Archive | April 2021

Smoke Mama

No matter where I sit next to a campfire, tendrils of smoke follow me.

I tore the flap off a cardboard box, folded it and placed it between two logs of wood. After placing several twigs above it and bigger branches above that, I ignited the cardboard. A small orange flame licked tentatively around the edges of the brown corrugated paper for several seconds before it completely became engulfed in eager, leaping flames. I glanced around. What would burn fast and quick to keep the fire going until the logs caught?

         Nearby, laid a pile of small scrub trees I’d cut down last fall, the reddened Christmas tree, a mound of grass raked from the lawn and a bundle of asparagus fern from the garden. I didn’t plan on using the Frazier fir, since I only wanted a small, respectable fire. From experience I knew the Christmas tree would burn too hot, fast with high, leaping flames.

My daughter Tammie joined me by the blaze. Watching me tuck sticks into the embers, she observed, “You really love playing with fire, don’t you?”

I grinned at her and admitted, “I’ve always enjoyed tending fires. When I was small my family burned all our household garbage except bottles, cans and kitchen scraps. It was big excitement for us to all stand around and watch stuff burn. If I got too close to the fire, my brothers and sisters told me that if I fell in and burned off my head, I’d have to wear a kettle to replace my head and that my new name would be little Miss Kettlehead.”

Tammie laughed, “That’s a weird thing to tell a kid.”

I nodded and agreed, “Yes, it is. But when I was a kid, it seemed to make sense.

Sitting down on a small barrel, I watched the fire. Flames licked at a pile of grass next to it. I had raked the grass up this spring. Too damp to ignite, the grass sent up a plume of thick, white smoke. A breeze swirled the smoke towards where Tammie and I were sitting. Coughing, I jumped to my feet.

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Frankenstein Dresses

Mom said she felt like sewing a dress for herself. I watched as she carefully laid a beautiful floral-print material on the kitchen table. The day before last, my family made one of our rare visits to Marshfield where she’d bought material and a new pattern.

My only interest when we visited downtown Marshfield was the candy, toy and pet sections at Woolworth’s or Ben Franklin’s. I tried hard to be patient as Mom slowly studied the McCall pattern book before picking out what she wanted. She knew how I felt by my frequent sighs, moans and occasional question, “Can we leave this store pretty soon?”

Most of the tissue paper pattern pieces were pinned to the material when Mom stopped what she was doing and stood quietly. After a moment she spoke as if talking to herself, “The neckline isn’t exactly what I want. Also, I want the sleeves to be longer.” Pulling pattern pieces from other pattern envelopes, Mom began pinning those onto the material to replace the original neckline.

I was just a little kid, but I couldn’t figure out how Mom was going to get everything to fit together without puckers in the cobbled together material. Remembering my long wait for her in the fabric store, I felt restless and decided to go outside for a while.

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Discontented

Some problems can be changed by the way we think about them. But there is no solution for the problem of wispy baby fine hair except a perm.

My neighborhood cousins and I were together under the tall trees in front of their farmhouse. Donna sat on the swing, slowly pushing herself side to side. I stood with one leg up over the seat of my bike. Barb and Alice sat on the front porch steps. A cool breeze smelling of lilacs gently fluttered through the yard. We sniffed and sighed appreciatively. Life was good. In the back of my mind I felt contentment because I knew here were only a few more weeks left before school let out for summer vacation.

         The topic that early Saturday afternoon was the middle names we were given at birth. To my great surprise, my young cousins had middle names I recognized as belonging to their older relatives. I didn’t know if I should envy them or feel sorry for them. My middle name, Marie, sounded like plain old vanilla in a world of exotic flavors.

         I didn’t like my first name that much either. Kathy? It had such a babyish sound to it. I imagined that if I could change my name, I’d pick Victoria. To me, that name sounded beautiful and graceful. A person with that name would be confident and proud.

Ruefully, I thought, “A person named Victoria would probably have curly hair, too.” I hated my floppy, baby fine hair. I wondered, “Why couldn’t I have been born with curly hair like Shirley Temple?”

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April Showers

Hepatica, the quintessential May flower.

Daylight woke me, but I laid in bed for a long-time daydreaming. The cozy household sounds and the smell of freshly baked bread drifted up from downstairs. Hunger finally made me roll out of bed, get dressed and leave my second story bedroom. When I wandered into the kitchen, Mom turned to exclaim, “Well, you finally decided to get up!”

Slathering a thick layer of butter on a slice of homemade bread, I sat down at the kitchen table. Spring sunshine poured through the nearby window onto the chair I chose and the surrounding floor. The chair’s red vinyl seat felt very warm. I wiggled my toes on the heated flooring. As I ate the bread, I looked out the kitchen window at the lawn. Last week it had been dotted with piles of snow. Today it was starting to turn green.

Last Saturday I’d helped Daddy make small trenches in the yard to speed-up mud puddle drainage. Popping the last of the bread into my mouth, I licked a bit of butter off my fingers before asking, “Mom, I’d like to make a May altar. Do you think May flowers have started to bloom? We’ve had lots of April showers.”

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