Everyone was still munching on food when I jumped to my feet and examined the room. Tammie glanced up at me and quipped, “Oh-oh, look out! Mom’s got THAT look. She’s ready to get down to work.” Niki had provided cheese, crackers and dip shortly after we’d arrived at Tammie’s third floor apartment. Having spent the last three hours cooped up in the van traveling, her eight children were hungry and restless.
Frowning, I pointed out, “You have a lot to pack before moving on Saturday! Let’s get this job done as quickly as possible. We have hotel rooms reserved and a pool to play in. Plus, we left our luggage in the van. I’d feel better if it was safely at the hotel.”
I began sorting and packing craft boxes, cleaning supplies and trip souvenirs. My daughters immediately fell to work at my side. Unable to help because of tight quarters, my eighteen-year-old granddaughter Anne, decided to take her sixteen-year-old brother Jon to the Mall of America. Shortly after they left, one of the other children complained, “Blaise stinks. He needs a diaper change!”
Niki said, “I left the diapers in the van. I’ll run down and get them.”
I glanced out the window at Niki’s vehicle parked across the street. Someone crouched behind it. Alarmed, I asked, “Tammie, what’s going on down there? Someone’s hiding behind the van!” Continue reading
I heard the school bus pull to a stop in front of our house as I put a kettle of potatoes on the stove. My five-year-old had been standing at the large living room window for the last half hour, watching for her big sister. She shouted, “Niki’s home!” A moment later I heard the back-door slam and my fourth-grader walked into the dining room.
“How was your day?” I asked.
My daughter shrugged and gave me the usual before supper non-committal answer, “It was okay.”
The events of Niki’s day would slowly unreel as the evening progressed. She was never able to pour it out all at one time, so it didn’t pay to push.
By the time I was doing the supper dishes, Niki had told me about a math test she’d taken in the morning, who she played with at recess and what was served at hot lunch. The way my daughter leaned against the cupboards watching me clean the kitchen made it clear she wanted to say more.
Looking troubled, Niki finally said, “We had a class on fire safety this afternoon.” I turned to face her. Every fall the school taught the children what to do if their homes were to catch fire. Along with the knowledge came worry. Continue reading
Despite wearing cumbersome leg braces, Tammie independently hoisted herself onto the dining room chair next to her big sister, Niki. While putting bowls of food on the table, I noticed that as usual Tammie was clutching her favorite toy in her left hand. All summer long, everywhere she went, my daughter took this small gray seal with her.
I suspected Tammie liked the plush-covered, stuffed animal because it fit perfectly in her small four-year-old hands. It had beady black eyes and bristly plastic whiskers, which I frequently caught her biting.
When Daddy took his place at the table we blessed our meal. Then I asked, “Tammie, why are you biting the seal’s whiskers?”
My daughter answered with conviction, “Because he WANTS me to!” Continue reading
The summer afternoon was hot, so I sought out the cool shade under a row of mountain ash trees between our farmhouse and the driveway. After sitting down on the grass, I discovered a small cool breeze liked it under the trees as well.
Across the driveway, between the barn and a row of maple trees bordering the road, was a garden-sized field of timothy hay. Shortly after I sat down on the grass, Daddy walked across the yard with a scythe in his hands. Starting at the edge of the patch, he began to rhythmically swing the blade back and forth. As the tall grass fell, Daddy stepped forward to cut the next swath.
A car pulled into the driveway before he had a chance to cut the entire patch. The neighbor needed something we had in the machine shed. Leaning his scythe against the barn, Daddy followed him to the shed.
Eyeing the old-fashioned grass cutting tool leaning against the barn wall, I thought, “I wonder if I can make the scythe cut hay like Daddy?” Jumping to my feet, I ran across the driveway. The scythe was fairly heavy, but from watching Daddy, I knew how to hold it. Stepping up to the grass, I held the blade low and using my whole body, made it swing smoothly in an arc. Continue reading
In the pine tree on the north side of the greenhouse, a solitary chickadee wheezed out a sad and lonely, “Chee-dee-dee!” I stepped into the building and examined the rows of plants before me. Bright green parsley, healthy rosemary, thyme and oregano peeked out from behind billows of ruffle-leafed kale.
In another row, waves of pink and purple petunias tried to outdo the colorful yellow, orange and purple mounds of chrysanthemums. The canna, calla and amaryllis lilies were finished blooming for the year, but their healthy leaves were fattening up to store energy for next year’s blossoms.
One sixty-four-foot row was planted entirely in tomatoes. Most plants were huge and vibrantly green, covered with fruit of all sizes and stages of ripening. Six black krim tomato plants, an heirloom variety, were covered with yellow blossoms despite the heavy harvest they’d already given this summer.
Usually night-time frost kills my garden plants at the end of September. The killing frost almost always happens by the end of the first week of October, but not this year. Here it was October 25th, only two months before Christmas, and the plants were still bright and fresh.
Slowly pulling on a pair of black nitrile gloves, I walked purposefully toward the tomatoes. I couldn’t believe what I was about to do! For the sake of having a clean garden next spring, I was about to commit plant murder! Was it a breeze coming in the building’s open side flaps that made the tomato leaves quiver? Continue reading
My husband Arnie and I had started house hunting one month earlier, but saw nothing that felt right for us. When we drove out to the countryside to visit an old brick farmhouse by a small river, that changed. From the first moment I felt captivated, even though it needed much professional remodeling. Something about the place made me feel at home. After touring the house, our realtor took us out to a red barn on the backside of the property. Studying the barn’s layout, Arnie said, “The partial wall near the doorway would make a great place for a work bench.”
Buying the house was all we could afford at first. Any thoughts about remodeling were set aside for the distant future. Painting some of the walls and buying a few yards of pretty fabric remnants to make curtains, was all we could afford. While I worked at branding our home with my signature style, Arnie was doing the same thing outside, only in a man’s way. He set to work building his red barn work bench shortly after we moved in on the 3rd of October. Continue reading
Who knows how it happened. But there I was lying on the living room floor in a puddle of water, sand, glass and flopping fish. Hadn’t Mama told me to stop chasing around? Maybe she had, but none of that mattered anymore. I opened my mouth and let out a long, loud wail. Not only had I ruined something nice, but I was scared and uncomfortable.
Everyone in the house must have heard the crash and come running to see what had happened. If they hadn’t heard the glass break, they certainly heard my fire siren howl. Mama picked me up off the floor and gasped, “Oh my goodness! The glass cut your left arm!” Holding me away from her a little she added, “Ugh, you’re wet and fishy smelling!”
Mama firmly directed me toward the bathroom for a bath, bandaging and a change of clothing. Before leaving the room, I looked back and saw my sisters and brothers picking up glass, mopping up the water and sand. I saw small orange fish on the gray linoleum floor wildly flopping about. The sight made me feel so sad I began to wail again. Continue reading