The first time it happened, my daughter Tammie picked up her phone and called me. She exclaimed, “Mom, snow-shovel fairies exist! One shoveled my sidewalk today.”
Tickled that someone had helped Tammie with a job that is very difficult for her, I excitedly questioned, “Who was it? A neighbor? Someone from your church?”
Like an astonished child on Christmas morning, Tammie answered with a voice filled with amazement, “I don’t know. The sidewalk needed shoveling when I got up. By the time I ate breakfast and dressed in winter clothing, I found the sidewalk shoveled clean!”
My daughter Tammie was born with elbow length arms, intestinal problems, a blood disorder and poorly functioning knees. When she was two-years old, a doctor at the Mayo Clinic did surgery on both legs. Using disordered tissues and tendons, he constructed useable knee joints for her. Continue reading
I sat watching birds visit the bird feeder in front of the large living room window. Cheerfully, they darted about between the feeder and nearby pine branches, apparently impervious to the arctic cold that had enveloped Central Wisconsin for the last few days. A brisk wind carrying a load of powdery snow whistled around the corner of my house. The snow settled like dust on two nuthatches and a chick-a-dee who were busy scratching and pecking at the frozen seeds. The surprise shower of ice particles didn’t seem to bother them.
I shivered, partly in sympathy for them and partly because cool air was blowing from the register next to me. Counting to ten, I thought, “Wait for the warm air that will eventually come; one, two, three…” I missed everything about my wood pellet furnace, except its messiness, the hard work of keeping it clean, and having to handle two tons of pellets multiple times each winter.
My daughter Tammie walked into the living room carrying two cups of steaming tea. Handing one to me she commented, “The wind is really blowing the snow around. I’m glad I don’t have to drive back to the cities today.”
After attempting to take a small sip of the scalding black tea, I ruefully pointed out, “It’s hard to believe that the tide turned on December 21st. For over a month now, we’ve been in slack tide.” Continue reading
Blackcap bramble, wild grape vines, Canadian thistles, a few seedling asparagus plants and quack grass were all fighting for dominion. Wild morning glory, creeping Charlie and bridal veil weed were making good on their nature to climb over and smother all the other plants. My daughter Tammie and I stood in the driveway next to the house inspecting the tangled mess of vegetation, which had once been a beautiful flowerbed.
Gloomily, I pointed out, “The weeds have nearly smothered the old-fashioned rose bush and I can’t even see the hosta.”
Stepping a little closer, Tammie exclaimed, “I see a hosta, but it looks like someone took shears to it!
Pulling tall weeds aside, I examined the plant before explaining, “Lots of deer come through my yard at night. They seem to think the hostas are salad bowls for them to snack on.”
Shaking her head, Tammie marveled, “It’s a wonder they can find them in this mess.”
Searching the gone-to-seed flowerbed for signs of an Anthony Waterer bush, clumps of stella-de-oro and other lilies, I reminisced, “When this flowerbed was new, it had decorative stone paths and there weren’t any weeds at all.” Continue reading
After Tammie and I attended Mass on Christmas Eve, we shared a special meal together, then turned out all the lights except one lamp and thoes on the Christmas tree. A lovely, deep calm settled over the household. From the stereo came soft strains of beautiful, traditional Christmas songs by Mannheim Steam Roller, played in their usual non-traditional manner.
Under the tree there were two piles of gifts. One was from me for my daughter, the other stack was from her. Sitting on the floor next to them, Tammie leaned forward and pushed two presents aside, pointing out, “These two are your birthday gifts from me. You can’t have them until the 27th.”
