Friday, September 19, 2008


I visited our neighborhood Borders today.  First order of business, as always, was securing a large glass of iced herbal tea, and then, well satisfied, I began browsing the books.  I was about at the close of my meandering, when a small grey booklet with old-fashioned calligraphy on the cover caught my eye.  Old Farmer's Almanac.  I picked it up, took a seat in a green armchair in the cafe, and began to thumb through.  I did not find a record of first and last freezes, but what I did discover was very much worth my initial interest.  Attached to the weather records of each month were two paragraph-long reminiscences.  I was hooked.  The memories drew me back into a time I could not recollect, gave me first impressions of an era before my birth, infused my young spirit with the aura of the aged.  

A small ten-year-old child once again rejoiced at waking up on a weekday morning to an earth covered in a sparkling white blanket of snow.  No matter that chores would be a chilly affair, there would be no school today.  And once the work was done there would be plenty of time to scoop up the snow, drown it in sweetened condensed milk, drizzle it over with chocolate syrup, and revel in the delectable taste of homemade ice cream. 

Mama once again weeded the kitchen garden, a baby on the hip and a baby in the oven and two more babies trailing behind, the heat bearing into her back and her mind busy with schemes of how to escape the inevitable supper preparations and clean-up.  She hoses the watermelon down and bites her lip, sweaty hair in her eyes, and the little ones ask what's for supper.  A smile flashes across her face, she fetches a knife from the kitchen, and a supper of watermelon, tomatoes, green beans, squash, and strawberries issues directly from the garden, washed off with the hose, eaten with the fingers, and the left-overs feeding the earth.  

Daddy and daughter once again travel to the hardware store, daddy to buy the proper tools for building a fence for the cattle pasture, and daughter to decide which feedsack will supply her next dress.  The aisle stretches on, an array of burlap and gingham and cotton sacks, full of wheat and corn for Mama's pantry, and covered in beautiful patterns of flowers and nature and birds and art.  Her little heart is delighted.

Mothers and grandmothers once again gather in the midst of the oppressive August heat at the only air conditioned place in the country––the produce aisle at the local grocer's.  The grape vine grows rapidly, and news is swapped with the conversational skill and speed with which women are naturally endowed.  People were good at entertaining themselves.

These things are most beautiful looked through the rose-tinted lens of memory.  Time, that master dresser, combs out the discomfort and worry that the present flesh brings, and leaves only the soul of the age.  Laura Ingalls Wilder once said that it is the sweet and simple things of life that are the real ones after all.  I think she was right.

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