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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NaBloPoMo: Solving Problems the Nice Way

English: Flowchart for problem solving.

English: Flowchart for problem solving. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When I was a little girl, being nice was most important of all; right next to knowing how to think for myself, and solve my own problems.  Solving problems was way more fun than being nice any old day.  Most the time a kid can be nice and solve problems and think for herself all at the same time, but not always.

Solving puzzles and working out answers to problems was my very favorite thing to do.

cowjpgDad gave me lots of Continue reading

The Wet Pants and the Diaper

Untitled clippingI was born in charge.  That’s what Mom told me once after I was all grown up.

Maybe.

For sure, I can remember always being responsible for someone else.  I always, always, took care of the Little Kids, and even when it was just Bonita and me, I was in charge, and I made sure she was safe and I took care of her.  Even though she was only one and a half years younger than me, somehow she never seemed to catch up to me in responsibility.  I rescued her from the 4-H Fair when Black-Eyes dragged her in the dirt.

I took care of other people’s kids from the time I was 10 years old.  I got paid for it too, which was proof-positive I was responsible and in charge.  Once I overheard Mrs. B say to Mom, “Look how she plays with the kids.  She hasn’t forgotten what it’s like to be a kid herself. “

I loved taking care of kids, and I vowed I would never, ever forget what it was like to be a child.  How could I?

Of course, I made a lot of mistakes.  I was really a kid myself.  Still learning.  Still sorta inside myself, and full of myself, and looking at the world from one perspective: mine.

My Pal, Frankie, the Little Kid I was most responsible for, remembers some of my mistakes.  The biggest one:  The Wet Pants and the Diaper. Continue reading

A Smile Without a Toothpick, is Still a Smile

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For some reason, I’ve been thinking about toothpicks lately.  Mom and Dad always had toothpicks handy, so did Grandma and Grandpa and all my aunts and uncles. When I was a little girl, setting the table included salt, pepper, butter, and toothpicks. Toothpicks were like the period at the end of the meal. All adults grabbed one.

Kids never needed toothpicks for cleaning stuff out of their teeth. That’s because nothing ever got stuck there. Grown-ups had bad teeth, or they chewed too hard, ’cause stuff was always getting caught in their teeth. Maybe it was like Aunt Phyllis and the radishes,

“I like them, but they don’t like me,” she said, which made everyone laugh and nod their heads. Grownups like to talk in a kind of code language. Aunt Phyllis really meant, “I burp when I eat radishes, and I hate how it tastes, plus it’s down-right embarrassing.”

Anyways, kids’ teeth were sharp and white, not jagged and filled up with silver like adults. Maybe that’s why stuff got stuck in grownups teeth. Grownups were always picking at their teeth. Dad leaned back in his chair after supper and ran a toothpick between his teeth with one hand, and looked far off like he was bringing up some poem he remembered. That’s how I knew he was settling for a little talking and one last cup of coffee. Mom poured the coffee and combed through her teeth.

“Where’s the toothpicks?” Dad said, if the Table-setter forgot them. The Table-setter scrambled to get the little china pitcher, which must’ve been from way back when Mom had a toy china set of dishes, and the only thing that was left was that tiny pitcher, which was now precious, ’cause Mom’s brothers, my uncles broke all her other dishes. Brothers can be a bother, and hers were kind of mean to her, putting bugs and stuff in her bed and doing mean things to her dolls, and bringing friends over that made fun of how skinny she was, and teasing about how she had to go in the “fresh-air room” on account of her skinniness.

“Where’d these come from?” Dad said about some new toothpicks.

“I picked them up by mistake at Kroger’s,” Mom said. “We never had round toothpicks before.”

“Well, they don’t work. I need the flat ones.”

Hmmm…. I thought. Why does the shape of the toothpick matter?

Mom carried a toothpick or two in her pocketbook, and Dad had one in his shirt pocket, if they got somewhere and no toothpicks. Most restaurants had a pile of toothpicks waiting at the cash register, ’cause everybody and their brother needed a toothpick after eating. Not kids, though. I never saw a kid picking at their teeth. Nothing ever got stuck in a kids teeth.

I ate apples and carrots, which are natural teeth cleaners. I read that in a book. That’s why horses never get stuff stuck in their teeth and why dogs get bad breath a lot: one likes apples and carrots, the other one never eats that stuff.   20121011-070240.jpgMaybe adults forget how apples keep doctors away, ‘ cause that’s another thing about adults, they go to the doctor way more than kids.  Except for Dad. I never knew about him going to the doctor.  Ever.  He had no time for that sort of nonsense.

Now that I’m older, I find that stuff gets caught in my teeth a lot. I wish I was in the habit of ending a meal with a toothpick. 20121011-071207.jpgI might be spared some embarrassment when I discover a smile tarnished with spinach since lunchtime. If you see that, be a friend a hand me a toothpick. Please.