Monday, May 31, 2010

Woman On Mower

A favorite picture. Mom in her straw hat riding the mower. How she managed to mow between the legs of the old swing set with a swing intruded on by the little red tractor is beyond me. This is the same woman who managed to back the car into the barn. Now she was maneuvering like a pro. Obviously, she would have done better with a compact car.
Mowing the yard was a weekly event in the Loxley family. Every Saturday the mower came out along with our designated mowing duties. I vaguely remember the old push mower that had a big roller at the back. I was too little to push it, but when the first gas powered push mower came into being, I was thrilled. Now I could be part of the Saturday team.  I had come of age.

I mowed until the gas ran dry. Dad would lug the big can out to the yard refilling the tank. He pulled the rope and once more I was in business. At the end of the day, I would come into the house with grass on my legs and feet and my shoes tinged green. Never did I consider it a chore. I sang at the top of my lungs pushing that mower round and round the circle of grass surrounded by the gravel driveway. At first, Dad mowed around the trees, not trusting me to keep my feet from beneath the mower. Later, I would gain new trust and responsibility tackling the tedious as well as the mundane.

When I married, we bought a mini-farm not far from my parents. My city-boy husband needed a riding mower. A transfer to Wisconsin from our little place on Teagues South Road meant that our new mower would not be needed on our tiny, new lawn. It was then that Mom and Dad found new joy in mowing.




On one visit home, Dad gave my son permission to mow with the old rider. James mowed and mowed that day loving the fact that he was turned loose with a motor and a steering wheel. When he was finished, Dad told him to pull it into the barn. My town-raised son didn’t ask how to stop it, and his farm-born grandfather thought every boy knew how. I was watching when yelling came from the inside of the barn. Evidently, James had found the way to stop it was to run into the tractor in front of it.

The old rider would give way to a newer model, the one mom delighted in driving. The children and grandchildren stood watching this matriarch beam tackling the yard she had mowed for decades. A picture was snapped and a memory captured. No portrait sitting could have produced such a precious picture for this photo would give future generations a glimpse picture of their grandmother who wore her sense of humor, her tireless energy and gave her family pure delight.


                         Woman on Mower. A caption for a memory.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Roses

The fragrant smell of roses takes most of us back to another time, another place and sometimes to another person. The scent reminds me of a time when I wore Yardley Red Roses.

It was in the 60’s I gave up the fragrance when working for the encapsulation division of NCR. Barry Green was the inventor of encapsulation. I was secretary who was part of the experimental testing. Just so you know, encapsulation is the process that allowed copies to be made without carbon paper, the source of time-released capsules and a process that influenced many industries. I even have one of the very first mood rings. Again, heat reaction on capsules imbedded in the ring. Yardley wanted a product that introduced the fragrance to customers each time the cash register stamped out a receipt crushing the little capsules full of Yardley Red Roses. So I was put to the task of typing on various samples of coated paper to see which worked best with the perfume. The scent of roses filled the office, clung to my hands and began to make me nauseous. However, nothing could turn me away from the comforting scent of roses. The mild scent of summer’s eve, the memories of childhood or a favorite beau, the beauty that never ceases to draw us in. Roses. A reminder of Neff Road.

When I was growing up, roses were not tended. They rambled along fence rows enticing bees and little butterflies. They clung to the fences and the old wind mill beside the house. They sometimes ran wild in ditches.

After the house was remodeled and the garage added, flowerbeds added to both sides of the garage. On the east side of the house, she planted her roses. As with remodeling the house, she remodeled her roses. She and Dad checked them daily. They were tended and appreciated.

“Ruth, come out here and look at these roses,” Dad often called to Mom. Before cutting the roses to bring them into the house, they would appreciate them on the source.

Mom carried long stemmed, yellow roses on her wedding day. She wore a blue velvet dress, a golden cap and strappy shoes. We never saw a colored picture of the wedding, but we did see her dress. The yellow against the crushed velvet must have been beautiful. The scent of roses surrounded her on this special day. I remember once when Dad surprised Mom with a bouquet store-bought, yellow roses. This was a rare event. She cried.

