Thursday, June 25, 2009

A Special Day and a Love Story

Today is a special day, not so much in my collection of days, but in my mother-in-law’s collection. June 25 is the day that she and Pop were married, a long time ago in a faraway land. I don’t know all of the details of the wedding or the events leading up to it, but I’ve been given enough bits and pieces to spark my imagination and curiosity. Pop is now gone, and Mom is in the depths of senility and doesn’t communicate very well any more. What I don’t know about their story is lost to eternity, but oh! What a love story it is!

I went to visit Mom yesterday. She was sleeping as I slipped into her room and stood by her bed. I didn’t wake her at once, but gazed at her and said a prayer for her in the silence of the room. Her short, thin, white, wispy hair looked unwashed, and the overweight problem she had a couple of years ago is gone. Mom is slowly slipping away from us. After the third time of calling her name, she opened her eyes to see me standing there. She gave me a smile, not so much one of recognition, but one that made me know that she knew I was someone who loved her, even if she wasn’t sure who I was. She reached out her hand to mine and squeezed it, holding on instead of releasing it.

I began talking to her, mostly in an attempt to keep her awake for a little while. I told her about our garden and about the grape arbor that we’ve started. She and Pop had a wonderful scuppernong arbor, and every September I’d go over to their house to pick grapes for my jelly. I also described my triple bloom daylilies to her- she had given me a starter clump when Phil and I bought our first home, and I brought some of them with me to the country when we moved out here. They have multiplied into a gorgeous lily bed. I told her how I am fighting the deer, trying to keep them away from the lilies, since the blooms are a delicacy they can’t resist! She smiled as I told her about the stinky spray I’m using to repel the deer, which also repels Phil from me for several hours after I treat the garden.

I reminded her that her anniversary was coming up, and she smiled with a glimpse of understanding. I miss Pop, but I’m glad that he isn’t here to see his spunky Ginger - a nickname he gave her because of her ginger-colored hair - in the condition she now finds herself. I don’t think he’d be able to handle it.

They were young and madly in love back in the 1940s in World War II Europe. Pop was a paratrooper and Mom was in the Women’s Army Corp. They met in Paris in the spring, fell madly in love, and were married three weeks later in England. The marriage shouldn’t have lasted. Pop was a New Englander Jew and Mom was a southern Georgia Evangelical Methodist. Both had someone waiting for them to come home from the war. In fact, Pop told me shortly before he died that he was engaged to be married to a nice Jewish girl back home, and after he and Mom were released from the Army, he went home to Rhode Island, and Mom went home to Georgia. His family tried to get him to annul the marriage, but he was ready and willing to give up everything and convert to Christianity to be with his Ginger. Pop was disinherited from his Jewish family, and he and Mom found their way back into each other’s arms. I’m not sure how many years they were married when Pop died, but I’m sure it was at least sixty years . I remember celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary a couple of years after Phil and I married, which was fifteen years ago.

As I was talking to Mom about anything and everything I could think of to keep her engaged, her eyes slowly closed, and she returned to her dream world. I stood by her side for a few more minutes before slipping my hand out of her still strong grasp, giving her a little kiss on her forehead, whispering to her that I loved her, and tiptoeing from her room.

Today is their anniversary. She may not be aware of this special day, but I certainly am, and I’ll celebrate it for Mom and Pop.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

What If?

Sometimes something will happen in my life to make me think about where I am, how I got here, and why I am here. Yesterday, while enjoying a wonderful afternoon in our home with an old friend we recently re-connected with, all of these thoughts began bubbling to the surface of my mind and memory as we talked about our lives, people we’ve known, and places we’ve been. As I consider my collection of days, I pause to reflect on the idea of alternate realities, parallel universes, and how our lives take unexpected turns.

