The Aroma of Hope

Yesterday I  walked to the Village Hall to vote.  I’ve had the blues lately.  The walk filled my heart with joy. No, not because I was exercising my citizenship, although that does make me proud. Because my brain filled with the sights and sounds and especially the aromas of my childhood.

When I was a little girl, fall came with vivid sounds and colors and smells.  And lots of work.  Every season had work and the work always smelled different, but underneath it all, came the smell of the good earth. In fall work was dusty and musty and golden and frosty and filled with wind rustling everything it touched.  Fall filled up my nose with burning leaves and rotting pumpkins and earthy potatoes dug from the ground.  Even dried corn plucked from the stalks had that aroma of tortillas waiting to be fried.

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One year the corn stayed unharvested.  Dad worked too many hours at Ma Bell and he missed the combine trading time, or perhaps some other reason I never knew about prevented him from getting the corn in.  Corn stalks became dry and brittle and the ears hung open like so many rows of loose teeth.

“We can do it,”  Mom said.

“In my day, we didn’t have fancy combines,” Dad said, giving the dining room table a slap.  Every big decision came down with a slap at the dining room table.

I already knew about Dad’s days, ‘cuz he smiled like he just brought home an A+ history paper when he showed us kids the old-timer farm equipment at the county fair.  Of course Mr. and Mrs. T, who had a farm down Terry Lane, still used some of that old stuff. They were like people lost in time, wearing old-time trousers and farm dresses with aprons.  When Dad was a kid farms had machines with long belts attached to generators, and blades so big they had two handles, so a farmer could swing it with both hands. It’s a wonder our nation could get fed at all with a breadbasket harvested with those antiques.

But then again, we didn’t even have those old tools and if we did, Mom would never let us use them.  She was all the time worrying about one of us getting sucked up into the combine and made into pig feed before anyone noticed we went missing.  That kind of stuff happened to some kid she knew, and she never ever forgot about it.  She didn’t any kids with missing fingers or arms, and she sure didn’t want to pick one out of a combine.  Those long belts and huge blades were probably way too dangerous with all kinds of places to snag clothes, or pinch off fingers or even cut off a foot or two.

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We had buckets and mittened hands.  Yup.  We harvested that whole field by hand.

Dad gave the Little Kids flashlights to hold and Big Kids buckets.  He took a row, and I took a row, and everyone else got divided onto our teams.  Of course Bonita was on my team.  She was my best-friend-sister, so she had to be on my team even though sometimes she cried to be on Dad’s team cuz she wanted to be his favorite more than she wanted to be my best friend.

“Bucket Brigade!” Dad shouted, and off we went, picking corn as fast as we could and sending one bucket back to be dumped in the trailer.  As a full bucket went back, an empty came forward.  Sometimes the back kid ran forward with the empty, on account of passing was too slow.  The corn stalks pulled at our feet and rustled like torn apart Christmas wrapping.

“Hi-yup!” Dad said, each time a new bucket got filled.

“Go!” I’d say in the row right beside him. I never got more than a few feet behind.  Victory was close, I tasted it.

A race to the middle of the field and back again.  I started out with frost crunching and nipping and wishing be somewhere warm.  I stopped hot and thirsty and with my nose filled with corn cob dust.  We laughed all the way to the house.

Beyond the field, yellow light smiled out of lace-covered windows.  Home hit me square in the face when I opened the door; warm against cold skin and runny nose.  Just in time for a big bowl of popcorn and “My Three Sons,” or “The Donna Reed Show.”

Everyone knows about leaves turning gold and red and orange in the fall.  Cornstalks turn from green to amber, the gentle rustle turns more insistent.  Snow is coming.  Hurry.  Batten down the hatches, bring in the stores, get ready for the cold. Fields lay barren and brown, except for winter wheats green leaves reaching for the sun, forever hopeful of the spring that promises to come.

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A-Raking and A-Hiding and a-Hoping: My Dreams Will Come True

I loved fall wheFall folliagen I was a little girl. It was my almost-favorite time of the year. Of course I loved it because that’s when school started and I L-O_V_E, loved school.

I loved the colors in fall, I loved the sounds, and I loved the smells. My house sat far off the road, on top a hill. Trees grew all around.  We had lots and lots of leaves.  Tons of leaves. Our house was way cooler in summertime than the city, with all that asphalt and brick buildings.  Plus, way prettier in the fall.   In the fall, we had tons of leaves, which meant lots and lots of raking.