Ah, summer, I sense your arrival in the fragrance of the huge, red roses that are blooming in my backyard. It is the rose season, the welcoming of a new season. The Portland Rose Festival opens next week.

“Grammy, can we go to the Rose Gardens,” asked Gabby last week. Oh, yes, we will go to the experimental garden teeming with many colors and varieties of roses.

Roses remind me of those days back the lane. The scent takes me home again and again. Yes, the fragrant roses and the stories that surround then will continue to bloom in this family of mine.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

The Old Pump

The old pump sat outside of the brick school house. Kids vied to pump water, women carried buckets for cooking and cleaning. Water was no longer drawn from a bucket dipped into a well. No, the handle was pumped, drawing the water to the spout as easily as turning on a faucet….well, almost as easily and a lot more fun for children.

I grew up with pumps as much a part of the landscape as were the barns that dotted the farms. Old pumps seldom used but still a standing reminder of the days when my parents attended a one-room school house and when hot water was achieved over a fire. Pumps stood outside of homes, next to barns and even outside of Painter Creek Church.

The pump stood sentry over a cement trough. I don’t know if the trough had any drainage. I do recall our trough at the old barn occasionally wore a blanket of moss. Brenda and I would ask Dad to put water in the trough so we could wear our flowered bathing suits enjoying our little outdoor pool. Rain that fell filled the wells and the troughs. Via the birds small tadpoles would sometimes find a new home in our little pool. The pump and trough were so much a part of our daily living that we forgot to notice.

On a trip long ago back to Neff Road, I took off with my camera to capture these remnants from the past. Some of the one-room school houses were now residences while some remained empty. Wells sat in the school yards unnoticed. My grandmother had taught in a one-room school house. I could envision her standing on the stoop of the old brick school sending her students out to play. A child would pump the old pump handle and small hands would cup gathering water for a cold, fresh drink.

The old pump is a reminder of simpler time, a time when children fought for the right to pump the handle, a time when women appreciated the handiness of a pump on the back porch, a time when small girls sat in the cool trough giggling, not realizing that they were sitting in a piece of history.

The old pump.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Down TV Memory Lane

We had a TV back the lane on Neff Road and loved it. The 1950’s was a time of change for the television broadcasting industry. We began watching shows like Abbott and Costello and stretched to the later 50’s and shows like 77 Sunset Strip. I thought it might be fun for you to revisit that time and the shows that drew us to the living room for a new kind of entertainment. One that not only had sound, but also had a picture.

I fell in love with all of the Warner Brothers cowboys: Sugarfoot, Bronco Lane, Marverick, etc. I didn’t miss one episode. Alfred Hitchcock scared the bejeebers out of me. What’s My Line entertained. Adventures In Paradise lured me to an island far away. The Honeymooners gave me a rather warped glimpse of New Yorkers. I could go on and on. But now it’s your turn.

Take a stroll through the 50’s once more. You will smile, remember and, best of all, be sitting in front of that old TV once more reliving those wonder years. The asterisk marks the shows I watched.

Enjoy!

