The rituals that come with each changing season; the rhythms of bursting new life in spring, hot muggy lazy days of sweltering southern summers, mellow muted colors of autumn, and the times of lying fallow in the deep gray winters, all bring with them traditions in decor choices, foods savored, activities planned and played out, changes in mood and mode of dress all conjure up special memories for me.
One glimpse of this...
And I am flung back into the distant past that feels like it was but yesterday. The happenings that live at the seat of my soul are remembered in crystal clear clarity as I slip into the day dream of a long ago spring...
"Nay, let's go look at the flowers." I hear her say as she tugs on one of my dark braids. Gap toothed I grin up at her, freckle spattered nose wrinkled while squinting into the morning sun. I slipped on my new sandals. She takes my small pale hand in her warm sun browned one leading me down the stone steps to the damp of the morning dew misted grass. A delightful shiver runs across my skin as cool and warm meet, I think there is magic in this day.
The stepping stones out to the old iron gate are sprinkled with ruby petals from the fire bush that stands guard over the rough and tumble weathered dwelling, having been blown there by howling gusts of spring wind the day before. Hopping like a "jack rabbit with a fox on his tail" as she always said, I had a grand time leaping while her grip kept me balanced. Until in one mighty leap, from the last stone to the old metal gate, one of my new sandasl snapped. My gap toothed grin turned to a grimace, smiles and laughter turned quickly to crocodile tears and dread. I knew my mother would be mad.
I should not have worn my new sandals but my play shoes, a pair of old red canvas sneakers with the right toe worn clean through. Those shoes were not pretty and my sandals were, so, I defied my mothers orders and wore my hearts desire on my feet. She tried her best to comfort me as all grannies are want to do but she could not console me nor convince me that it was an accident and that she would smooth things over with my mother. She mopped my tears with her cherry red apron hem leading me back to the cool shade of the porch, each step making a slap-flap sound as the broken sandal buckled around my ankle flopped and connected with bottom of my bare foot. Each connection feeling like a spanking for my disobedience.
Her best laid plan was to distract me. She pulled the offending sandals from my feet soothing me with a promise that when Uncle Charlie came home she would see if he would take us into town for a new pair. Frowning with furrowed brow I asked her if we could please get the very same pair so momma would not know. "No child," she said, "We won't be able to keep this from your momma. We will get you a new pair but they won't be the same." "Granny! Why not?" I wailed. She tried to no avail to explain to me that their small rural town did not have the shoe store these were purchased from and we would not be able to get the same exact pair, besides, all mommas had a way of finding things out.
My mother, flustered by my show, sputtered, "Why Lord have mercy Momma! I am NOT gonna give her a switchin'. What in THE world am I going to do with this child?" her eyes darting at my grandmother and landing on me. Her arm and outstretched finger snapped in the direction of the faded green paint peeled screen door like one of Uncle Charlies huntin' hounds goin' on point when treein' a coon as she ordered, "Put that switch in the yard where it belongs and stay out there with it!"
I might have only been six but I was wise enough to size up the situation and scoot out the door without taking care of a soft closing, allowing the loud bang of the door snapping back on its rust aged spring to propel me not only outside but off the porch, around the side of the house, and up the steep back stairs to spy through the open kitchen door that provided a clear view into the tiny living room. Momma stood arms all akimbo, hands on hips, feet planted firmly on the floral printed linoleum glaring at Granny while Granny, barely containing her mirth, looked innocently at momma. Mommas voice hissed like Granny's angry old gray goose when you went near her nest out by the pond but I could not make out the words.
Granny reached out and put a calming hand on her oldest daughters shoulder saying, "Citern (pronounced kite-urn), Nay can be a corker and a dandy sometimes but this time 'twas not her fault. I should have known better than to let her wear 'em. It twas' sa' hot this mornin' I thought
twould' be cooler. I aimed to take her fer a walk ta' pick wild flowers and for a wade in the creek. Thought we'd pick us some water cress for cool sand-witches for lunch. Hot and dusty as that is I thought the sandals twould' be cooler."
Momma slumped like a balloon suddenly losing some of its air as she heaved a big sigh. A murmur of conversation followed their retreating footsteps as they moved out of my line of vision to the sofa where Ganny deposited Momma. Granny came into the kitchen, winked at me as she passed the door, on her way to the drinkin' bucket to spoon out a dipper full of ice cold spring water into a jelly jar glass with the raised star pattern on its side that I liked so much and carried it back to Momma.
I swirled myself around on the splintery gray oak steps, elbows propped on the step above, legs out stretched with feet dangling bare on the step below me and wondered what the fuss was about an old pair of shoes anyway...
The day dream receded as I stood looking at the same stones where on a spring time morning a long time ago a little girl hopped from stone to stone to the old iron gate, leaping with such force she snapped her sandal. The Old House, as it has always been called, is no longer there but a heap of rubble and the stepping stones have since long been transplanted as a walk path from the road up the porch of the present day farm house, The New House, as it is called. The two needing certain distinction of remembrances and times. On this day, just as that day, they are scattered with petals from the fire bush out front, a sprout from the original bush that stood in front of The Old House that is now fully grown all these years later. Each petal spread out like a scattered sweet memory.
There I am one moment a small sprout in the past and here I stand full grown, transplanted from past to present, times and seasons changed many times over. The rhythms of springs bursting with new life, hot muggy lazy days of sweltering southern summers, mellowed muted colors of autumns, and fallow times of deep gray winters still bringing with them their traditions, still conjuring up special memories for me.
One glimpse of this...
And off I go again on the time honored tradition of long ago and far away; remembering the past, its people, and their place in my heart.