Tiny orange blossoms sprouted up overnight. Dolly didn’t notice at first. They spread past the bushes, filling in the yard, climbing up the bell pull and strangling the clapper with tough, stringy vines. Each morning she took a pair of kitchen scissors and cut the vines from the bell, just in case. Each morning the vines climbed and took over again until one morning they were so thick, she could no longer cut them.
In a panic, she tried using her best paring knife. Pulling the knife through the vines with all her might, they snapped.
She bled out on the floor.
This is my entry for Friday Fictioneers…. to read other entries or to join the group go to this link
I grew up near the banks of the Blanchard River. Our house was at the top of a hill, our farm was gently rolling, and looking out our kitchen window to the east was a field that we called “the riverbottom”. It was a wet field, frequently flooded. It was definitely not our best producing field because often the crops would get washed out early in the season when the spring rains came fast and hard. In the summer a heavy thunderstorm would cause flooding of crops trying to grow and mature, and in the fall, when harvest was near, any rains would make it difficult to move the harvesting equipment into that area. No amount of tile could change Mother’s Nature’s drainage plan so my Dad learned not to expect much out of that particular part of the field.
The southern border of that field was marked by a small creek which drained other fields on our farm. It could be dry in the summer or full of water after heavy rains. There were cattails growing along the creek and turtles could be found there. One spring Mom found a mother duck and several newly hatched ducklings. She would take the grandchildren back to visit and observe and watched them most of the summer until they disappeared on their life’s journey.
There was a grassy lane leading from our farm buildings downhill to the creek. It was a steep slope to the bottom of the hill where the lane then made a sharp 90 degree turn to the east; a great place to ride your bike. I can still feel the wind in my face and the bumps of the bicycle tires hitting the dirt clods. Racing downhill, picking up speed, trying to make the turn and then crossing the creek, sometimes with a splash. Those were the dreams that summer days were made of. In the winter the same hill was a great place to sled. After a few trips down the hill, the snow would become packed hard and we would fly down the hill.Just off to the west a bit was the famous Hickory Nut Tree (see related post) http://retiredruth.wordpress.com/2013/11/06/hickory-nut-cake/ . It grew along the meandering creek and was the lone tree for miles. As the natural waterways flowed through our farm toward the river, there was a small area where the water twisted and turned and made a bit of a wet spot. My best friend and I discovered it one spring and we named it “Paradise” . There were tiny streams and green grass growing. We spent quite a few hours there making tiny dams and pretend villages with stones and rocks and twigs and weeds. Paradise, indeed. I’m not sure why finding that little oasis in the middle of our pasture field is such a significant memory to me. It seemed a bit like a fairy-land close to home. My friend remembers it too.
If you followed the grassy lane further to the east it eventually led to the “line fence” that separated our property from an adjacent landowner’s property. The line fence was an old wire fence which eventually grew into a sizeable tree line with a buckeye tree and lots of weeds and wildlife. The field next to the line fence was a feeding place for groundhogs when soybeans were planted in it. When the crops were rotated to corn, the deer who naturally moved toward the river, had a feast at the expense of my dad’s corn crop.
We often traveled back to the river, usually on foot. We were careful to make a path along the edges of the field so as not to disturb the crops. There was a low-water crossing nearby, which I am sure had been there for centuries. The water was not deep and it was a narrow part of the river where you could easily cross with a horse and wagon or later with bare feet hopscotching across on the flat rocks that lined the river. I don’t remember it ever getting deeper than my knees. Again, it was another part of a dreamy summer day. We would criss-cross the river on the stones, skipping flat stones, and watching for fish, frogs, and dragonflies. If we lost our balance on the stepping-stones, all the better. The sunshine and the warm summer breeze would dry us before we got back to the house. We returned with mosquito bites and a cut or two on our feet from the sharp rocks, maybe even a skinned elbow, but full of fun memories and the promise of another day to be spent at the river.
When I was nine or ten years old, I began to explore the river from another angle. I was allowed to ride on my new bicycle down to the river bridge. It was a big iron structure, an Iron Whipple style bridge. I would park my bike at the edge of the bridge and carefully climb down the steep slope until I was under the bridge. There was a cement structure that supported the bridge which was big enough for me to sit on. I could spend hours just sitting under the bridge. Occasionally a car would cross the bridge and rumble across. No one could see me and it was a place where I could escape to and be alone. Every summer I would head to the bridge and soon I had a small path worn through the grass and the weeds.
When I was about twelve, skateboards were the thing. I would take my skateboard, prop it on the handlebars of my bike, and ride to the river bridge. I went across the bridge and pedaled hard back up the hill. Here I would park my bike, check for traffic, step on my skateboard and ride to the bottom l…. no helmet, no shin guards or knee pads. Just me and my ponytail riding a wooden skateboard with steel roller skate wheels down the road to the bridge. Early skateboards were difficult, if not impossible, to steer, so I would sometimes veer toward the guard rail of the bridge. At some point I would need to stop or hop off and a few times my skateboard went off the bridge and landed in the river.
I continued to visit my private escape even into my teens. I could ponder the meaning of life and other important stuff like boys, teenage drama, and what I was going to do with my life after high school.
A few years ago, I returned to my private escape. I was disappointed to see the changes. Why do we always assume things will stay the same? The trees and brush were so much bigger than when I was a girl. The path I had worn had disappeared. I was no longer a sure-footed young girl who could attempt to climb down to the banks of the river.