20th Century Fox Hour
21 Beacon Street
26 Men
77 Sunset Strip*
77th Bengal Lancers
Abbott and Costello Show*
Adventures In Paradise*
Adventures Of Jim Bowie*
Adventures Of Ozzie And Harriet*
Adventures Of Superman*
Adventures Of Wild Bill Hickok*
African Patrol
Air Power
Alcoa Hour
Alfred Hitchcock Presents*
Ann Sothern Show*
Annie Oakley
Appointment With Adventure
Armstrong Circle Theatre
Assignment Foreign Legion
Bachelor Father*
Bat Masterson *
Betty Hutton Show
Black Saddle
Blondie*
Bonanza*
Boston Blackie
Bourbon Street Beat*
Brave Eagle
Broken Arrow*
Buccaneers
Buckskin
Burns And Allen Show*
The Californians
Captain Midnight
Cavalcade Of America
Cheyenne*
Circus Boy
Cisco Kid
Code 3
Colgate Comedy Hour
Colt 45
Commando Cody
Crossroads
The Crusader
December Bride*
Dennis The Menace*
The Deputy
The Detectives
Donna Reed*
Dragnet*
Ed Sullivan Show*
Father Knows Best*
Flash Gordon (1954)*
The Ford Show
Four Just Men
Four Star Playhouse
Frank Sinatra Show
Fury*
Gunsmoke*
Harbor Command
Harbour Master
Have Gun Will Travel*
Hawaiian Eye*
Hawkeye & the Mohicans
Hennesey
Hey, Jeannie
Honeymooners, The*
How to Marry a Millionaire
I Love Lucy*
I Married Joan
International Detective
Invisible Man, The (1958)
It's A Great Life
I've Got A Secret*
June Allyson Show*
Lassie *
Law of the Plainsman
Lawless Years
Lawman*
Leave It To Beaver*
Life And Legend Of Wyatt Earp*
Life Of Riley (1953)*
Love That Bob
Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour*
M Squad
Make Room For Daddy*
Man And The Challenge
Man Behind The Badge
Man Called X
Many Loves of Dobie Gillis*
Medic, The
Meet Mr. McNutley
Men Into Space
Mickey Rooney Show, The
Millionaire, The*
Mr. Adams & Eve
Mr. Lucky*
My Friend Flicka*
My Little Margie*
Naked City
Not For Hire
O.S.S.
Oh! Susanna*
One Step Beyond
Our Miss Brooks*
People's Choice, The
Perry Mason*
Peter Gunn*
Philip Marlowe
Private Secretary
Range Rider
Rawhide*
Real McCoys*
Rebel, The*
Red Skelton Show*
Rescue 8
Rifleman, The*
Rin Tin Tin (1954)*
Robin Hood (1955)*
Rocky King, Inside Detective
Roy Rogers*
Science Fiction Theatre
Sea Hunt*
Sgt. Bilko*
Sir Lancelot*
Sky King*
Sugarfoot*
Thin Man, The*
Third Man
This is Your Life*
Three Stooges
Tightrope
To Tell the Truth*
Tonight Show, The
Troubleshooters, The
Twilight Zone, The (1959)*
Untouchables, The (1959)*
Vise
Wagon Train*
Wanted: Dead Or Alive*
Western Marshall
Whirlybirds
White Hunter
Wonderful World of Disney*
Yancy Derringer*
You Asked For It
You Bet Your Life*
Your Show of Shows*
Zane Grey Theater*
Zorro (1957)*

Please share your comments and memories. I would love to hear from you.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Never Ending Melody

Homecomings come in unexpected places. Mine came when I walked into the Brethren Home in Greenville, Ohio. I had stopped by to visit those who had migrated from the Neff Road neighborhood to that of the Home. Those who could no longer care for themselves or who needed to downsize found a home there among friends.

“Mom is in the dining room,” said Brenda. Her mom had been there for several years. Her mom is my ‘mom’, too.

“Pam!” the calls rang across the room. All faces turned, faces I loved, faces from my past. The few remaining members of Painter Creek church were eating lunch at the Home with other members who could no longer make the journey to the country church. Familiar faces greeted me making me aware of those who were no longer in attendance.

A tall man with a face I had known from his father’s to his greeted me. “Remember band?” he said. “Didn’t you play alto sax?”

Of course, I did. I was second chair to his first. Duh! We had grown up as children in the church. His parents were some of those who watched over me. Alva, his dad was an usher all of the years I attended, and Pauline, his mother, was my pre-school Sunday School teacher. She grew to be my friend when I finally made it to adult status. In fact, she might be the one who served me my first cup of coffee at a church luncheon. His parents were now in their 90’s, the same 90 years shared by several others around the table.

Every time I returned home to Painter Creek Church, I was embraced by these people who had known me from infancy to grieving daughter. They were family. Their children, my brothers and sisters. They always remembered and welcomed me home.

I left after my visit to the Home going to the cemetery. I walked among relatives and friends, those gone for many years and some more recently. Memories clung to me begging me to take this walk with my grandchildren, telling them of those who carried me on my journey. Telling them the stories.

