd been told although looking at those bows I wonder why I had to have them so big!

Besides being evidence of my love of bows, this photo also shows me with an aunt who called me 'Button.' She never married but considered her nieces and nephews as her own. She was always there for each and every one of us. She never missed a birthday. She took us to church and shopping. We would sit around the kitchen table and listen to her stories of when she was a little girl, growing up with five sisters and living on the farm. We loved gathering with her for Sunday morning breakfast; loved sitting around 'talking Christmas' as that day was approaching. We'd beg her for hints as to what was wrapped inside a present. We'd shake them and make guesses. While she'd smile and say 'maybe' she kept us in suspense right through Christmas morning.

Her idea of a great time was, on occasion, going out for breakfast. She savored that second cup of coffee. She'd take extra packets of sugars and those little containers of jam and put them in her purse to be enjoyed back home. She wasn't a fancy chef like a few of her sisters but she mastered a great cole slaw.That aunt was also quite the athelete. As evidence in the photo, she took us swimming whenever she could. She'd get home from work at five; change and take us across the road and down to the river. She was a graceful swimmer. We'd watch as she tucked her long hair under her white cap; then stand on a rock and dive into the water. She also took us skiing. The best part about that was stopping for hot chocolate with saltine crackers. Sometimes it's the simple things we remember the most-and nicknames like, 'Button', that stay in our hearts long after the bows are gone.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Childhood Field of Dreams

If we're lucky we have a place rooted in our childhood that was a most magical place-a place stirred not by computers or plastic devices-but rather by imaginations set free to explore and pretend; wonder and soar. I've gone on and on about my 'field of dreams.' I've written about my grandfather's barn, the chicken coop clubhouse, the granary, water pipes strung on poles from the pumphouse to the barn, the farmhouse, the pastures and fields. I've told you about our rafts made from telephone poles; how there was one for the boys and one for the girls and how we'd forge our way around the creek on those rafts from one port to another on grand adventures.While this was my field of dreams, any place that ignites wonder and imagination when growing up is a field of dreams.

This past week I went back there-back to that straight away on that country road where the barn, granary, chicken coop, and farmhouse sat. I wanted to take a picture to show you all that is visibly left of my childhood Disney World-my very own 'field of dreams.' And there it is-the barn's silo. While the farmhouse is still there (not shown)-it's no longer owned by the family and no longer looks at it did back then. The screened-in veranda is gone; along with most all of the poplar trees that lined the cinder driveway.

But all of that is fine. I am well aware things change, but I am also well aware that if we grow up inspired and our imaginations are stirred to wonder and pretend then no matter how things change as we grow up, we still have all of that marvelous stuff-that wonder and that pretending and that igniting of imaginations-in our hearts. We can go there anytime. We can tap back into feelings-hopes and dreams-pure joy and wonder. We need all of that sometimes as adults-sometimes as we get bogged down by life and the wonder fades and dreams are put back in the cupboard.

As I look at that silo, I see me playing with my cousins and I see families gathering and families growing and changing. While that silo is passed by every day, most likely considered yet another remnant left in a field of another time-I see it as a testimony to two people who fell in love, worked the fields, raised a family, tended the gardens, tilled the soil; grew old together and left their mark on those of us who follow. A silo is just a silo-until it's wrapped up in childhood memories.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

When Snowstorms were just Snowstorms

All the recent news about snowstorms, blizzards, and Nor'Easters got me thinking about snowstorms of long ago on the family farm and how they survived. After all, there were no 24-hour news outlets; no weather channels sending out alerts and updates and warnings to stay off the roads or informing the public that airports and train terminals were closed or what pin-pointed time one could expect a surge in snowfall or when high wind velocities would blow through or if ice was expected to cover anything and everything. No news casters were sent out with a camera crew to capture the storm before, during, and after it struck. No Anderson Cooper-types or young women reporters with perfect make-up and designer snow gear were hunkered down in my grandfather's pasture measuring the snow drifts or standing by the creek bed documenting the snow ripping across the backfields for all the world to see. And if there had been-no one would have cared because everyone back then was getting ready. Even if they'd had a radio; even if they had a TV or access to a blog, they didn't need someone telling them what to do.They knew what they had to do.
 
While there was wood to be brought in from the shed and stacked, there was no mad dash to the grocery store-if there had been a grocery store-because the farm was self-sufficient with a root cellar and lots of canned vegetables. Eggs and milk were fresh as were meats and poultry. There were no gyms back then unless you considered the barn to be its equal as bales of hay and sacks of grain and milk cans had to be lifted and snow had to be shoveled and animals cared for and ice had to be sawed and hauled from the river to the barn for storage in sawdust-all carried out without the use of cell phones or ipads or electronic lifts or snowblowers. Work was work and it was hard and never-ending. That's probably why so many of those who came before us and endured 'storms of the century' lived to a good old age. They really worked. They didn't sit at computers. They didn't eat processed foods.
 
And after the storm moved on, kids would go out and play-turning snowdrifts into forts and castles and tunnels to crawl through and hide in. They'd slide down or roll down or run down the mighty white mountains. Snow would be collected and when they'd go back inside to warm up in front of the woodstove, real maple syrup would be poured over the freshly fallen,-non-polluted snow-and enjoyed! Seems to me the faster we go nowadays-the more we lose!

Sunday, February 3, 2013

My father-the Parts I Never Knew

My father was a funeral director. He was very good at what he did but there were parts of him I never knew when growing up. By the time he became a father those parts had disappeared. I think that's normal as we grow older and responsibilities come along. I know I was determined to keep my hair down to my waist and listen to my records forever-but that certainly has gone to the wind  As far as my father goes-from what I can put together-those parts I never knew seemed to have stayed with him right up to the point of his buckling down and going to school. After that, he got married, bought a house, and started to have a family-that time of life when those responsibilities set in.

I remember hearing how he used to have a horse called Colonel. When I came across this photo I realized I was looking at my father riding his horse. He looks so content with Colonel-a natural for sure. Funny thing though, he is wearing a tie-something he always did even if he was going to the post office or the grocery store. I remember before we moved to the country I found a saddle in our attic-the very saddle in this picture. I didn't understand it was my father's. My brother and I would sit and play on it-take turns going for 'long rides' in the attic or playing out imaginary adventures where our horse saved us every time! After we moved, I never saw that saddle again.

An even more interesting side to my father is the fact he was known as a 'singing' waiter when he was in his teens. There was a restaurant where he'd wait on table on the weekends and sing as he moved from one table to the next. Young women would flock to the place just to hear him. They had a nickname for him. Still to this day women come up to me who knew my father back then. They tell me-with a little glint in their eyes-just how good he really was. That was back in the era of Frank Sinatra-back when crooners made the young girls swoon-something I think 'Nookie' did as he waited on those tables in that restaurant that has since been torn down.

Too bad as kids we don't understand our parents are so much more than parents-but then, as kids, we don't understand a lot of stuff-and maybe that's a good thing!