Sister Mary Micheline held up the classroom reward jar. I had finally earned a piece of candy. I slid out of my desk and slowly walked to the front of the room. Other second grade students in my class had frequently earned rewards from this jar since school had started this fall. The candy in the jar wasn’t just picked over, it was down to the last treat; one black licorice jelly bean…no one’s favorite candy.
Sister unscrewed the lid and held the jar out for me to reach in. I heard someone in the room snicker. Sister’s face was a map of winkles snuggly wrapper with a white wimple. A large black veil flowed from top of her head and down over her shoulders and back. Grasping the jelly bean, I pulled my arm out of the jar and looked up into the pale blue eyes of my elderly nun. I dutifully recited slowly, “Thank-you Sister Mary Micheline.”
Back at my desk, I looked down at the prize in the palm of my hand and for a second it blurred. In September and October, the jar held many desirable candies. Blinking, I thought, “Daddy loves licorice jelly beans.” Suddenly I felt so much better, I popped the black bean into my mouth. The sweet licorice taste made me feel as if my adored Daddy was sitting right next to me.
I placed a garden stool next to a tomato plant. Although some of its leaves were crisp from recent frosty nights, I spotted a few yellow blossoms deep within the plant. A few big tomatoes on the plant were faintly tinged red. Knowing they would finish ripening in the house, I put them in a box before cutting the plant down to a stump. Methodically, I processed each plant in the row, enjoying the beautiful, earthy scent of my garden.
Finally the only tomatoes I had left in the garden were the cherry tomato plants a few rows away. Less affected by the past few cold nights, each plant bore many clusters of perfect, but still green cherry tomatoes. I knew they would slowly ripen in the house so I put them put in a box, too.
As I worked, my daughter Tammie entered the greenhouse. She excitedly informed me, “The apple tree behind the greenhouse is covered with hundreds of beautiful red apples.”
With a smile I playfully questioned, “Guess who’s going to help me pick them?”
Loving to do things with me after her workhours are finished, Tammie enthusiastically responded, “I’m looking forward to doing that but will the apples be okay? We had a killing frost the other night.”
“They will be fine,” I assured her. “These are late apples and I always pick them after the first frosts in the fall. They’re like these last tomatoes in the garden. All the summer’s warmth turned into plant sugars for us to enjoy after the growing season is over.”
Outside our cozy, warm house, a cold fall drizzle was turning freshly fallen leaves into a slick mat under the trees. I flopped down onto the linoleum living room floor beside the heat register and began to read a comic book.
Mom put our supper in the oven to bake before she stepped into the living room. My brother Billy, who had been lounging in her upholstered rocking chair, got up so she could sit down. I observed his respectful behavior and felt pleased and content.
Mom snuggled into her comfy chair commenting happily, “Seeing the rain makes me thankful I worked all day yesterday getting my yard work done! But, ach…do I ever have sore muscles!” Her flowerbeds spanned our farmyard from one end to the other. In my mind’s eye, I saw how pretty they had been all summer. Yesterday Mom had removed all their frost-deadened leaves and stalks.
The comic book before me was about Scrooge McDuck, Donald Duck, his nephews Hewy, Dewy and Louie on a search for a great hidden treasure in Egypt. Scrooge’s greatest nemesis, the Beagle Boys, ‘caught wind’ of their find and boarded the ship the ducks were taking back to Duckburg. Beagle boy number 176-617 held Scrooge upside down by his legs and demanded the treasure. He snarled, “Hand it over, you rich pig-of-a-duck!” A jewel suddenly dropped from Scrooges blue frock coat. The Beagle brothers, in true pirate manner, made the ducks walk the plank.
I stepped out onto my back deck and admired how nice my yard looked this spring. New blades of grass glittered in the sunshine as a gentle breeze lovingly caressed them. Tree branches that had been winter-bound for so many months were finally beginning to unfurl their pink and green buds. Bright, yellow daffodils gracefully swayed in the new flowerbed by the driveway.
My loving scan of the crescent-shaped flowerbed came to an abrupt halt when I spotted what remained of the four hosta plants planted there. I’d been enthusiastically watching them grow new leaves for the last several days. My daughter Tammie joined me on the back deck just as I let out a squawk of protest and stamped my foot.
Turning to look in the same direction as I, she inquired, “What do you see that’s making you so upset?”
My response was more of a yelp, “My hostas! Look at them!”
After staring at the new flowerbed for a moment, Tammie asked, “Where did they go? Just yesterday afternoon they each had a nice cluster of new leaves.”
I said, sighing wearily, “The deer were here last night. Does are especially hungry now that winter is over and they have fawns to nurse. Besides that, I’ve heard people describe hostas as “deer candy”. It’s their preferred treat to eat when foraging a landscaped yard.”