I cannot think of a day that I will not return to Neff Road. I cannot fathom being permanently separated from my roots, roots that reach to the bowels of the earth and stretch to the distant stars. There is a melody that sings on Neff Road. It never ends. It never ends.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Material for Another Story

I have been away from home for a few days and once more my computer would not work. I guess it was homesick. Forgive me.

A dreamer lived back Neff Road. She played with little toys beneath the dining room table, walked down the back lane to sit by the creek, swung alone in the barn hoping a mouse didn’t happen by. A dreamer was this child.

Why do I remember so many things from my past? Why are things of the past so important to me? Why does the dreamer dream? I’m sure that I am a carryover from the past. You know, the age when history was carried on from generation to generation by the storytellers. I’m not sure what constitutes a storyteller. I certainly wouldn’t put me up there with the wonderful tellers of tales that roamed Ireland or the Shaman who saw over his tribe. No one ever told stories to me yet in everything I saw, the story called to me.

I was once asked if I believed in reincarnation. How would I know? I am not all knowing. I am just a collector of life, a collector of today, yesterday and of potential tomorrows. A dreamer, a storyteller lived back the lane on Neff Road.

I am at the beach this week absorbing the Pacific Ocean and hanging with a good friend. We stood staring across the water.

“Does the ocean scare you?” she asked. “It scares me that it is so deep and full of things I can’t see.”

No, the ocean does not scare me. This great Pacific fascinates me. It draws me in with its mystery. I am humbled and cannot look away from its massive expanse.

Last night the wind gusted to 70mph and sometimes more. I opened the door to the condo and was pulled out almost flying over the railing six floors up. My friends grabbed the door and me.

“We thought we lost you. Your feet flew off the ground.”

Yes, for a few moments I thought I had lost me as well. This mighty storm, the roaring tide was telling me another story. A story of my vulnerability, a story of raging power, a story for another time.

We are all stories and storytellers in one way or another. As grandparents, it is our responsibility to hand on the past to the future, to keep alive a tradition that has brought us to this place. In remembering, in sharing, we give a gift to those who will tell the stories and keep them alive.

I am a dreamer. I am a grandmother. I was the child who lived back the lane on Neff Road, and this is my story.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Where Was I?

  • Today I'm asking readers to go to my other blog at www.agrandparentsvoice.com to learn of an anniversary well worth remembering. The anniversary of Mt. St. Helens eruption which happened the second year we lived in Oregon.

Thank you.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Unsent Greeting Cards

The tailless squirrel hops across my yard. The baby seems to have lost most of its tail either by birth or by being in the wrong place at the wrong time. The other squirrels try to attack the baby. Nature does not seem to accept differences, especially those caused at birth. What a darling baby! This is one pest that I will happily adopt.

He lived down the road with his mother. I’m not sure how old he was when first I became aware of him since I have only the memories of a child. They lived in the house next to Kayetta, but back then her new house was not there only the farm house. A couple of times a year, Irene would pull into the lane with her son Emerson all dressed up and ready for work. Mom sat patiently as Emerson opened his case full of greeting cards. He showed her all of the most recent designs. Of course, she ooohed and ahhhhed over them all. She was a pushovercustomer.

As always the visit would end with coffee and Mom’s most recent culinary achievement. Conversation included Emerson and his greeting card business as well as the health of the families and the comings and goings on Neff Road. Everything came to a standstill when Emerson came to call.

Emerson was born with a disability. He would never marry or live independently from his mother yet back in the 1950’s he was given community respect and support. His mother stood back and allowed him the pride of a working man. It was a lesson for the girl back the lane. A lesson for a girl, now woman, watching her tailless squirrel.

The people of Neff Road were kind. They understood that we were all one family. Whatever befell one of us affected us all. Emerson was not just Irene’s child but also the child of all who lived along the road.

Diana also lived on our road. I went to school with her brother and babysat for her sister’s daughters when I was older. When we had school parties, Diana was invited to join us. Again, she was another visitor back the lane. Her difference was not even noticed.

