I didn’t intend to write today, I intended to paint, but somehow in the heat of this longest day of the year, this first day of summer, I found myself in my hopeless and overgrown garden, haphazardly hunting for cucumbers that may have survived the rains and the neglect; I wanted to feed them to my chickens. In my search, I found the overgrown yellowed ones, the ones that our human palates would not allow past our lips but my hens would happily feast upon. And surprisingly, I found small beautifully shaped, dark green, newly grown cucumbers. Immediately, I thought, I’ll make pickles. These pickles I make are very simple, they require only vinegar, salt and pepper and old jars of any size you have saved and pushed to the back of your cupboards. It is a recipe that, I believe, comes from my maternal grandmother, my mamae, who lived in Ville Platte. In summertime, there was always a jar of these pickles sitting on the kitchen table, ready to accompany and enhance the daily rice and gravy meals – that memory is beautifully etched and touches all of my senses. Anyway, I brought the cucumbers in to the kitchen, found a couple of just right jars, gathered the salt, pepper and white vinegar and began. After about the second slice, my idle thoughts went straight to my dad.
And as I said, I had no intention of writing today and had absolutely no plans to chime into the beautiful salutations I see on social media about all of the wonderful dads…but the pickles created a stir. He made these pickles for my nephew, Ben, after my mother died; it was a task he did so tenderly. I’m sure the surface value and intention was to provide Ben with this culinary treat but beyond that, it was his tribute to my mother and her culture and it was something that a father of the “John Wayne” era could do with domestic warmth. It was something that connected those memories and the love of family.
Anyway, after all that is said and not said and all that is done and overdone, it really is the little things we remember and hold most dear. Not all dads can provide the big things, (the things that only money can buy) but all dads can provide the little things (the things only love can give). Happy Father’s Day to all of you and my wish is that one day your memory is as warm and lovely as I found in my garden today…
It was a picture taken in 1962 that prompted this post. There was a Christmas tree in the background with a little girl in front. The tree was so real – the icicles were thick and sparkly and had been put on by a child, the lights were big and the branches were random on this ordinary Douglas Fir. A special time had been created there with magic and tiny hands – nothing was perfect except the moment and the baby doll she was holding was one like I remember, the eyes sort of clicked and rolled, the hair was etched and she was wearing a long gown with tiny buttons – so real and pure. I felt that Christmas morning, that place before now when the emphasis was not on materialism and the world was still so big and “virtual” was not something I spoke of.
Anyway, it was just a snapshot of “then” that made me look at “now” and while some things are much better, I do miss the purity of life that was “then”– the wholeness and the understanding that the things that matter have nothing to do with marketing and consumerism, it was the solid structure of family that was just assumed, and the glory in the everyday things that made us happy. I choose to remain there in that place where Christmas trees had big colored lights and imperfect branches and happiness was warm socks and hot soup in winter and dragonflies on clotheslines in summer.
a snapshot of real happiness – balloons and a dad
Today was warm here, not very Christmassy but kind of nice to go outside and find some December gifts. There is nothing as beautiful as nature, there is nothing in a store to buy that comes near that beauty.
I am ending the day with a hot cup of organic coffee and a teaspoon of honey from my bees of summer – I can’t express how wonderful this moment is to me. I decided to cap it off with a blog post just to make it memorable. Unfortunately, however, I‘ve not much to say. I am waiting on a cold front to arrive early tomorrow and cause the Christmas spirit to stir – at least I hope so, for it is not here. I draw on childhood memories to help get me there. I have so many and so many different focuses.
The ones about Miss Sue are so pure and deep. They are connected to nature; they are about cutting cedar trees in the woods, trees with bird’s nests and moss in them, and getting sticky sap on your carcoat and gathering giant pinecones from a place near the bayou and bringing them home to just be. They are about giving her a gift of homemade food and a late December visit by the fire. Those memories stir me, those memories made me. She was untouched by the commercialism of Christmas.
Another memory is about my dad and the colossal effort he made one year to put together a huge wreath made from cedar boughs from the woods – this thing was engineered and I’m sure, the source of much stress – for him. I don’t know why he did it – but I remember it.
I remember my mother too, of course I remember her – the manifestation of Christmas for me – the giver, the miracle worker, the one who created the magic; she defined it for me.
Of all the things about Christmases past, most are not about things.
Those people are gone now and so are the Christmases of childhood but, as is evident with this post, their spirits remain a constant in my life.
I don’t have the tree up and I have not been shopping, instead, I wait patiently for the arrival of the Christmas spirit.
I gathered these gifts from the December yard today – citrus from the trees, camellias to put in vases that were a birthday present from a dear friend and narcissus bulbs dug up in my yard at Thanksgiving to be forced bloomed for Christmas.
Christmas is the day that holds all time together.