Jumping up from the sofa, I exclaimed, “Thanks for reminding me. It’s midnight and baby Jesus’ birthday! Retrieving a small package from a chair side drawer, I walked over to the nativity set and unwrapped a small infant Jesus figure. Placing it in the manger between Mary and Joseph, I said, “There you go, my sweet little baby.” Tammie and I paused for a moment to enjoy the familiar ‘Silent Night’ melody playing on the stereo, then began with our gift exchange. Continue reading
I kept checking, but there was nothing to see outside our classroom windows, except low, heavy clouds and gray tree tops all morning. Like the rest of the seventh graders in the room, I was thinking, “Surely, it should snow soon! It’s already the end of November!” During noon recess the wind was bitterly cold. Despite wearing mittens, my hands froze. When the bell rang for my class to troop back inside, I felt relieved.
At first, I was glad to be back inside. But then Sister Wilhelmina started the afternoon by having the class take out their arithmetic books. I hated numbers. Instead of looking out of the windows, I began to watch the classroom clock. To my dismay, the minute hand slowed to the speed of an hour hand. Time crept past as slowly as a snail climbing a bean stalk after eating a huge meal. After enough time for the snail to complete a full cycle of evolution, the class finally ended.
While putting my arithmetic book away, I noticed the class was whispering louder than usual. Glancing around, I discovered snowflakes were fluttering past the windows. Sister Wilhelmina said with resignation, “Now that the snow has started, no one will be able to concentrate on school work! That’s okay. Our Christmas play is in three weeks, so let’s begin practicing the songs in the program.” Continue reading
My large black and white tuxedo cat didn’t look happy. Sure, he still liked to stretch out and snooze in patches of sunshine on my linoleum kitchen floor, but there was a pensiveness and hesitation in his posture when he sat on the back deck. At six-years of age, Flicker was used to spending wonderful, adventure-packed hours along the small river where we had lived up until six weeks ago. My husband Arnie and I had moved Niki and Tammie, our two children and pets to a farm, far away from a river and fallow low lands.
At first, after we’d moved, I was afraid that Flicker would roam away from our new home if we let him out of the house. When I finally relented and let him out, I discovered that he was reluctant to explore our new yard. The last place he wanted to go was to the barn, which was filled with huge, mooing, hoof-clopping cows. Mud found in the barn wasn’t at all like the clean, sweet mud on the river bank, either.
Every cow barn has a colony of cats to reduce the mouse population. Flicker wasn’t interested in making friends with the barn cats. As if just going through the motions, my big black and white cat dutifully made short trips into the oat and corn fields near the house to mouse.
My family lived on the farm for two years. Then, during the month of June, Arnie and I packed up our two children and pets and returned to our old, beloved house on the north bank of the river. A beautiful summer stretched ahead of us.
Picking up old habits as though he’d never stopped, Flicker returned to spending long, leisurely days on the river bank hunting and sunbathing on warm rocks. His eyes looked bright and happy. In the evenings he purred loudly while cuddling with Niki and Tammie. Continue reading
I sat back on my heels to rest for a moment while weeding my lawn-turned-garden. Gazing at the stand of oats behind our farmhouse, I noticed shimmers of heat rising from the field. Each plant was busy forming beautiful, small grains. A breeze swept past, cooling my skin. The invisible force gently teased and tussled the crop, making the blue-green plants dip and sway like waves in an ocean.
Eight-year-old Niki and four-year-old Tammie sat nearby on the grass in the cool shade of our farmhouse. Thankful they were happily playing together, I went back to weeding the ground cherries, tomatoes and cabbage. As I worked, I thought about my childhood growing up on a farm.
Having a campfire in the woods was one of the summer highlights for me as a child. Once my neighborhood cousins and I reached a certain age, we were allowed to occasionally go to the woods in the evening by ourselves to have a campfire picnic. We brought foil-wrapped potatoes to bake in the fire, butter, salt and pepper. Other goodies, if there were some in our kitchens, included hot dogs and marshmallows.
When the cows were milked and let out of the barn, they came to the woods. The nosey beasts stood in a semi-circle around the gully where we had a campfire ring next to a boulder. Snorting, mooing, making waterfall and plop-plop sounds, they watched us as the sky grew dark and their eyes glowed iridescent blue-silver in the firelight. Continue reading