Life, Facts, and Miracles

Three Little Girls

Sometimes mothers feel ill-equipped to discussed certain topics with their little girls.  My mom was a genius at so many things, and she could find whatever she didn’t know in the library.  Still, for some reason she decided to let the professionals tell her oldest three daughters the facts of life.  That’s how Deanna, Bonita, and I ended up in a Claire Elizabeth Class, while a prim lady in Sunday clothes pointed to abstract drawings and explained how we all got here.

I never asked where babies came from; I already knew.  God gave babies out.  He made them up a long time ago and Continue reading

I Hate You, I Love You

When I was a little girl, moms were not real people.  They were mothers.  Moms were kinda like s guardian angel, who kept kids on the right path, only no wings.  Sort of like that picture Grandma had in the bedroom I slept in when I stayed over.  The one where the angel kept a boy and a girl from falling off a cliff and getting killed, and the kids just walked along happy as larks, never even realizing they were in danger.  A mom never ran and played, or caught frogs, or fell in love with boys with silky hair like Warren, or stamped her feet because nobody would listen.  Sure, moms got mad, but that was only because their kids were naughty or shoes were lost.  A Mom never got her feelings hurt or wished for things to be different.  I remember the first time I got a clue that Mom was a real person.

I was way upstairs in my bedroom.  I was supposed to be taking a nap, but I was jumping on the bed, ’cause I was in kindergarten, almost in first grade, and I wasn’t the least bit tired.  I jumped right on top of my white bedspread with all the bumpy tufts on top that I was supposed to pull back before I got under the covers.  All the ballerinas on the wall danced in the different poses as I flew higher and higher.  I could almost touch the pointy crystals dancing around the light fixture way up there on the ceiling; the fixture my best friend from the bus Betty said she thought was so spiffy ’cause it made rainbows dance on the walls so it looked like my room was filled with ballerinas and fairies all at the same time.  Betty asked me if I was rich, ’cause of those crystals.  She wanted one crystal to take home with her.  It’s kinda strange how someone Continue reading

Rest, Listen, and Go

We often take for granted all the sounds that surround us.  Familiar sounds from childhood comfort me.  When I was a little girl, I liked the sounds of morning and of evening the best.  in the middle was all kinds of cacophony of people and activity, but on the edges, the sounds of the earth sighing.

At night-time, sitting out on the step, I heard the whir of the cicadas, loud and clear, almost like electric wires humming overhead.  Early evenings, I was sure to see the barn swallows swooping low in pairs, heading for the barn, gliding like tiny kites, noiseless in the night air.  The breeze stirred the leaves in the trees and made waves in the hay-field, as heat-lightning flicked on Continue reading

Dog Days of August

When I was a little girl, by August it seemed the days would be forever hot, and school would never get back in session.  I started to dream about school:  Seeing all my friends, the books, the smell of fresh sharpened pencil, a brand new box of Crayola’s and brand-spanking clean tablets.  I loved school and everything about August seemed to shout that autumn was almost here.

I never heard the phrase, “Dog days of summer,” until I got old, like Mom, but I knew right away what it meant:  August.  When it was that hot, nobody wanted to do anything except find some shade and hope for a breeze just like an old dog lying around with barely enough energy to scratch himself, I reached down and scratched a mosquito bite on the back of my leg, while I read the last of my Weekly Reader Summer Book Club books.

I hardly even wanted to eat, except maybe tomatoes from the garden, or cold macaroni salad, and of course ice cream; but I could eat ice cream anytime, no matter what the weather.  I went to bed at night in shortie pajamas and no covers, even though that was a little scary on account of that rat story Mom told me, just so I would keep my room clean.  Half-way through the night, I was reaching for the covers, ’cause one thing you can count on in August: the nights cool off the day. Continue reading

Tarzan of the Hayloft

In spite of all the work I had to do when I was a little girl, I still had plenty of time to play.  The best fun of all was building forts with Bonita and Tommy. Together we were a great team of invention, independence, and perseverance.