Everybody worked when I was a little girl. The most fun of all was what came after the work: playing in the leaves, and at long last burning them.  In my yard, we had apple trees and pear trees and a couple of dwarf plum trees. We had willow trees, elm trees, boxelder trees and Continue reading

The Apple Cider Press

apple cider2I read a post a couple of days ago,called “Apples.”  The author, Sue, and I both committed to writing a post a day during October.  She based her post on a writing prompt “if you were an apple, what kind of apple would you be?”  Of course I would be a Pink Lady.  Of course: sweet-tart, crisp, clean and pleasant, but a bit thin-skinned.  That said, all that apple reminiscing made me think about apple picking and cider and a certain obscure memory from my early teen years.

Weekends got filled up with road trips and picking things:   walnuts, and hickory nuts and pears and apples.  Dad loaded up the car.  Mom sat in the front seat, a baby on her lap and a lucky kid squeezed in the middle between them.  The rest of us piled in the back seat.  When I was a little, little girl, me and Bonita liked to make a nest in the back window and sit up there.  That was the berries, I’m telling you. Later, we had a station wagon and we could spread out like royalty.  I liked to sit in the way-back with the Little Kids, if Mom was driving, cuz she was always asking me or Deanna to get out and do stuff for her; like ask for directions, or go in and buy the day old bread.  If I was in the way-back, it was too hard for me to get out.  If Dad was driving, I sat in the back seat.  Dad never asked me to get out and do stuff.  He liked to get out and stretch his legs and talk to people any chance he got.

Once,  we stopped at an apple orchard with an honest to goodness cider press.  I never knew whether Dad planned to go there, or he just saw it and stopped.  Probably the last thing, cuz he liked to drive around and go down roads he never turned down before and discover things.  Anyways, he parked the car right in front of the cider press so we could watch and find out how cider got made.

You don’t really want to know about cider making if you have a weak stomach.  All the apples that fell Continue reading

Aunt Millie, the teensiest Aunt.

We lost Aunt Millie earlier this month.  I stopped by to see Uncle Gerald.  We hugged for a long time.  After that, we talked about aunt Millie.  He loved her since high school. That’s the kind of love everyone wants.

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When I was a little girl, I had all kinds of people around me.  I never had time to get lonely.  I never even had a chance to be alone.  Even in the bathroom, someone else was always there; taking a bath, brushing their teeth, or just sitting on the side of the tub, gabbing away.  There was always something to talk about.  That’s one thing everybody at my house did the best:  talk.  That’s why Grandpa called us The Magpies, because we were always talking.

Debbie was my best-friend-cousin.  She lived Uncle Gerald and Aunt Millie and her brother Jimmy, and Sandy in a tinsy, tiny house with a great big yard.  That yard was the most fun; just wide open space; enough to play baseball with a outfield big enough to have no automatic home run area.  No worrying about knocking a neighbor’s window out either.

Uncle Gerald and all the Aunts.  Grandma’s the one in the apron.

Uncle Gerald was the youngest of all the brothers and the tallest.  Dad said Uncle Gerald never lost his baby teeth, that’s how everybody knew he was the baby, ’cause no one could tell just by looking at him.  Uncle Gerald had straight hair that always slid into his eyes in corn silk shocks, so he was all the time brushing it out of his true-blue eyes.  Those eyes were just like Dad’s, still laughing when the rest of his face was relaxing.

Aunt Millie was the smallest of all my Aunts; she was itsy-bitsy and she Continue reading

The Hunt for Black Walnut

When I was a little girl, some random fall Sunday, Mom and Dad loaded us kids up in the car and took us on a treasure hunt.  I had no idea just what a treasure we were really seeking.  To me, they were just walnuts; just a Sunday drive that got us all in the car, together for a ride out along some back roads,.  We had a hickory nut tree out in the field behind our house, so I didn’t understand the allure of black walnuts.  They were Dad’s favorite, and priceless.

I loved those trips with everybody crammed together in the car like that, except for Julie complaining, “Don’t touch me,” in that voice like fingernails on a chalkboard; the kind of voice I would do anything to just make it stop.  I thought she should always ride up front, ’cause nobody minded being squeezed between Mom and Dad

Dad drove a tinsy bit slower than normal on those dirt roads like he was trying to figure out just where he was going.  Besides, too fast on a dirt road, and gravel pinged up all over the car, and dust came in the windows.  Sometimes Bonita stuck her head out the window and pretended to be a dog.  She figured out how to make a whistling sound by making a big “O” with her mouth, then closing and opening it as the wind from the car moved over her face.  Bonita never did learn to whistle, which made her feel left out, so Continue reading