Saturday, September 24, 2011

Gone Fishing

Fishing down at the creek consisted of either a bamboo pole or very long stick with string and at the end of the string a safety pin left wide open in order to hook-something. I don't think we'd ever seen an actual fish in the murky water that flowed behind the four houses in a row but that didn't matter when you are determined fishermen-and we were determined. Either casting our string while surrounded by creek grass standing on the shoreline or casting while standing on the edge of the rickety plank bridge that connected the backfields, we tried with all our might to get that string as far out into the creek as we could. Usually it ended up tangled in weeds or right back next to us.

Determined we remained; excited by the old cans we'd catch or masses of guck and goo. We never did catch a fish but we sure had lots of fun trying and that's what it's all about when your a little kid playing in the country.

Hair Combs

In the evening my grandmother would sit in her rocking chair by the front window surrounded by African Violets and Geraniums and slowly take the combs out of her waist-length hair. As she'd talk she'd pull the combs through her grey locks. There was something reassuring watching my grandmother do this; sitting there surrounded outside by the acres she and my grandfather had farmed for years. She represented tradition. She spoke for those who came before us; sharing their stories so we'd be able to share them with future generations. We'd hear about her days of living in the farmhouse with six daughters, parents, and a hard-working husband who in the evening would chew tobacco as he sat in the front parlor and read. We'd hear about the barn and favorite horses and bringing the hay in from the back fields.

When she was finished combing her hair she would put the combs in her lap and gather the hair together in a ponytail. Then she'd do a few twists, pulling the hair up on her head into a bun,

securing it only with the hair combs. Her hair always stayed in that bun. No matter what she did the combs never fell out. I've tried doing that but it's never worked like it did for my grandmother. She had a magic twist I have yet to master.

To think of the money we spend on our hair. Between coloring and glitzing and streaking and shaping so much money goes into maintaining hair.
My grandmother did it with a few plastic combs. To me she was the most beautiful woman I'd ever known. Her beauty and strength came from within with her hair always gathered in a bun; something I could count on to be a constant despite the world changing around me and despite my growing up from that little girl watching her comb her hair in the evening while she sat in her rocker to the teenager stopping in to see what kinds of cookies she'd baked to the adult bringing my own children to visit this woman with long hair gathered in a bun and arms outstretched to greet us. Priceless!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Carrot Picnics

My grandparents had a few gardens but the one I remember most spread alongside the farmhouse. Being a kid I can't remember who cleared and worked the field in early spring or who planted the field later on but I do remember sitting with my cousin amongst the rows of carrots in that field-and eating as many of them as we could. I have no clue how long we sat there or how many times we sat there. Nothing like that mattered. I just knew every time we did sit in the carrot patch, great fun and a delicious meal were seconds away. If we pulled on a carrot and the top broke lose leaving the carrot in the ground, we'd dig deep into the soil all around it with our fingers and patiently free that carrot for our quick consumption.

There were no hoses to clean the vegetables off back then but even if there had been we wouldn't have taken time to use them. You see, we firmly believed a fresh, vibrant carrot coming out from the soil was about the best tasting experience to be had when young and carefree. Oh we cleaned the dirt off them. We probably wiped them on our shirt or pants but that was it. We sat there in the shade of tall poplar trees and had our own private carrot picnics.

This went on throughout the summer-right up to when the long shadows of Autumn interrupted our parade; straight through the harshness of winter and piles of snow; straight through to the following spring when someone would clear and work the field and someone would plant carrots, squash, corn, beans, beets, onions and so much more-and two little cousins would once again sit in that garden in the summer breeze and eat those carrots right out of the ground!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

The Yellow School Bus

Despite believing with my whole heart that Summer would never end when growing up in the country, September brought reality with the return of the yellow school bus. After what felt like a century-long time lapse devoted to playing down at the creek-pretending and swinging on the rope with its big knot-going out and around and over the creek and sometimes in it and riding on telephone pole rafts off on great adventures from one bank of that sucker-filled creek to the other; climbing into the hay lofts of our grandfather's old barn and walking across the rickety, wooden planks going from one hayloft to the other; spending hours day after day in our chicken coop clubhouse pretending, creating, reading, writing,and producing great circuses and art shows which the adults, I am sure, loved attending-it happened-that yellow school bus was once again coming around the bend of the road to pick us up and take us back to that other world we'd left behind so very long ago.

Riding daily on a school bus forges unspoken friendships. Watching kids saying good-bye as they'd walk down driveways or wave to moms standing by the side of the road, you felt like you really knew these kids while most times you hardly ever spoke to each other. Usually everyone sat in the same place. Bigger kids seemed to gravitate to the back. No matter where you sat, the bumps felt along the way would pop you right up in your seat and cause uncontrollable laughter.

The bus driver was conveniently a bit deaf so he was oblivious to the chatter going on behind him. Returning home was noisier. Anticipation was usually the cause especially when the creek and the barn and fields and our chicken coop clubhouse were waiting! To this day when I see someone who'd ridden that yellow school bus with me I feel a special bond and remember them as those half-awake little kids climbing aboard a big yellow school bus from that first day in September to the last lazy, hazy summer day in June.