Maybe I like this little squirrel because I know that we are still all one family from Neff Road. We accept those who need acceptance. We support and cheer on those who accomplish the small achievements as well as those that gain recognition. We know that we have a responsibility to encourage and embrace the families who are challenged every day. I know because when Mother passed away, we found piles of old, unsent greeting cards.

We are Neff Road.

Friday, May 14, 2010

'Shopping' Back In Time

‘Shopping’ back in time. Yes, the antiques in Shipshewana were the draw, but Yoder’s store is a trove of the past tied to the present.

Tourists stop at Yoder’s when they visit this small town, but this is a store that provides staples for those who live in the county, the Amish. There are no racks of dresses here for the women. No, bolts of fabric line the walls and tables. Needlework hangs on spindles waiting to be completed. Straw hats for men and bonnets for women, along with darling small sizes for children, line the tables. Racks of aprons, some handmade, hang ready for the cook to purchase. Simple products for a simple life.

The other side of the store offers a different selection. Along with touristy items, toys and trinkets are rows and rows of canning supplies and heavy duty pans, cast iron skillets and utensils for country cooks. Two long shelves hold oil lamps, lamps to light the Amish homes. A butter churn, an apple corer and other items once used long ago are still needed in this community.

Handmade and commercially made Amish dolls sit waiting for a child’s embrace or a tourist’s curiosity. The dolls with faces are not true Amish dolls for Amish dolls have no faces only cherubic heads.

Going to Yoder’s is a treat, a step back into the old Neff Road backroom with the canning colander and press, the old tub filled with lye soap, the old lanterns hanging, waiting for use when the power to goes out.

I did come home with a souvenir. A bar of Grandma’s (pure and natural) Lye Soap sits next to my kitchen sink. According to the wrapper, it is highly recommended for dry skin and may ease the discomfort of psoriasis, eczema, acne and winter dry, itchy skin. I love the little note on the side that says:

Things folks use it for:
Poison Ivy-Oak
Any Rash or Hives
Insect bites (a little lather helps)
Hides human scent for hunters
Best for dirty-mouthed kids (just kidding)

To me, Yoder’s represents a time when my mother made things from scratch, a time when women toiled in the home from sun up until sun down, wearing their aprons and creating the home in which we lived. It reminds me of my roots. Best of all, it smells like home.

Maybe I go to Yoder’s to be transported to another time, to bury my roots once more in a time, a time that has stood still.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

An Old Cane Pole

Each child was given a fishing pole at age 5. In fact, I’m sure Dad couldn’t wait until they arrived at the age so he could hand off a new pole. The grandchildren were excited to receive a pole; their grandfather was doing what he loved most. Memories of all the times we went fishing are still warm in my heart.

We often fished at Grandad’s pond, but nothing compared to the trips to Lake Hamlin, Michigan. Aunt Bess and Uncle Sam had a lodge on the lake. Across the road was the little bayou. We didn’t take many vacations. Those to Michigan were excitedly anticipated.

Aunt Alma went north with us a few times. She loved to fish. Her excitement and delight was the best reason to catch a fish. One evening Dad took us out in the bayou in a small fishing boat. Aunt Alma sat in the middle of the boat, Dad in the back and me hanging out over the front. As soon as I dropped the line into the water, the fish hit. The frenzy continue with me pulling in fish, swinging them around to Dad so he could remove them, tossing the line in again only to repeat it time and time again. Dad and Aunt Alma didn’t get a hit, but I cleaned lowered the fish population that night. Aunt Alma laughed till she cried; I thought she would fall overboard. Dad always said it was one of the best times he had fishing even though he didn’t catch a single one. A memory shared even at the end.

Beautiful white dunes ran across the other side of the lake where the state park ran from Lake Michigan to Lake Hamlin. Dad would pack up his women taking them to the dunes while he spent the day fishing. We sat on the sand and swam in the water. On one such day I did what I love most at the beach, I became the beachcomber. Tangled in the underbrush was an old cane pole. Perhaps some poor fisherman got mad and tossed it into the brink or maybe just perhaps a big walleye had yanked it from his hands. Either way, I had a new ‘old’ pole. For years after it was the only pole I took fishing. My lucky pole.