One thing that hasn’t changed is the desire for a private escape. I still feel the need to find a secluded spot, away from noise and people, a place to ponder what I am going to do with the rest of my life.
This memory was jarred loose by LouAnn. Check out her blog at the link below.
Finally he had sold a painting. He remembered the words of his mother, ” … don’t be an artist. Get a real job. Something you can support yourself with. You can play around with your paints after work, on weekends. It’s too hard of a life.”
For the first time in his life, he had not listened to her. He had painted and created and struggled and starved. For fifteen long years he had barely got by. He was never happier than when he was painting. It was the right choice; no factory job or stuffy career for him.
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“Who’ll gimme twenty, gimme twenty?”
“Didn’t your parents ever throw anything away!”
Dave’s comment broke my concentration on the auctioneer’s song. I glanced his way, but he was moving toward another table loaded with the treasures of my parents’ lives.
They didn’t throw things away. If it broke, they fixed it. If they grew tired of it, they stored it away in the attic. Struggling to get by, making ends meet, putting food on the table, was how they lived their lives.
The younger generation didn’t understand, but I remembered the stories.
And this is how it ends.
This is an entry to a weekly 100 word writing challenge sponsored by Friday Fictioneers. You can find more information at the link below.
Traipsing through the back yard from the stone driveway, I pull open the back door of Grandma’s house. The back porch has cement steps and there are crocks and shoes and gloves lying around, as well as a braided rug to catch the dirt. As soon as I open the painted blue door which leads to the kitchen, a familiar smell hits me…. hickory wood.
To the right, is a dresser painted the same color as the kitchen door. It’s display on top is ever-changing. In the spring, there are always several glasses or canning jars full of wildflowers and flowers from Grandma’s garden. In the early summer, her roses are always displayed. When autumn arrives, there are dried weeds, milkweed pods, bouquets of wheat, oats, and barley. Ragweed, foxtail, chickory, Queen Anne’s Lace, cattails, burdock, teazel are often arranged in old coffee cans. Some have been painted a silvery or gold color. A collection of turkey wishbones decorate the windowsill. The display is dormant during the winter except for the addition of a bird feather or pine cone.
To the left is a folding table full of Grandma’s latest projects: drawings, paintings, and more dried flowers, and weeds yet to be arranged. Shoe box lids, old cardboard boxes, and nylon hose inserts are used as canvases for her artwork. Pencils, pastels, paints, brushes, and cupfuls of water full of small paintbrushes are scattered among the projects.
Nearby is a secret hiding place that everyone knows about. Grandma has a movable wooden step that leads to her stairs. If you pull the step away from the wall, it is hollow and filled with old books and back issues of magazines that she has saved.
In every room, the walls are decorated with Grandma’s paintings. Birds, fish, flowers, and cats seem to be Grandma’s favorite subjects. Around the perimeter of the kitchen are wooden chairs painted the same cornflower blue as the back door and the dresser. Grandpa’s tiny bedroom is just off the kitchen; off-limits to grandchildren.
Above the kitchen sink is a window looking out to the east, surrounded by small decorative shelves on either side. On one of the shelves is a tiny plastic cow and bucket. Fill the cow with water through its open mouth, place the plastic bucket underneath, pump the cow’s tail up and down and the water would squirt into the bucket. It wasn’t a trip to Grandma’s if I didn’t milk the plastic cow! In a cupboard above the stove was a Shirley Temple cup and saucer, dark blue with Shirley’s face and curls for all to see.
Grandma has an old upright piano in her bedroom, probably the first piano I ever played. When I began to play with some skill, Grandma and I would sit down and play a duet called “The Fairies Dance” . She would play the bass part and I would play the treble. Later when I was in high school, Grandpa bought her a new spinet piano. I was required to play at least one selection each time I visited. Grandma was definitely my musical inspiration.
In the corner of the bedroom near the old upright piano, is the toy box. Every Grandma has one, right? There is ”Go Fish”, “Chutes and Ladders”, checkers, and a few yarn cats and stuffed animals. In a bureau in Grandma’s bedroom is a stereoscope with a small box of pictures to be viewed. The living room has a well-worn flowered couch, a couple of chairs, and a wooden chair with a leather seat that Grandpa sits in. No one else. He sits there and listens to the radio; station WJR tuning in the baseball games… the Detroit Tigers and the Cleveland Indians. On the floor next to Grandpa’s chair is a coffee can… a spittoon.
One of the most intriguing places in Grandma’s house is …. the secret room. I’ll save that story for another day.
Some of Grandma’s artwork….
Originally posted on retiredruth - Life in the 50's and beyond:
They were perfect in every way. So soft from many washings, full coverage including feet, and my favorite color – yellow. That’s why the disaster that befell my favorite pair of pajamas was so devastating.
One bitterly cold, wintry night, I lay cozy and snuggled in my bed. I could barely move because I was tucked in all around with sheets, blankets, and a couple of hand-made comforters. So when I woke up in the middle of the night needing to go to the bathroom, I decided it wasn’t worth the effort. Our old farmhouse had no furnace; just two coal burning stoves on each end of the house. Our house was very seldom cozy warm in the winter, and upstairs, where my brother and I slept, there was no heat at all. I would just wait until morning. I quickly fell asleep.
“Time to get up!” shouted mom after she opened the stair door, “I’ll be out helping Dad finish the milking.”