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Leftover Summer

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.”

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Hot Vinaigrette

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.”

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God’s Time

The radio in Mom’s kitchen was tuned to a music station, just as it had always been from morning to night during my growing up years. Although in my early fifties, when I visited Mom, I still felt like I was a child, cradled in a time capsule. The many years which had passed since my childhood had taken their toll on her, though. Mom’s vision was gone and she needed my help to bathe, change her bedding and pay bills.

After I had washed and set Mom’s hair that afternoon, she settled down in her rocking chair. I sat nearby at the dining room table to pay her bills. With soft music playing in the background, Mom suddenly commented, “Tonight…we switch back to God’s time.”  

I looked up from the check I was writing. The dour manner in which she’d pronounced, ‘God’s time’ made me want to laugh.

A number of questions swarmed through my mind. Was Mom biblically opposed to day light savings time? I’d never gotten that impression as a child. Maybe Mom was repeating something she’d heard her own mother once say. My stern grandmother Franzeska, had been born in 1867. Although I’d never met her, things I’d heard made me wonder if she was a rather humorless person.

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Amazing Hat Lady

I pulled one picture after another from the box and studied them. The old-fashioned clothing fascinated me, looking so stiff and uncomfortable. Finally, I came to the photo I sought. The ancient image showed a beautiful woman wearing an amazingly huge hat. She stood next to a man in a formal photographer studio, posed stiff and unsmiling. I exclaimed to myself, “Just look at that hat. It has to be at least a foot and half tall!”

A few years ago I inherited a large box of old pictures that were taken in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. Some are of my relatives. Unfortunately, there are many I don’t have a clue who they are. When there were still people around who knew them, their names were never written on the photo’s backside. I love all of these images, even the ones I can’t identify.

Knowing the names of the people in a keepsake photo gives it more value. It also gives the pictured people an immortality that goes beyond just the one or two generations that knew them.

My family history project is slowly moving forward. Recently, a sister-in-law loaned a box of her family’s pictures to me. Just as in my family, many of the older pictures were not labeled.

Three 5 by 7 pictures especially piqued my curiosity. One showed two young couples. One of the women wore white, but had no veil. I showed it to my daughter Tammie and asked, “Do you think the girl in white is a bride?” The second picture showed two young couples. Holding that one up I wondered, “What do you think the special occasion is? Why did they have this picture taken?” The third photo showed a man and woman in a farmyard, surrounded by two black pigs and piglets. I observed, “This family must have been proud of their productive farm.” Continue reading

Is It a Llama?

The first week of quarantine I felt trapped and claustrophobic. During the second week I realized that I was safer at home rather than being, out-there-with-the-virus. By the third week of quarantine I began to think about changes I wanted to make to my office, which I was now sharing with a quarantine buddy, my daughter Tammie.

The futon in the office needed to go away. I wanted to replace it with a recliner. Supplies on wire shelving in the room were dusty and needed to be cleaned, organized and put into labeled boxes. A heater had to be installed. The room’s only heat vent was the furthest one away from the furnace, too far to warm the room above 59 degrees during six months of the year. It’s hard to be creative while freezing.

I wondered, “How am I to accomplish what I want? After all, I’m quarantined!” Once again, the sensation of being trapped and claustrophobic swept over me. When I told Tammie what was bothering me, her eyes lit up. She pulled out her phone with an enthusiastic invitation, “Let’s go shopping online!”

I ordered a heater and then called a local business man for installation, “after-this-is-all-over.” An order for a brown recliner we liked went out next. While we were at it, we made a big online grocery order. Following that my daughter purchased a yoga stool, clothing and craft supplies. I wanted garden supplies, a grandchild’s birthday gift and shoes. Tammie asked, “Did you know we can order our favorite restaurant meals uncooked and in bulk?”

Feeling like James T. Kirk, a science fiction spaceship captain, I pointed to her phone and ordered, “Make it so.” We both knew what we wanted. Continue reading

Bumps and Thumps

Snuggling down under a large quilt in my rocking chair on a cold winter night felt so right. The best part of my self-indulgence was that my conscience was clear; I wasn’t being lazy. During the day I had washed two loads of laundry, swept, vacuumed, baked bread and cooked a nice supper. The furnace in the basement kicked in with a roar. I smiled. During the summer when I had had it installed; I worried it would be so quiet that I wouldn’t know when it was running. Ruefully, I reflected, “With it directly below where I’m sitting, it sounds like a jet engine revving-up to take off.”

