A Porch of My Own

A Porch of My Own

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Keeper of Secrets

The original reason I started this blog was to tell my children stories of my childhood. This is one of those stories.........

I am 7 years old dancing in the back yard. I spread my arms wide and the soft red silk of the kimono sleeves hangs down from my arms like wings. I spin around and around, as the sun shines down on me and the bright colors. I am a butterfly dancing in the wind.

My grandmother had gotten this kimono out of her cedar chest. She had a cedar chest in her room and it was full of mysterious surprises and secrets. We are never allowed to go into her room and open it up without her. But this day she has opened it and she had taken these precious things out.  Some kimonos and a flag from Japan. The flag had a big red circle in the middle of it.

All these things were mysterious to us. We lived in a little town in north Louisiana and we didn’t know any Asians. Our first Asian exposure would come later with Hop Sing on Bonanza. Yes, very mysterious things.

(Photo - me in my normal attire)

We were told by our grandmother and our mother that these things were sent back from the war by my Uncle Buddy who was killed in World War II. I didn’t think of it at the time as I was very young but later when I was older I thought it strange for several reasons.  For one thing Uncle Buddy was in Europe not Japan. He was in General Patton’s army and was killed there. He is buried overseas in France. I didn’t think he had ever been to Japan.

Also I could not understand why my grandmother would let us play with things her son had sent home from the war. Buddy was her only son, my mother’s only brother.  These things should have been too precious to be turned over to kids for dress-up play. It seems to me there was a sword in a scabbard also but it may be that my memory is not correct on that. I wouldn't have been allowed to play with it, but I have a picture in my mind of my older brother looking at a sword as I stand over his shoulder.

We played with the kimonos and the flag until they were tattered and thrown out. And as I got older that was the biggest point of confusion for me. Why did they let us destroy these things from Japan, these souvenirs my uncle had sent home? But I never asked about them. I’m not sure why.

Years later when I was grown and had my own children I was at my Dad’s mother’s house. Grandma Hattie told me she had something for me. She went into the bedroom and came back with a small white box. Maybe 4 x 5 inches in size. She opened it up. It was lined with soft white silk cloth. She took out the silk handkerchief that was in the box and spread it on the table. You could tell it had been in the box a while; it had creases set into the silk. On the handkerchief was a painting of my mother. I had never seen this before although I had seen the photograph it was copied from. My mother was young and beautiful, her blonde hair long and curly. There was a signature of the Japanese artist that had painted the portrait.

Grandma Hattie told me that Mama had given this to my grandfather many years ago and that she wanted me to have it. I asked her where it came from. She said my mother’s first husband had had it painted in Japan when he was there during the war.

The first thought I had was that the mystery of the kimonos was solved. These treasures had not been sent home by my Uncle Buddy. They had been sent to my mother from her husband while he was in Japan. That is why my grandmother and mother let us play with them. They were not as precious to them as they would have been had they come from a lost son and brother.

I didn’t know my mother had been married before. As it turned out none of my siblings did except my older brother and his wife. Grandma Hattie had told him shortly before she told me.

I’m not sure why Mama would not have ever told us. It wouldn't have made any difference in our lives or in the way we thought of her except to maybe surprise us that our mom had a life outside of us! It was just another layer of the woman she was. But my mother was a keeper of secrets. And until she died my brother and I kept the secret with her. I felt it was not my secret to tell and I guess my brother felt the same. I waited for her to one day bring it up. She never did.

But I sometimes thought about this young man that my mother had married. She came from a very small town in Louisiana. There were only 13 kids in her high school graduation class. Sometimes you marry who is available; not necessarily who is suited for you. I wondered if he had survived the war. Did he have a family that would have wanted the kimonos we so childishly played with? Was he a nice person or a bully? Did he find a true love like my mom found with my dad?

Did the photograph of my mom he carried in his wallet comfort him during horrible times of the war, so young and so far from that very small Louisiana town? I hope so.

(Photo - me, Mama, and my sister Kathy)

One day my brother and I were visiting with my mom and he asked her where she met our dad. She said they went to school together. He said he didn’t know that. That’s because they didn’t go to school together; they met at a church function when they were grown. My mom’s mind had confused the memories in her life and she was talking about the boy from Epps, Louisiana. Your mind takes trips back in time when you live with Alzheimer’s.

Shortly before our mom passed away, I told my other siblings what Grandma Hattie had told me. Mama had kept her secret but it didn’t matter to any of us. We all keep our own secrets.

And it mattered not one bit to the little 7 year old butterfly with the bright red silk wings dancing in the wind.

Green acres is the place for me!

Last week it was a warm sunny day; I was outside shooting my shotgun at a sign that I was trying to add some character to. I managed to hit it a few times once I remembered I tend to aim high and lowered my sights! Which means if you are a burglar I will shoot you in the head if I'm aiming at your knee, so look out!) I went inside to put the shotgun up and get the drill to hang the sign on the garden shed and one of those “blue northers” Texas is famous for blew in! Just that quick the temps dropped and over the next few days we had a total of 4” of rain!

The cistern was overflowing and the draws were up and running. It’s been about 20 years since I saw this much water in the draws, although I am sure it was that way the few times we got multiple inches of rain. I just wasn’t here.