Those times spent with my family with fishing pole in hand are some of the dearest memories I have. We laughed, we talked, we fished and later we dined on our daily catch. I learned that I could pick up an earth worm (especially after I smacked it with a shoe), I could remove a fish from the hook, I could gather night crawlers from under rocks late at night, and best of all, I could have a wonderful day sitting in a boat even if the fish didn’t bite. I was with family.

I don’t have that old cane pole any more. I wish I did.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

On The Wind

Sniff the air. Smell it? Close your eyes. What do you smell? For a farm girl visiting, it was the smell of the home.

In Key West, the air is fresh from the ocean breeze except when you pass a nasty trash can. Sometimes the scent was floral in essence. Once in awhile the breeze carried the smell of the ocean. Many times the smell of food from the outdoor restaurants drifted by. And, at the docks the of smell fish.

In Virginia, we smelled chicken farms and hints of spring freshness in the air. In Indiana, horses, the lakes and in Jobi’s barn, pigs.

Of course, in Ohio spring smells had not yet been invaded by manure on the fields or hogs in open aired barns. The air was crisp carrying the scent of trees and rich, dark soil, the smell of straw in the barn and fresh budding flowers. It was the smell that tells each of us where we came from.

My children always commented that my parents’ home back the lane on Neff Road had a smell all its own. Not a bad smell. Not a smell of people. No, a smell of Grandma and Grandpa’s house. I know that smell. It is the smell of the nest I grew up in.

I was drawn back to memories of other homes. Grandad’s house always smelled of grapes and another very earthy smell of maybe damp soil and wood. Pop and Mom’s house smelled of the root celler and pop’s pipe. Smells that took me through my life reminding me of the people who lived in these homes.

My grandchildren have commented on the smell in my house, a smell of candles and probably dryer sheets. A smell that is only mine imbedded in all I own. It is what happens when we build our nests. It is what calls this place my home.

With allergies peaking, my smeller is not working so well. Still I can close my eye and remember the smells and visit those homes once more. Stick your head out the window. Savor the smells that surround you. You may not notice but on the wind rides your memories.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Change Is In The Air

We went to Painter Creek and stood at the candy counter of Whited’s grocery store. Licorice, malted milk balls, small paraffin bottles filled with fruit flavored syrup were just a few of the items we children eyed. Of course, along with those goodies were the small fliptop box holding candy cigarettes.

Living in Oregon has been not only a privilege but a lesson in better, cleaner living. We were one of the first states to institute recycling. All of our vehicles must pass the DEQ (Department of Environmental Quality) vehicle emissions test in order to get new tags. Oregon was a leader in removing smoking from businesses and public areas. So many efforts to protect and preserve a world for our children have begun here.

In traveling back east, I was shocked by the number of people who smoked. Many restaurants still permit smoking with no ‘non smoking’ section. Children sat in cars with parents smoking. Teens gathered on corners to smoke. Ashtrays sat on tables and outside of buildings. It was startling the difference from one side of the country to the other.

Changes are coming to our country. More and more the statistics convince people to change. Children learn about health hazards. Change is in the air….air that with cooperation will be cleaner.

I haven’t seen a package of candy cigarettes or bubble gum cigars in decades. Perhaps they are extinct. Now that would nice. Yet I wonder if those small boxes of white sticks with a pink end, those sticks that children pretended to smoke, might have lured many children that direction. I don’t think that Nerd’s creates nerds or Hershey Kisses encourage puckering, so who knows.

I worry about my friends and family who occasionally breathe in this polluted air. I am concerned that not all states are working to eliminate air pollution. Maybe the next time I go home ash trays will be extinct, and I will be able to breathe a little easier.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Brothers and Sisters

“Get me out of here,” I yelled. The plea fell on empty ears. My best friend’s brother would no more help me up the bridge abutment than he would a rabid dog. Of course, he helped his sister, but not his sister’s best friend.