As a new widow and fully responsible for my home, I had quickly become aware of the sounds in my house and what they mean. The old furnace was working right when; augers kicked in, pellets clinked down the chute and the noisy blower frequently started up with a roar. Well pump clicks told me when water was being drawn from the well. Snow falling from the upper roof make loud crashes, but apparently do no damage.

Sometimes I learned new sounds. One day I was in the dining room when I heard a loud thumping sound coming from the upstairs hallway. It sounded like a kid was running from one end of the house to the other. My heart pounded. I was home alone. Slowly walking toward the staircase, I spotted Louie my white and black cat on the landing. A few seconds later, Shadow the black and white cat joined him. They had been chasing each other. I picked Louie up. He looked soft and fluffy, but tipped the scale well over twelve pounds. Still, how did he manage to sound like an elephant heffalumping down the hallway? Pets make surprising sounds. Continue reading

Scratch and Sniff

Seeing tears glittering in my daughter’s eyes, the nurse gently distracted her by sweetly pointing out, “I have some stickers for you.”

Niki’s eyes lit-up and the tears disappeared. No fuss, no worries, life was good! Forgetting her doctor’s office anxieties, she leaned over to examine the stickers the nurse held in the palm of her hand.

It has always amazed me how much my children loved getting stickers. I found they worked just as well for bribes as for rewards. Everyone seemed to be handing them out. My girls received them not just at the doctor’s office, but from the dentist, their teachers, the bank and at birthday parties.

By the time Niki was in grade school and Tammie was starting kindergarten, the types of stickers had multiplied. Plain pictures on a sticky-backed paper became passé. Stickers came out with textured surfaces. Some were padded plastic. My children especially loved the ones of the latest Disney movie princesses.

One day, as we were shopping with Grammie, Tammie received a rather plain-looking, slightly bumpy sticker of a pink-frosted cupcake with a cherry on its top. She proudly showed it to me saying, “Scratch it and then sniff it.”

Scraping my fingernail over the red cherry, I leaned down and sniffed. It smelled like a bowl of cherries! Grammie enjoyed looking at and sniffing Tammie’s latest sticker, too. Continue reading

Scratch and Sniff

Seeing tears glittering in my daughter’s eyes, the nurse gently distracted her by sweetly pointing out, “I have some stickers for you.”

Niki’s eyes lit-up and the tears disappeared. No fuss, no worries, life was good! Forgetting her doctor’s office anxieties, she leaned over to examine the stickers the nurse held in the palm of her hand.

It has always amazed me how much my children loved getting stickers. I found they worked just as well for bribes as for rewards. Everyone seemed to be handing them out. My girls received them not just at the doctor’s office, but from the dentist, their teachers, the bank and at birthday parties.

By the time Niki was in grade school and Tammie was starting kindergarten, the types of stickers had multiplied. Plain pictures on a sticky-backed paper became passé. Stickers came out with textured surfaces. Some were padded plastic. My children especially loved the ones of the latest Disney movie princesses.

One day, as we were shopping with Grammie, Tammie received a rather plain-looking, slightly bumpy sticker of a pink-frosted cupcake with a cherry on its top. She proudly showed it to me saying, “Scratch it and then sniff it.” Continue reading

Farm Friendly

I peeked into the entryway when I heard the back door open. My three younger grandsons had finished playing in the snow and were coming in to warm up. Remembering how frost-nipped their cheeks and fingers were after sledding in my backyard last month, I went to the kitchen to pour them cups of hot sweet tea. As I buttered toast for them, I could hear them stamping snow off their boots. Since they rolled around in the snow when they played, I knew there would also be snow clinging to their clothing.

Eleven-year-old Ben was the first to step into the kitchen. I said, “I’ve made tea and toast for you.” He grinned his appreciation and sat down at the table. Nine-year-old Luke came in next and eagerly accepted a cup from me. Jacob, who will be seven in May straggled in last. After placing the buttered toast on the table, I checked the entryway to see if I needed to hang wet snowsuits over the registers. What I saw was the inner house door hanging wide open. Since my wood pellet thermostat is in the entryway, I don’t like it when that room gets chilled. The rest of the house would soon be roasting!

I opened my mouth, but it was my mother’s voice that came out of it. She said, “Who was the last person into the house? Were you born in a barn? You left the door hanging open!” Continue reading