The day we got the most rain it was cold and windy and still drizzling but after I fed the longhorns I just had to go see for myself what it was like. So I grabbed my cedar walking stick, the one that has been worn smooth for the 20+ years I have been using it, and my phone so I could take videos and headed down toward the back of our place. I also like to carry my phone in case I break my leg and need to call for help! Not that that would help if I was at the bottom of the hill with “no service”. But we can’t let these things slow us down or we would never have any fun!

There is a big draw that runs across the back of our property. Years ago when we got more rain than we do now the springs back there flowed and kept pools of water here and there. We refer to this draw as the creek, though it is not technically a creek. It flows into a creek down from us and calling it a creek is easier than trying to explain what draw we are talking about. Several draws on our place feed into this dry creek. 

(Photo above is wild Verbena that covers the pastures now. And a scary looking prickly pear.)

Our property is high and flat on the front area beside the road. This continues back past the cabin and ends in a high cliff with the creek below it. But one side of our place doesn’t end in this cliff. The ground slopes away down to the creek. It is beautiful back there and one of my favorite places. There are huge rocks and the ground kind of steps down with the big boulders forming shelves as the ground descends. There is also a road that winds around behind us. The big draw/creek comes down from property across from the back of ours, crossing the road and making a turn to run all along our property from side to side. One side of the draw on the other side of the road from us is a high cliff and one side is low. It is rugged and beautiful.

(Video - Grab your tubes, kids!)

Well, mercy me, we had a flowing river back there! The water was coming from a couple of draws we had and it was coming from across the road. These flows joined together and if I had had a tube, I could have jumped in! The sound was as beautiful as the sight!
Our place is fenced before the creek even though it is on our property here. You can’t fence a creek and have any expectation of the fence staying there when it rains, so our fences across the back are placed before you get to the creek. There are two “water gap” fences on each side of our place and one in the middle at a cross fence running from front to back. The one on the cliff side hangs in the air way above the creek. The one on the sloping side hangs above the mouth of the draw feeding into the creek. The one in the middle hangs about a foot or two above the creek bed. That is the one that will get you if you did jump in with a tube!

I walked all along the creek taking videos. I saw a whitened deer skeleton on the other side of the fence on a piece of grassy land above the creek under some cedars. Then I wanted to see the other side of the cross fence where the bed widens and then continues under the cliff. So I forgot I was old and climbed the cross fence, ducked under some cedar trees and came out on the banks of the creek right where it widens. It was rolling and muddy; there is a lot of silt in this section. It was several feet deep; from looking at the cross fence I would say it was probably 4 feet deep here.

From here I climbed away from the creek back up to the level of the cliff. There was a beautiful area by the cross fence where the rocks and clear water formed a little waterfall. Once I got to the top I walked back to an area that has an overlook of the whole creek and road.

It was amazing! After the drought of the last few years, and especially the last year, it was a sight to make you laugh and cry at the same time. If you live in a place with lots of rainfall, I’m not sure you can understand the excitement, but boy howdy, it was enough to make dry country people holler "yeehaw"!

The next day I went back to the cliff in the rain to see what was left. It was smaller and clearing up but still had water flowing. I was hearing some thunder around so didn’t tarry long. The following day the rain cleared and the sun came out. I got my walking stick and went back to the sloped side. There was now a small stream of water and it was crystal clear, crossing the road and bubbling and falling down the slope over huge flat rocks. The cedar smell filled the clear air. I could have stayed there forever.

Again I climbed the cross fence and then waded into the water where the bed widens out. It was clear and about 6 inches deep. I wanted to get to the upper part of the creek but the cross fence over the water was in the way. I might could have gotten under it in a section that is bent up but I am clumsy and figured it would involve getting wet. So I climbed up the opposite bank where there is another fence that marks our boundary. This one is barbed wire so I went through it with only a couple of snags! This put me out on the road. I walked back in the direction I had originally come from and enjoyed the beauty of it all. I was alone and the only sound was the water bubbling. Then I went back into the creek bed and climbed the fence there back into our place and eventually headed back to the cabin. And made a note that we need to add a gate or two back there!

(Photo below - this small yellow flower is everywhere. It looks like paint has spilled over the land.)

Everything is so green with all this rain. Small wildflowers cover the ground; it is a carpet of yellow and white and purple. In the garden the first bluebonnets are blooming; the ones outside the garden have not started yet but they are growing. The trees are putting out tiny leaves, even the live oaks that haven’t had leaves for the last year. The longhorns are grazing once more in the pastures, a sight we had almost given up on seeing again. They have gone 20 months without anything green to eat. We are talking about not buying any more hay once what is in the hay barn is gone. Just buying the sweet feed we always feed them.

In another lifetime I knew a preacher that used to sing “Showers of Blessings” at the top of his lungs every time it rained. This week the mercy drops round us have been falling. Life is good out here in the Texas Hill Country.

(Photo below is an Evening Primrose. The yard is full of them and they open at twilight and face the setting sun. The next morning they are turned toward the East to greet the rising sun, as if they have followed the sun through the night. And maybe they have.)