Sunday, October 11, 2015

Cornfields and Mr. Rogers

Mr. Rogers once said, "Play is really the work of childhood." Growing up in the country my cousins and I were playing all the time. Not with toys, but outside, taking advantage of what nature provided us every season of the year. We never went to Disneyland. We never even thought to ask to go. Why would we. We had our own theme park. In the winter we'd be skating on the creek just out back and down the hill. It didn't matter how cold it was. That never stopped us. We'd even be down there skating at night. With the moon above and the stars glistening that was the best time of all to go skating on that old creek that turned into a waterway in the summertime-providing us even more fun as we'd guide our rafts made from telephone poles on endless adventures. It was named Sucker Creek for a reason. Whenever any of those suckers got on our rafts we'd take our steel poles used for steering the rafts and cast them back into the murky water.

Fall proved to be just as much fun especially with cornfields spreading out as far as we could see. It was the cornfield next to our grandparents' farmhouse that got most of our attention. Being little, it seemed massive. Once we entered it, we disappeared which is probably what we wanted to do so no adults could see us as we each found our spot and made homes in the corn. We'd move cornstalks aside-bring them down and then stomp on them until we felt we had enough space. Then we'd create a kitchen-a living room-a bedroom with a cornstalk bed. We'd play in the middle of the cornstalks for what seemed like hours. We'd visit each other. Create imaginary friends. We'd even spy on adults not too far away. Besides making our homes, we had fun just running through the field. We were making corn mazes long before it was a popular thing to do. Running as fast as we could, most times we'd keep our eyes shut and our heads down because the leaves on those stalks were sturdy. They'd whip us in the face-scratch us most anywhere we weren't covered up but that never stopped us. That was the price we had to pay for playing in those tall stalks with funny tassels at their tops waving in the breeze.

Our grandfather never said a thing about the crushed cornstalks in the middle of that field when it was time for harvesting them. But then, he never said a thing about our hosting circuses in the barn or sitting on his tractor and pretending to take it out back-down the hill-and across the plank bridge to the backfields. Maybe we amused him with our playing. Maybe he understood what Mr. Rogers was saying about Play. We certainly did. We were quite serious about our work no matter the season..

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Stories Told In Braided Rugs

Funny what you remember growing up. At the time it might have seemed insignificant but looking back some of those memories prove priceless. My grandmother filled what little idle time she had using her hands to create. Crocheting to sewing-to braiding rugs-it didn't matter. In the evening she'd sit in her chair and her hands became her instruments. That generation never wasted time. There was no time to waste. Little did she realize that some of what she created would live on to tell her story-a family story-to generations that would follow. That especially rang true of her braided rugs.

Growing up we were aware that no garment was too old to be considered a candidate in one of her braided rugs. Before anything was thrown out, it would go to my grandmother. She would make the decision if it would get that second chance. More often than not, it survived her test. After that initial 'interview' a garment would be stripped of buttons, zippers, bias tape, rick rack-anything that could be recycled and used again. From this process came a great collection of zippers and tape and a button bag brimming with buttons of all colors and sizes. That bag came in handy when we'd play, "Button! Button! Who Has the Button!" Once the garment was clear of bobbles, my grandmother would cut and rip it into strips. Then the strips were rolled into a ball until there were enough balls of strips of fabric from other garments to braid together and create a rug. It was common to see her sitting in her chair with strips of fabric spread out on the floor and as she wove them all together the strips became shorter and shorter. Her rugs were like the storyline in Goldilocks and the Three Bears. There were small rugs-medium-size rugs-and great big rugs. When one was finished, it would sit on the floor for awhile so it could be stepped on to eventually get the stitching evened out.

Those rugs provided my cousin and I with a game of seek and find. Lying on the floor, we'd inspect new rugs created-looking to see if we could recognize any old pieces of clothing woven in to place. It was fun finding what we'd considered something old and tattered given new life and a place center stage for all to see for years to come. Discovery led to stories about that garment-who it belonged to-certain times when it had been worn. When my aunt who lived with my grandmother passed away years after we'd lost my grandmother, those rugs were given to family members. Those stories continue to be told. Included in the stories are memories of the woman who'd created the braided rugs while sitting in her rocking chair-using her hands as instruments-weaving stories that will never be forgotten.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Discarded Underwoods

I grew up using a typewriter. I must have been eight or nine when I'd take my brother's typewriter into my room-shut the door-and spend what seemed like hours at my pine desk my grandfather made me one year for Christmas typing my stories. The typewriter was the last stage of my process as I'd have the stories written out on lined paper and ready to go under my penname of Maggie O'Shea. I often wonder whatever happened to those early masterpieces or the notebooks with my scribbles. Or that typewriter my brother never knew I borrowed without asking.

The use of notebooks continued as I grew up. And so did the use of typewriters. I loved the process-the art of typing. Loved the sound of keys hitting the paper and the bell dinging at the end of a line telling me to pull the shift arm to go back and begin another line. White out was a blessing. If I didn't have any I'd go looking for an eraser. If I couldn't find an eraser I would pull that particular sheet of paper out-put a new one in and start all over. That never bothered me. That was the way it worked back then.

When computers started edging their way from offices in to homes, my daughters told me over and over I should buy one. That way I could store all my material and when comfortable I could use one to not only write my stuff but send it, tweet it, zoom it around the world if I wanted to. At first, I had no interest. I still had my typewriter in its case although typewriter ribbons were getting harder to find. I still loved using legal pads to write out whatever I was working on-and then rewrite it using my typewriter. I had a system. I'd never have use for a computer. Not me!

Now I can't imagine writing without using a computer. I started reluctantly with a laptop after my daughters kept at me. I wouldn't admit it, but I fell in love with that thing the minute I turned it on. After a few instructions I was on my own. I was told I couldn't break it. I was advised to save stuff as I went along. They were right. I haven't broken anything yet. I am now tweeting and writing and saving and shifting sentences and deleting and downloading and amazed by the time I save and curious as to what I ever did without my computer.

I wonder if some day I'll find a discarded antique called a computer decaying next to a barn with no one to care about it but the meadow moles and chipmunks and rabbits as rain turns to snow and the wind swirls about its silent keyboard.