My memory took me back to my sophomore year in college. I was engaged to be married, unsure about what direction to take in my college studies, and full of wonderful fantasies about what life was going to be like as I moved into adulthood and marriage. My best friend at the time was Steve, who was in my Humanities class. Four days a week I met him in the Student Union Building and wheeled him in his wheelchair to Humanities class. During those walks across campus we shared lots of personal thoughts - our plans for the future, worries about an upcoming exam, romantic dreams, and other very important matters at the time. Steve and I had been friends for only a couple of years, but he had made a huge impact on me, and had caused me to think about things I had never considered before. My life had been a relatively easy one to that point, while his had been filled with challenges, mostly physical ones. Little did Steve know that his friendship and memories of our time together would get me through many tough times in my future life, even though we wouldn’t see each other again after that semester for almost forty years.

My life didn’t turn out to be the one I dreamed up in my mind during those college days, and that is why my mind took a reflective turn yesterday - I began to think about all the sci-fi ideas I’ve read about and seen on television shows. What if I had stayed in school and continued attending classes with Steve another semester or two? Would this have changed both of our lives? Where would we be now? How would our lives be different? What if there is another Steve and Jennie living parallel lives in an alternate universe? What are they like? What could we learn from them? Where would they be now?

Three years ago I saw Steve again, and it was as if time had evaporated. I tried to tell him how his life had influenced mine, but I’m not sure if I was successful in getting this across to him. Still in a wheelchair, Steve was all smiles and humor, and it was wonderful seeing him again. Again, my mind drifted to the concept of alternate universes. I began thinking a lot of what if’s. If I had made a different decision in my life, if I had taken a different path, would I be here, sitting next to Steve, reminiscing about our high school and college days?

The truth is, we don’t have the ability to live more than one life. What we do each day sets our path and direction, and then we are faced with the job of making the best of every decision, both good and bad. So, this brings me back to yesterday. I was sitting in Phil’s big easy chair, listening and talking. I looked around me at my wonderful home, and thought – what if? I don’t have the privilege of visiting an alternate universe, and doubt that one even exists. But the thoughts of such a thing are still a cause for reflection. I don’t know where I would be if something different had happened in my life to change my course, how my life would be different, or where I might be. But all of this isn’t possible. I live each day of my life as it dawns, and make the best of what the day offers. I make mistakes, which may alter my direction, but I continue on with a faith that everything in life has a purpose.

And as I sat in my livingroom with my husband and friend, I knew that I was where I was supposed to be and thought about a book I recently read. A quote keeps coming back to me: “God long ago drew a circle in the sand exactly around the spot where you are standing right now. I was never not coming here. This was never not going to happen.” ( Eat, Pray, Love, by Elizabeth Gilbert).

I feel that this is true for me. Wherever my circle in the sand happens to take me, I stand firmly in the middle of it.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

When is Trespassing O.K?

Diamond and I have been roaming our country roads in search of wild plum and blackberry thickets, with good success on the plums and tagging the locations of not-quite-ripe blackberries for future adventures.

Yesterday, we were picking wild plums along the side of one of our country roads when I looked across the road and spotted dots of red on the wrong side of a barbed wire fence. Upon closer investigation, I saw a thicket of plum trees that was begging us to investigate. We faced a dilemma - a barbed wire fence separated us from the plums; a “No Trespassing” sign, while rather old and faded, was tacked to a tree along the fence line; a huge “For Sale” sign boldly displayed about 50 yards down the road announced that this property is on the market. I was torn. On one hand, I didn’t want to trespass. On the other hand, the property is for sale, and I could be a potential buyer. Would it really be trespassing if Diamond and I scaled the fence and took a look at this plot of land that the sign told us consisted of 544 acres?

I kept looking at the plum trees, and knew I couldn’t just leave them alone. Searching for a break in the rusty barbed wire, Diamond and I walked a little way up the road and discovered a makeshift gate across an entrance to the property. Looking in both directions to see if any cars were coming up the road, and feeling sure that we wouldn’t be seen, we ducked under the wire that served as a gate. It wasn’t much of a barrier, and I felt better about trespassing with each second. I rationalized that should I be caught, I could give back the plums, or better yet, offer to share my wild plum jelly. Who wouldn’t want me picking their plums for a few jars of my delicious jelly?