The best forts were in the hayloft.  It was against the rules to play around in the barn, and against the rules for boys to be up in the loft without Dad around, but me and Bonita sneaked anyways, and we let Tommy come up there and help us.  The bales of hay and straw were just like giant bricks for building.  I saw how Grandpa built things with bricks:  one solid layer on the bottom, then stack the next layer, overlapping the cracks in the first layer.  That was kinda like the way we stacked the bale at baling time, only at baling time, everything was flat, and with forts, we built walls up high, with tunnels connecting everything.  Hay bales made the best walls ’cause they were heavy; we used straw for the roof.  The roof was hard to make:  the walls had to be just the right distance apart, too far apart and the top bales fell through, too close, and we got just a hallway, no room at all.  Tom got inside the room and balanced the bales, while me and Bonita adjusted the walls.  When I got into building like that, I forgot all about how hot is was up there and how heavy those bales of hay were and how much everything up there made me sneeze and itch.  Well, to be honest,  I sneezed and itched almost all the time, anyways; that’s why Mom sewed pockets in every single thing she made me, ’cause I didn’t go anywhere without Kleenex. That hay and straw smelled so good and green and musty all at the same time.  Sometimes, if I was lucky, I saw streams of sunshine coming through the cracks in the barn walls, just like beams from heaven when the Holy Spirit came down and said “This is My Beloved Son,” only no voice and only barn pigeons, and lots of bits of dust riding on the sunbeams.

We worked for days together like that, ’cause we could only do so much before somebody was hollering for us, to come for supper, or trying to find out what was taking so long, or just because.  Sometimes, I got a hay-hook out, and pretended I was a mountain climber, grabbing the side of the hay-mountain with the hook and pulling myself up.  Once I missed and the hook went straight into my knee.  Holy mackerel, that hurt like the dickens and the next day even more.  I had a heck of a time walking for a couple of days, which made me miss a special 4-H field trip where I could have seen how artificial insemination worked.  That’s what Dr. Friese did with the teacup of hot water and vial when he came over and I had to stay in the house.  Dad didn’t know I knew, but I figured it all out by reading the calendar he had out in the barn:  first the cows rub their heads together, then they play piggy-back, and then next thing you know, there’s Dr. Friese asking for a teacup of hot water.

Bonita and I found a box full of pulleys and ropes lying around in the tool shed, just idle, so we strung them up all around the hayloft and flew around like Tarzan through the jungle, only we had a seat made of rope to sit on.  Wheee!  That was super fun just gliding all over the place, fast as lightning.  We got one rope rigged to go straight to the ladder down the hatch to the manger, and one time Bonita slipped off and went right down the chute.  I laughed so hard I almost wet my pants.  She was just fine on account of all the soft hay and straw down there, but it sure looked hilarious.  That set of ropes and pulleys was so keen, I just had to tell Dad what good inventors me and Bonita were.  I knew he was going to be so darned proud of me.

He wasn’t.  He clamped his teeth together so tight little ripples went up his jaws and disappeared behind his ears.

“You could slip down in this loop, and strangle.”  Dad widened out the rope loop stuck his neck in; his eyes bulged way out and his tongue hung loose against his cheek, like they would on a strangled man.  I was thinking my armpits would probably get in the way and the rope would tangle all around my arms first.  “But Dad,”  I said.

“But nothing.”  he said back, which means something like ‘Don’t talk back’ or ‘Shut up’ in Dad talk.  Anyways Dad was always thinking about how kids can get hurt and telling me not to do fun stuff.  “Take all these ropes down.  Right now,” he said.

I must have looked as sad as I felt, ’cause right then, he came up with another idea. He showed me how to slip a small piece of baling twine through the pulley and hang there by my hands.  That way if I slipped, I fell free of the pulley and just fell down on some hay, kinda the same way Bonita fell through the hatch into the manger.  That was even more like Tarzan of the Jungle.

Years later, long after I was grown, Mom told me that Dad had a horrible experience with rope in the hayloft.  One of his German shepherd dogs was in heat, so he tied her up in the loft, so no male dogs could get near her.  That dog was so anxious to get a mate, she broke right through the wall of the barn, and hanged herself.  Dad saw her just hanging there when he went out to do chores in the morning.  I bet when he saw his little girls whirring around on rope having a grand old-time, he could see a tragedy in the making.  It’s a tough thing for parents to have enough experience to expect danger, and to have enough courage to let their children stretch their imaginations, muscles, and minds. A really tough thing.  Wheeee!!