Copyright © 2011 By Teresa Cypher All Rights Reserved
April...I find myself asking the same question, over and over..."Where does the time go?" The clacker frogs made a raucous on the 17th of March, and in true PA springtime fashion, the peepers followed them a day later on the 18th. Last weekend, a honeybee landed on my pant leg as I sat outside, and just today I noticed that the larches on the steep hill below the house had fuzzy green needles bursting forth. Just blink and there will be butterflies...
The forsythia have painted entire hillsides gold, and the wild Juneberries are unfolding, exposing cream colored flower falls that had just been veiled in spring-green buds.
In the garden there is the rich smell of earth tonight...under stars that shine down on a cold world. The beets and turnip-greens have poked their little heads up through the earth. It was sure nice to get my hands in the dirt. I recall a springtime of past. The past--where I go when my thoughts meander. It must surely have been April. I was not in school yet, and was walking along a hedgerow watching nothing in particular. I could see my dad on the Farmall "H" harrowing the field. It was slow going for him; the harrow was very narrow by today's standards. This was after plowing the field with a two-bottom plow. The dust flew behind him as he went. It was warm and sunny, and the wild Juneberries were in bloom--white puffy clouds of trees on yet otherwise winter-bare hillsides.
Over across the hollow, Gloz's cows grazed...enjoying the treat after a long winter eating hay inside the barn. Their sides were black and white patterns, and there were some red ones with white faces. I could see Mary walking the fenceline with her bucket of nails, hammer, spare wire, insulators, and pliers.
My dad pulled to the edge of the field and asked if I wanted a ride down to the house. I liked riding the tractor, but my voice chirped out "No thanks" as I shook my head from side to side.
I walked a long walk, across the newly harrowed field, and there was the scent, that in my youth, I had not yet identified as the smell of the earth. With each gust of warm wind, the dust flew through the air and the scent surrounded me. I reached the closest property line that the Gloz's owned, and knew not to go beyond. I turned down the lane and walked to the house...singing as I went...
The day was a blur...siblings arrived home from school, grandma hauled old potatoes out of the cellar with our help. I paid little thought to what it was all about.
Saturday morning arrived with an early start. There were old, metal, five gallon, buckets loaded on a wagon, and all of us kids were rounded up to help. We hopped on the hay wagon and rode up to the field that my dad had harrowed just the day before. My grandma got organized--upturning one bucket for a seat. She sat down arranging her long cotton skirts, exposing her heavy-cotton-stockinged legs and her old leather shoes. Then she started at her task, with hands as bent and twisted as the old gnarled apple trees surrounding us. She picked up each potato and cut it into pieces, making sure that each had an eye. Then she dropped the pieces into a metal bucket. My dad dumped powder into the bucket and shook the potatoes around. Then we were handed the buckets to carry out to rows that older siblings had been hoeing into the field. We dropped potatoes into the ditches made by the hoes, and then the rows were covered back over.
My older sister, Anna, sang while we worked. I tried to sing her songs with her but she knew so many...
Life is a song…
The potato planting went on endlessly...and we were plenty happy when it was all done!
Late Saturday afternoon arrived and we were all rounded up again. We were filthy, every last one of us, from hours in the potato field. We headed to the summer kitchen and started to pump water up from the springhouse—making sure to save the last container for priming the pump next time.
The water was placed on the stove in big "boilers" to heat, and then it was dumped into galvanized washtubs along with cold water to make the temp just right. We had homemade lye soap to wash with, and the room was warmed by a woodstove.
All eight of us sparkled when we were though... ready for church on Sunday morning.
We went into the house and my older sisters took extra milk (from our cows) and made fudge, two kinds-- Hershey's chocolate--the recipe from the side of the tin can, and vanilla fudge (my favorite).
We were allowed to watch TV until 9:00 pm, and then it was bedtime. We headed upstairs to the bedroom that all eight of us shared. The stairs creaked as we stepped on them...but it was a familiar and comfortable creak. The house was chilly...there had been no fire made in the fireplace down in the living room. It had not been necessary-- the dirt floor cellar kept the pipes above freezing. And the plumbing was minimal-- just cold water to the kitchen sink from a gravity-flow spring above the house. There was no bathroom...but I had not started school so I didn’t know yet--the other school kids had not had a chance to tell me what I didn’t have. Going out to the outhouse was just part of life. It was 1965...
I bet that the peepers sang that evening, and that the smell of earth and the sound of cows lowing were all a comfort to me--even though I was but a mere 5 years old...and likely did not understand the concept of comfort.
I share this story from my early years, not because I want anyone to tell me that I had it rough. We all have a story...and I think that pity is a wasted emotion, anyway... What I hope that you take from it is this: It was my reality, and compared to others it may have been a reality of poverty...but my spirit was never trampled to the point that I gave up and believed that I would never have anything more, that I was a poor soul destined to a life of rural poverty. I sang...even on the darkest days of my life...I heard the song wending through me, and I knew that tomorrow would be better...there was a song of hope and a song of determination that dwelt within-- that could not, and refuses still, to be silenced...
I will never take things for granted...and my very humble beginnings have given me something that I deeply cherish--I am grounded beyond the ability of any flight of fancy to turn me...to change me into something that is unappreciative, or full of a feeling of entitlement. I understand that people can be poor of material things, but be wealthy in spirit and love.
And I have the gift of understanding, and the gift of perseverance...handed to me by my early years.
I understand that the children of poverty have no hand in the choices that place them there. And I know that if people persevere, things will get better. Hardship in my youth did not hold me back. Not being gifted with a new car or a
college education did not hold me back. I hold no one to blame for the
steep road that I walked to be where I am...and I am often troubled by
how quickly people are willing to blame others for their situations in
life. I am by no means wealthy, but I have a comfortable life, a nice humble home, and have hope that tomorrow will be better than today.
I wish that everyone had songs in their hearts...and that they chose to raise their song to the stars. We each can soar; we each can hold the promise of spring, the wonder of hope… in our souls.
Springtime comes to all of us, young and old, rich and poor...as does summer, autumn, and winter...I greet each of the seasons with a hopeful look forward, and a nostalgic glance back at the things that made me who I am...
I take my flights of fancy, wondering, dreaming...yet always knowing that the earth is steady and dependable...and waiting for me...
With springtime, and the smell of the earth...a peeper sings, a honeybee buzzes in an early search for something sweet, and a butterfly flaps her wings, stretching them in the sunshine… basking in the warmth of longer days. She takes flight from time to time...Like me...but my roots are deep--tethered in a way that most cannot see... the roots are sunk deeply in a soft, newly-harrowed field, in 1965... and if you don't see me in the field with my hands in the earth, then look to the hedgerows...and an old farm lane...I am probably there...walking a long walk--while I sing...