We made our way through the blackberry brambles, and finally were standing under more plums than I’ve ever seen in one place. The land was undisturbed, and it was evident that neither human beings or farm machinery had touched this ground for a long, long time. I felt sure that the owner, whoever he or she might be, probably didn’t have any idea that the plum grove was there or that it mattered a bit that I was risking my clean police record by trespassing. I began picking and filling my bucket. As many plums fell from the limbs as I disturbed them as I was able to capture. This further eased my lessening sense of guilt – the plums would be falling to the ground with the next stiff breeze, anyway. I was in actuality rescuing them from the ants or from rotting on the ground! Diamond kept her eyes out for critters, and my ears were tuned to the road, listening for passing traffic. Neither of us heard a thing, and within ten minutes, my bucket was full of the most beautiful red plums I’ve ever seen and we were on our way home.

As I was safe in my kitchen washing, cooking, and straining the plums preparing them for jelly, my guilty conscience entirely cleared. No longer was I concerned about stepping a few feet into private property. I tasted a plum, confirming that they not only were the most beautiful plums I’ve ever seen, but the best tasting, as well. Fifteen jars of jelly later, I felt a great sense of accomplishment.

Last night after dinner, I drove Phil past the scene of the crime. I wanted approval and confirmation that what Diamond and I had done earlier in the day wasn’t such a terrible thing. The property looked the same as it had earlier in the day- undisturbed, untended, and un-cared for. Phil assured me that what I had done wasn’t such a terrible thing - Diamond and I hadn’t destroyed property, vandalized, hunted, camped, or littered, which was what the “No Trespassing” sign warned against.

So ended the exciting day where I broke the law without getting caught. I may sneak back over there later this week to get some more plums!

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

June Days

I can’t believe that it’s already June. Springtime is over, and summertime is here. All, or most, of the seeds we planted in our garden have sprouted and are now growing like crazy. We are still harvesting lettuce, the strawberries are about done, and we’ll have crookneck squash within a week. Every time I go out to look at the progress, I see new pole bean runners, cantaloupe and tomato blooms, and corn that is looking less and less like grass, and more like what it is supposed to be.

Phil has been cutting down trees to allow more sunlight for future gardens. If all goes as planned, we’ll be completely self-sufficient in the vegetable food group by next year. He is also setting up a bartering system with friends and neighbors for beef, eggs and chicken. I made a deal last week with a friend who has an asparagus bed. He loves butternut squash, which we are growing, and I love asparagus. We’re going to swap produce with each other! What fun this is!

Apart from our garden, I am keeping a close eye on the wild plums and wild blackberries. I’ll begin picking fruit and making jelly sometime this month. I am also eagerly awaiting news that the blueberry farm is open for the season. I can hardly wait to lose myself among the blueberry trees while I fill up my buckets with these luscious superfoods. I imagine that I’ll see the blueberry sign at the four-way-stop sign within the next couple of weeks. I can’t wait!

Yes, summertime is here, and with it some hot weather. I get out early in the morning to work in the garden, and then do indoor things such as baking bread, reading or crocheting during the heat of the day, and watch the sky for an afternoon or evening shower. While I don’t have anything near a farm (at least, not yet!), I am reminded of my childhood summer visits to my Uncle John and Aunt Bernice’s farm in North Florida. I became intimately acquainted with early morning when I was at their farm, and learned to savor the cool morning breezes while we collected eggs, fed the animals, and worked in the fields. To this day, I love the beginning of each new day, especially summer days.

Now, all we have to do is keep the deer out of the garden. I could soon become acquainted with summer nights, because I refuse to let the deer harvest from my garden before I do! I may be sleeping under the stars some nights to protect my investment! But, I‘ve done that before, too, and I am ready to do it again!