I glanced at the buildings along the road and asked with concern, “Are you sure we’re on the right highway? By now I thought we’d see Green Bay’s water. I don’t even see the big bridge we have to cross.”
My daughter Tammie answered as she confidently maneuvered through heavy traffic, “We’ll be seeing all that in a few miles.”
All summer long we had looked forward to our vacation in Door County. Today it felt so good to finally be on our way. After rounding another curve in the highway, the blue painted bridge suddenly loomed up ahead. From the driver came a soft, “Told you so.”
Tammie is extraordinarily good at making vacation plans, so after she asked me a few questions, she scheduled our activities for the next seven days. She’d done this before for other vacations. I’ve never been disappointed.
Later that evening, as I sat waiting for the movie” Jungle Cruise” to start, I looked around at the other cars parked at the Skyway drive-in movie theater. Smiling, I enthused, “The motel we’re staying at is really nice. Pelletier’s fish boil was fantastic! When the boil master threw kerosene on the fire to make the cauldron boil over at the end, I couldn’t believe how hot the flames were. I was standing a good 15 to 20 feet away!”
There was no doubt. The next driveway to the right was the Door Country tour depot. Rows of bright red trolley buses bordered the big square building. As she pulled into the driveway, my daughter Tammie remarked, “I hope they haven’t left without us. We’re a little late.”
Inside the depot a gift shop and several shoppers distracted us. We began to look around. A man with a clipboard stepped out of the office and announced in a loud voice, “I’m looking for the Richardsons.” We turned toward him as he said, “It’s time to board the trolley for your Premier five-hour winery tour.” As we boarded the bus, I hummed the theme song of Gilligan’s Island. Obviously in a party mood, or relieved by our tardy appearance, the other passengers cheered and clapped.
In the short drive to our first stop, Tammie researched restaurants for our evening meal. Looking up from her phone, she laughed, “The menu at this restaurant offers wild snails.”
I silently stared at her for a moment before peppering her with questions, “Does that mean people actually farm snails? I wonder what they eat? What is a large gathering of snails called? Several crows are called a murder of crows. Would it be a slime of snails? How in the world does a person hunt for wild snails? Are wild snails even a real thing?”
I heard birds busily twittering and pecking at seeds in the birdfeeder when I returned to the living room. My 90-year-old mother sat in her upholstered rocking chair holding a baby monitor in her lap. From the neighbor’s farm, we heard the distant crowing of a rooster. Laughing, I marveled, “That baby monitor picks up everything! It’s like actually being outside.”
Mom bragged, “It’s better than being outside. We hear what’s going on inside the birdfeeder.”
I agreed with a nod, “That’s true. Until now I never knew how noisy pecking is, or how much birds squabble while they eat.”
Macular degeneration had taken most of my mother’s eyesight the year before. To help her, I’d started bathing Mom every Friday evening, refilling her pill box, paying bills and doing her laundry. My teenaged daughters often came with me to spend time with their beloved Grammie.
Years before, my two bachelor brothers who live with Mom, had bought a baby monitor system. They fastened the microphone half of the device under the roof of the bird feeder and gave the receiver to Mom. She could turn it on and listen to the birds whenever she wanted.
I dropped my purse and car keys on the table as I looked around at the kitchen, dining room and living room. Used food dishes and silverware were everywhere. Books, paper and toys littered the floor. Sofa pillows and cuddle blankets were on the kitchen floor and used kettles filled the sink. Stamping a foot, I raged, “This place is a pig sty! Why do I have to come home from work to a mess like this?”
My husband, sprawled on the sofa, looked up from the newspaper he was reading with a startled look. “I didn’t hear you come in.” he exclaimed. Looking around, he added, “It’ll just take a few minutes to pick everything up.”
My eight-year-old and four-year-old daughters, Niki and Tammie came running from their bedroom for welcome-home-Mommy hugs. Kicking off my shoes, I bargained, “Help me pick up things. As soon as we’re done, I’ll start making supper.”
Seeing that everything was under control, my husband Arnie leaned back to resume reading his paper.
I cheerfully greeted the patient in the wheelchair with a big smile as the admitting department employee pushed him into his assigned room. Opening the bed, I helped the man up from the chair before taking his vitals and recording his personal belongings.
Just as I completed the nursing assistant portion of his admission, the dietician walked into the room. The patient grumbled, “This place feels like a refrigerator. Could you give me a blanket? I’m cold.” Noting several other supplies that would be needed, I left the room.
A few moments later I returned with a blanket, gown and a pitcher of water. Opening the blanket to wrap around the patient, I heard the dietician ask, “Please tell me about your diet.”
The patient reacted to the request as if gasoline to open flame. His face turned red and he shouted angerly, “I’m not on a diet, and you’re not going to shove some stupid a—-diet down my throat!”
Calmly looking up from her clipboard, the dietician wearily explained, “What I want to know is what types of foods you normally eat every day.” Her unruffled demeanor made me want to giggle. Undoubtedly, she’d experienced this conflict in word definition before.