Neff Road siblings were my siblings as well. Geneva and Marilyn watched over the younger kids. Brenda’s sister and brother treated me the same as Brenda. Sometimes it was good and sometimes it was not. Carol would yell at me just the same as my sisters and Bill had nothing to do with either of the little girls. All of us played softball in Lavy’s pasture. The big kids chose teams. I was the last to be chosen because I was inept when it came to sports. It was brothers and sisters on Neff Road.

Our homes were all very different, yet we felt as much at home in their homes as we did our own. Parents treated us with the same discipline, the same tenderness, the same concern as they did their own.

My aunt and uncle also lived on Neff Road. Again, it was a place we Loxley girls were thrilled to visit. Aunt Kate and Uncle Keith loved to play games. Their home was big with many rooms, the upstairs empty of furniture. We were allowed to ramble and our imaginations to soar. Another home on Neff Road.

When I go back to Neff Road, I once again walk through that portal called home. Even though the neighbors are changed, I am still embraced by the memories and by a few neighbors who know the past of our ‘family’.

Bill came back and saved me from the rising water along the creek. He wasn’t happy about it, but I’m sure he knew if he didn’t Brenda would tell that he was the one who left me to drown.

Neff Road. Brothers and sisters.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Farm Mothers

Today I celebrate mothers.

You might think that I’m talking about the mother’s who resided on Neff Road. Well, I am, but probably not who you think. Yes, the neighbors on Neff Road were my ‘mothers’. The women who attended Painter Creek Church were my ‘mothers’. My mother was my mother. And my aunts and my sisters are my ‘mothers’.

There are many definitions for Mother. All of the above women were there to nurture me throughout my lifetime. They gave me the pieces I needed of me that I could not find always within my own home. They were my friends, my mentors, my support and always available to me. But still these are not the mothers for today’s blog. No. This is about the other mothers.

I remember asking mom questions about sex when I was child. She told me to go to the field and watch the cows. Well, hm. It was an answer I guess. So Brenda and I took to the fields.

We watched many a calf enter the world. The mother struggles to deliver a huge baby. She licks away the signs of birthing then urging the newborn to stand. We sat in awe watching the mother bring her baby into the world, encourage it to survive and munch on grass as the babe nurses. A tabloid played out for two young girls.

The old ewe had struggled for a very long time to push the lamb into the world. Aunt Alma and we girls could do nothing to help her so called for Hollie to aid this old sheep. The baby came, but for the old ewe, the struggle continued, and she died. She gave her strength, she gave her life for the sweet wooly baby.

The blue egg shell lies broken at the bottom of the tree. A baby bird is hatched. Before long it will be big enough to leave the nest. The mother robin will encourage it to try its wings. A nudge will teach it to fly away from home.

She hid her babies. Even though she was a friend, this pet of mine, she would not let me see her newborn babies. Brenda and I would searched days on end to find the kittens. And when we did, the mama cat would grasp the fur behind their tiny heads in her mouth and would carry them to a new hiding place.

We saw the minnows in the creek. The little slivery creatures would swim in a school hoping to avoid predators looking for lunch. To the side, black tadpoles with their fat heads would join in the hiding game. It was the way in the creek. The way that babies survived a motherless world.

Judy had her pups in Brenda’s barn. The row of wiggling hairless babies vied for place to eat as the crawled and tumbled with their eyes still shut. They tumbled over bare legs of little girls and whimpered in tiny doggy sounds.

Brenda and I went to the field to learn about life. We learned about birthing, about death, about protecting, about nurturing. Those farm mothers answered my questions and taught me much. Perhaps I am a better mother because of them. I often think of the killdeer mother who will feign injury to draw a prey away from her babies. She risked her life that her babies might have a chance as they lie hidden in the tall grass. Yes, I learned of sacrifice as well.

Today I embrace those mothers and thank my mother for sending me to the field.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Birdsong

Birdsong. The sound that sometimes warns us, sometimes lulls us with its beauty, sometimes irritates us with its chatter. Birdsong.

