Monday, March 26, 2018

In your Easter basket

The smell of vinegar permeated the kitchen, along with the smell of freshly boiled eggs. Not really the smells we crave unless you are about nine years old. Lined up on one of her thin, white dish towels spread across the table top, Mom set the big, white coffee cups filled with boiling water and a bit of vinegar. June popped out the little red, yellow, orange, green and blue tablets, dropping them into the cups and cut designs from the waxy tissue paper imprinted with bunnies, baskets, chickies and perhaps a cute little duck. They also included an egg in those sweet pictures; it never made sense to me why you would imprint an egg on an egg. Nevertheless, the egg coloring event commenced.

I remember June taking the wax stick and imprinting our names on the eggs. We all had our favorite colors thus the name on the named egg met with the chosen colorful bath. She also tried her artistic hand at wax designs. Hers were much better than mine. Hard to draw on an oval egg held in a little hand when the egg rolls as you try to draw on it. Yes, Easter was once more alive in the Loxley kitchen.

Easter was always one of the main events in our family. The egg coloring was important. But one of the highlights for little me was the shopping trip to Greenville to find a new frock. To this day, I still remember the pink dress with the lace trim, the blue dress with a smocked top and the yellow dress with the full skirt. It tied in back. I always had a new chapeau. Well, it was probably the same hat hidden away each year. And, just maybe I got new shoes. It was a rare day when we got new clothes. Obviously true since I remember each and every one. It was the one day that I felt pretty.

As I grew older, I found that the sweetly dressed me discovered solace and warmth in that Easter congregation that surrounded me. It was different on this one Sunday of the year. We sang the hymns that had carried me throughout my life  (except when June told me that the words were "Up from the gravy He arose). The lilies in the church. The choir singing a choral cantata practiced for weeks just for this special day. We seemed to greet one another with a renewed love. Families had come from all over just to be with their own on Easter, so old friendships were embraced. The church rang with song and love.

Mom, of course, had dinner in the oven just waiting for us to return home. Easter was usually spent with the Johnson's, bringing their favorite dishes along for the celebratory meal. I have a picture of my niece Jobi and my cousin Sue when they were just little girls. In their hands were some of those colored eggs that left the adults with colored fingers.

I cannot look at an Easter without remembering those wonderful traditions and the people who shared them with me. The farm was coming alive with new buds on trees and bulbs promising to open just for this special day. New lambs were in the shed and soon baby chicks would join the menagerie. It was the birth of spring and the love of God for all.

Whatever your belief, I come not to ask you to celebrate Easter with me but to embrace the love that we are all reminded of and the birth of spring. As many the colors of eggs, be they one solid color or a beautiful mix of colors, they are all beautiful in that Easter basket, the unity of love. Today I am blue, red, orange, green and yellow. I am white, black, yellow, tan, slightly apricot and a whole lot love. Happy Spring. Happy Easter. Happy world of so many lovely colors.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

I belonged to it

The house was quiet with only the whispers of yesterdays tucked in closets and in each crevice of the house. No furniture slept quietly on the floors. No pictures hugged the walls. The smell of all those yesterdays remained but only that.

I don't know what it is that causes me to love that house so. The memories were both good and bad. The winters were cold within the walls of the bedrooms. The basement was often damp. Ash hung on the walls of the fireplace and the rock walls held the memories of children laughing. What causes one to love a house so dearly?

I cannot look at an old house without wondering who lived there. Even the old house we lived in had been built by someone else. It was not our house. We were just the next to love and cherish it. It had been remodeled, hence many of the sweet walls were gone with a remodel of an old house. Who were those first people. There were many bedrooms. Were they full? Did they choose to build there because it sat on a hill? Was it once surrounded by trees? Who dug the well and lit the first lamp.

Yes, I love old homes. They have personality and character. A charm surrounds them and even though they need work, the thrill of giving them new life is exciting. New additions, walls removed, a new bathroom or two, paper torn off and paint applied. Old creaky windows replaced with thermal panes. Storm doors and perhaps a bit more insulation. New siding replaces old and outdated. Carpet covers those once cold floors. The wash pan is replaced with a marvelous new dishwasher. Even a microwave hums in the corner. Clothes no longer hang on the line. Instead they are in the house in the fluff cycle. A bathtub is added to delight the woman of the house.

Yes, I grew up in that house. I walked the rooms on that last day memorizing the feel, the smell, the shadows and mysteries played out within those walls. There I could hear my mother's voice and feel the presence of Dad. Memories of childhood were stored there. The essence of who I am would always stay there. I would take a bit with me, but the love of those walls would always possess me.

My children have memories of the house. My grandchildren have no idea where it is or what it meant to me. It belongs to me and I to it. Creaking boards, rattling windows and rain on a tin roof. My heart warms and yearns at the thought. Home. Forever in my heart.

Monday, March 5, 2018

Women of the land

Up early to cut the bacon from the slab and set it to frying. Breakfast for Dad who had already gone to the barn to feed the animals and get prepared for the days work in the field. Children wander in sleepy from a dark night's sleep drawn to the kitchen by the smells of breakfast, hoping that maybe mush would be on the morning menu. Beds were made, laundry started. A child followed Mom to the hen house to help gather eggs. Baking commenced and preparations for lunch, feeding Dad and the hands. A chicken killed, dressed and in the skillet. Potatoes peeled and beans gathered from the garden. A pie sat cooling. It was nearly eleven in the morning.

Hands fed, children off to play, laundry hung on the line, hoeing the garden and taking in what was ready. Canning jars sat in the garage. Mom paused her day to take a little something to the field for the men to eat. Sometimes she even drove the tractor. When we raised tobacco, she worked in the fields and in the strip shed while continuing her daily routine. Her day was finished when we were all fed. It was evening, and she could finally sit down and rest.

In Mom's spare time, she gave all she could to the church. She cleaned it, taught, sang in the choir and sometimes directed it. She played the piano and lead the youth group and young marrieds. She babysat for all the neighbors and took in anyone who needed a home. She never thought of herself or allowed herself to be tired.

My mother was remarkable. Farm women are remarkable. They work all day long and give their families every bit of themselves. In olden days, they helped a neighbor prepare a deceased loved one for viewing. They sometimes helped with a birth at home. They worked the fields and were always available for their husbands. They could plow the field, reap a crop, bend over the dirt for hours and chase cows. They knew how to milk those cows and could help a ewe lamb. They made bread, they slaughtered chickens, they beat rugs with a rug beater and stuffed down comforters. They cooked on a wood stove and wove rugs. They could ride a horse and hitch a buggy. They could lift a bale and feed a lamb from a bottle. They bore child after child and lost often. They climbed out of the birthing bed and went back to work.

Farm women never leave their job. They are remarkably strong. They don't wait to see what must be done. They just do it. Never do they ask for anything, because they know they have everything in the world just outside their back door. The flowers they grow and the seedling they see pushing through the earth give them pleasure. They love deeply because of this life lived where work and family are a twenty-four hour a day blessing.

Today I salute farm women. I honor them for their strength, their goodness, their dedication to their land and their families. You are quite marvelous, you women of the land. Oh, yes, you are.