I stopped halfway to my neighborhood cousin’s farm and looked around with pleasure. Overhead, the clouds were light colored, but on the horizon they remained a brilliant, stormy blue, reminding me of a face still wet after crying. Only an hour before, it had been raining. New grass and small leaves on the trees were bright green. The plowed soil along the road held rows of perky green sprouts against the dark brown dirt. Crystalline droplets of water sparkled on every sprig. The colors were strong, clear and beautiful. Even the damp gravel under foot was an amazing salmon-pink.
As I paused in the soft, velvety, afternoon spring air, I thought about how I seldom left the house for anything other than to go to church until I was four years old. I was the youngest child of a large, farm family. When it was warm I spent time out on the lawn with the big kids, but when it was cold I had to bundle up until I was hardly able to move.
Now, at age seven I felt proud to walk on the road to go visiting by myself. Smiling, I remembered my first visit to my neighborhood cousins’ home. Mom had dressed me in my winter coat and then leaned over to tie a scarf on my head. I frowned at her. She wanted me to go visiting, something I didn’t want to do. She said, “Just go with Daddy. You’ll have a good time.”
My smile turned into a laugh as I remembered how disastrous some of my first cold weather outings were. Once, when my sisters had bundled me up and taken me out to play in the backyard, I slipped and fell. Until then I had been having fun climbing around on Daddy’s trailer. Unfortunately, when I fell, I landed in a huge, fresh pile of rooster poop. Although I was unhurt, I cried hard because my red wool coat was dirty.
When I arrived at my cousin’s house today, I found the oldest girl taking the baby of the family for a stroller ride up and down their driveway. The three girls closest to my age and I tumbled along with her. Little Mary sat quietly, enjoying the fresh air and ride. Janey walked slowly, dreamily singing, “Sugar in the morning, sugar in the evening, sugar at suppertime, be my little sugar and love me all the time.”
Sighing with contentment, I thought about how this beautiful world seemed freshly washed by the rain. It was a good, safe, happy world that I lived in, a place where there was true, lasting love with pretty songs for lovers to sing.
At the end of the driveway we turned around and slowly made our way back toward the barn. Janey began to sing, “Catch a falling star and put it your pocket. Never let it fade away. Catch a falling star and put it in your pocket. Save it for a rainy day.”
I loved these beautiful songs. They played often on the kitchen radio Mom always had on at home. This one about catching a falling star confused me. A person couldn’t really catch a star and what would you want a star for on a sweet, rainy day like this, anyway? What did the song have to do with love? Shrugging, I just accepted the strange words and enjoyed the sound of the melody.
My memory of that spring afternoon stands out like a crisp, brand-new color snapshot. As a seven-year-old I knew neither great worries nor grief. Life was good. What did the song mean when it said, “For when troubles start multiplin’…and they just might, it’s easy to forget them without tryn’, with just a pocketful of starlight.”?
As an adult, I like the fanciful imagery of having a pocketful of starlight to help me though troubled times. The starlight that I carry now isn’t fanciful, though, but the grace, faith and trust in my Lord and creator.
Hi Kathy I just read this story and made me so thankful I came from a loving large family. You were like another sister to me! Mary Stueber Oertel
Mary, You were my counterpart in your family. I trailed the rest of the kids by about the same number of years as you, I think! Both families had two boys and five girls. I don’t think Janey was born until the year Billy was born. I’m not sure about that. As a kid I loved visiting your family, but I’m afraid that I might have been a bit of a pest! It is sad that Billy never had a son and had to stop farming, but I am very happy that the Stueber Farm is buying the land. I look forward to seeing what Jacob and Calie are planning to do with the house. (It is neat that a Jacob built the place and another Jacob will be living there.) I’m working hard to clear the house of our stuff…a slow process. I found some stuff that I was wondering if the local historical society would be interested in it. Do you know what they will be featuring in the history cabin at Heritage days this year? Kathy
Wow I didn’t know Jake & Calli were buying your place. I think that’s cool. I was just thinking about joining the historical society. I bet June could be either wedding stuff or agricultural. I have my gramma Kaiser’s wedding dress and it would be neat to show that to others.talk soonMary
I hope we get to visit sometimes soon. Until I get my garden in and the farmhouse clear…I’m going to be running nonstop. When I was telling Johnny about some of the stuff I know about the history of our family, he commented that you are into family history, too. We should compare notes. Kathy