Smiling as I stepped into my hoop-building garden, I took a deep breath and looked around. The smell of good soil and the sight of beautiful growing plants filled me with joy. I didn’t have time to weed, but did have time for making an inspection of the growing plants. I immediately spotted a problem. Something looked different.
There appeared to be fewer carrots than I remembered from the day before. Looking closer, I discovered a small carrot peeking out of the soil, its ferny carrot top missing as if someone had taken a scissor and lopped it off. Its developing greenery was nowhere to be seen.
In the row of peas, every single plant was either chewed down to a stub or entirely missing. Over half of the kale I’d planted was missing, too. I knew who the culprits were. Scanning my back yard, I spotted a small rabbit sitting next to a flowerbed. Another was fearlessly hopping across the lawn. Rabbit number three was nibbling on grass nearer to the river bank.
That evening when talking to my daughter Tammie, I complained, “Years ago when one of the mouse traps killed a rodent, a friend of mine claimed that for every mouse you catch in the house, there are ten more living in the walls. I suspect the same ratio exists for rabbits. For every rabbit you see out in the open, there are ten more hiding in the tall grass.”
My daughter exclaimed, “Ew! That means you have thirty rabbits in your yard!”
I answered with a sigh, “And there are probably also thirty deer who visit my yard every night. You should see what they’re doing to the flowerbed along the driveway.”
Pushing his dinner plate back, Daddy addressed my oldest brother. “I’m going to use dynamite to get rid of that big old thorn apple tree in the center of the cow pasture this afternoon. I need your help in clearing away rocks and roots after the explosion. I plan to plow that field next year.”
Nodding, my brother Casper stood up and left the house with Daddy. Hating to have anything changed or come to an end on the farm, I turned to my sister Mary and questioned, “Why is he getting rid of that tree?”
With her seven-year advantage over me, Mary confidentially explained, “The thorn apple tree is the last one on our farm. It used to have large, sweet fruit. But for the last few years the apples on it have been small and wormy.” I nodded. My brother Billy had picked some for me once. They were more like berries than apples and although bright red, they were bitter along with being wormy.”
Mom went to the basement to wash clothes. My sisters Betty and Mary cleared the table and ran water in the sink, so I slipped quietly out the back door of the house. For once I remembered to not let the screen door slam behind me. I wandered into the farm’s orchard and when I came to my favorite crabapple tree, clambered up into one of its branches.
Gazing at Mom’s nearby, well-weeded garden, my mind pictured the thorn apple tree’s extremely long thorns and craggy branches. I fretted about the world losing its last thorn apple tree. The sound of dynamite exploding announced the deed had been done.
I remembered the butter dish was nearly empty as I began to peal the first potato. Drying my hands and turning away from the sink to get a stick from the refrigerator, I nearly fell in avoiding killing the family pet. Flicker, our tuxedo cat, lay stretched to his full length in the center of the kitchen floor. His gorgeous, soft belly fur on full display begged to be stroked. He calmly blinked up at me with a kitty smile on his face. He had no idea he’d narrowly escaped a mortal danger. I shouted in a loud voice, “Flicker, you dumb cat! I nearly stepped on your big belly! Get out of the kitchen while I’m preparing supper!” My ten-year-old daughter, trailed by her six-year-old sister, appeared in the kitchen doorway. I sighed and asked, “Will you please take Flicker into the living room? He would get hurt very badly if I accidentally stepped on him.” As the children left the room with Flicker, my husband Arnie walked in. He asked, “Do I have enough time before supper to run into town to get gas for the truck?” Glancing at the unpealed potatoes in the sink and the stick of butter in my hand, I nodded and assured, “You have plenty of time.”
Three days before my granddaughter’s wedding, my daughter Tammie looked up from her phone and sadly reported, “I’ve been watching weather forecasts all week. Unfortunately, Anne will most certainly have a rainy wedding day!”
“That’s too bad.” I sympathized before adding, “The sun never came out on my wedding day. From time to time throughout the morning icy rain spit fitfully from the gray sky. During the afternoon and early evening, it flat out rained. My wedding was in April, not an end of June wedding like Anne’s. At least the rain on Saturday will be warmer than it was on my wedding day.”
My friend from North Carolina, called me last week. At the end of our conversation I asked her what she planned to do that day. She paused to think, then shared, “I ordered several plants recently and they were delivered yesterday. The sooner they’re planted, the better. This afternoon I’ll be gardening.”
Remembering the happy anticipation my family experienced whenever Mom or my brothers ordered fruit trees from a catalog, I inquired with interest, “What sort of plants did you get?”
Chuckling, my friend explained, “I had a hard time deciding between blueberries and cranberries. I love blueberries, but I already have some growing in my yard. I wanted to try my hand at growing cranberries, so I ordered a few plants. My order wasn’t filled correctly though; the nursery sent blueberry plants by mistake.”
Laughing because the same sort of mix-up had happened to my brother Casper once, I questioned, “Did you call the nursery? Are they going to send you the cranberry bushes you wanted? In mix-ups of this sort, nurseries don’t want the customer to send plants back to them. They consider the incorrect order a total loss.”