We started our walk in Janet’s yard. Her beautiful garden was just starting to peek out from its winter sleep. Suddenly, I was captured and drawn in. Beautiful music rang from the trees. Birds singing to the earth, singing to the sky and for a brief bit of time, singing to me.

We have birds in Oregon but not the lovely song birds of my birth. I have often walked the paths at the bird sanctuary noticing the quietness with maybe only an occasional bird begging notice. It is too quiet. Where are the birds? Where is their song?

In Key West the birds were of a different ilk. They squawked. They called. They didn’t seem to know any songs. Of course, the trees, with long green fronds, hardly welcome bird community. In Virginia, the birds chirped and called to one another, still the song was not there.

I stood in Janet’s yard immersed in memories of Dad whistling like a songbird. Of birds sitting outside the kitchen window singing to those invisible people drinking coffee. I was brought home by a song I had heard for many years that was now missing.

A cardinal flashed his red feathers at us, a cardinal that you won’t find in Oregon. (Evidently, they can’t fly over the Rockies). The color so vibrant caused tears to surface. It was a fleeting moment. A special one for this traveler to Neff Road.

How many birds will we see pass from view into oblivion? We all notice changes in our weather. Glaciers are melting, the earth is moving and our weather seeks to confuse us each day.

I know Janet will protect her birds, see that they have shelter in her trees and food when it is scarce. I know that she will stop and listen to the symphony outside her door….a symphony I hope has no end.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Tin Roof

A steady rhythm tapped a sleepy song lulling me to sleep. The old tin roof.

Among the many things my sister and I talked over during our long drive from Florida to Indiana was the sound of rain on the old tin roof of our house back the lane on Neff Road. Soft rain was like a lullaby sung to us by nature on an old tin drum. It is a song I miss whenever the rain falls on my house. I listen, but it is not there.

When a storm came to visit Neff Road, the patter on the roof turned into pounding, rain beating down asking us to take notice. Sometimes it scared me. Other times it was fascinating. The songs of the rain on an old tin roof.

I think my children and grandchildren miss something living in well-insulated homes with thick roofs. Maybe there is a security in not hearing the rain. But, I think not. I think imaginations soar with the sounds of nature, this sound that lulled babies to sleep and children to sometimes hide their heads beneath the blankets.

I sit in my home watching the storm. It silently taps against the window. So I throw open the door and stand listening to nature cleanse her earth once more. The rain falls on my face and takes me home once more. “Oh, let there be thunder, I pray.” None comes.

Ah, for one more night beneath the tin roof. Tap…tap….tap….shhhhhh, I’m remembering.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Junk Drawer

It was the junk drawer. Small bits and pieces that had no home found their way to the junk drawer. The drawer resided in the old desk in the upstairs playroom. From the time I was a child the drawer called to me revealing its treasures, revealing that nothing had changed.

In going through the house after Mother died, we found treasures from our past. Each closet, each drawer revealed memories. Memories that three daughters who when together relieve them over and over again finding even more pieces of the past.

I was asking my sisters what they played during the time when June had rheumatic fever. She was in bed for two years before a cure was discovered. Two sisters whose play was confined to a bedroom.

“We had hanging dolls hooked across the bed. Remember, June?” Peg asked.

“What?” This was new to me.


“You don’t remember the little paper dolls? Their little hands hung on to a string. We would spin them,” Peg replied.


I was a baby during this time. I was not part of their toys or their young memories. I felt left out, but wanted so much to know about this part of my sisters.


“Remember the penguin that walked down the dough board?” Memories.


Old toys from the farm made their way to various parts of the US. Peg’s old dolls sit in her doll bed in Virginia. June’s puppet from Aunt Bess gave hangs in her spare room in Indiana.


The old drawer was one of the places I cherished revisiting when we came to the playroom. A small glass chicken, the old card game Authors, small bits of this and that, things of no worth other than memories came to Oregon to reside in an old cardboard apple basket in my living room. Not a junk drawer, but a place my grandchildren go to find treasure from a grandmother’s past.


Sometimes a drawer of bits and pieces can be a family history, memories of little girls who often peeked into it to see if anything new had been added and finding at the end it was still the same.