A Porch of My Own

A Porch of My Own

Friday, November 30, 2012

The Ghost of Christmas Future

The Ghost of Christmas Past visited me last week and today the Ghost of Christmas Future made an unexpected appearance. Well, maybe not Christmas Future, just Future. But then again, it is December.

I was third in line in the drive-thru at the bank in my small town. Normally, it is in and out fast but today the man at the beginning of the line must have had a lot of business because we were there for a while. 

I found myself looking at the truck ahead of me and felt the hand of the Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come at my shoulder, pointing. A white pickup, a bit older than my white pickup, with a little more wear. The back window was busted out, with fragments of cracked glass all around the rim. Odds and ends of this and that in the truck bed. The license plate was bent backwards on each side as if it had been backed into a fence post or a trailer tongue.

The lady driving was 10-15 years older than me with a face wrinkled by the sun and wind of west Texas. Her gray hair was a little shorter than mine. It looked like she had combed it with her hands, which is the way I've been combing mine lately.

She got her cell phone out and made a call. I got mine out and checked Facebook. She ran her hands through her hair. I ran mine through my hair. A man with a cowboy hat walked by from the parking lot. He nodded to me and I nodded back. He nodded to her and she nodded back. 

I was beginning to get the feeling that we were much alike when the man in front finally finished. He drove away; she moved up, finished, and drove off, avoiding the 18-wheeler unloading at the hardware store next door. I moved up, finished, and drove off, avoiding the 18-wheeler unloading at the hardware store next door.

My next stop was to get a Diet Coke before I continued my errands. I drove down the street to the Sonic, ordered at the drive-thru, and pulled around toward the window. There was one customer in front of me. It was the lady in the white truck from the bank. 

When she finished her errands in town, she probably went home and put feed out for a herd of cattle or goats. When I go home, I will put feed out for two longhorn steers who are pets. She probably got up several hours before me and will probably go to bed way before I do. 

We are different and yet we are the same. I'm a watered down version of her. We are women who love this life and this part of Texas. When I looked out my windshield I saw myself 15 years from now. I wondered if she looked in her rear-view mirror and saw herself 15 years ago.


Saturday, November 24, 2012

The Ghosts of Christmas Past

Last year I got Rickie an iPod for Christmas. He said it was the best present he ever got. In his job he is on the road a lot and anyone that does that knows radio stations are not what they used to be, even on satellite radio. 

I got to thinking about presents I had gotten in the past and what my favorites were. The one that always comes to my mind first was the 1950s/1960s version of the iPod. It was a General Electric Model P797B leather transistor radio. (The photo is of one like mine, only a different color.) It was about the size of a Kindle or small tablet of today, only thicker, of course. Had to accommodate all the innards of a portable radio back then. 

It was a beautiful baby blue, almost a turquoise. I remember running my hands over the smooth surface and thinking how lovely it was and how lucky I was to have it. I had never seen blue leather before and didn't even know it existed! The leather (leatherette, actually!) cover became a flap in the back, like an envelope, and this was how you accessed the insides. I loved it dearly; it was my pride and joy.

Back then we kids stayed outside all the time. Our tiny house was no place to hang out; way too crowded with a family of kids. We stayed outside until after dark every day, as all kids everywhere did.

One day when I had been out late, I forgot and left it outside on a table. It rained that night. The next morning it was ruined. I was sick beyond tears. Especially since it was my fault for not bringing it in. I learned a hard lesson that day and after that always took better care of my treasures. We were a poor family and no one could go out and buy me another one. I was about 10 or 11 and even I knew that and never even asked. Mama and Daddy had sacrificed and worked hard to be sure we had a nice Christmas every year and I had not given their gift the respect it deserved.

Another favorite present I got was also one from my childhood. It was a beautiful boxy cropped jacket with a fake fur collar. It had a matching skirt. My sister Kathy and I each got one. One was mint green but I can't remember the color of the other one. The fake fur was dyed to match the outfit. It was just about the most beautiful thing I had ever had! It reminded me of my mom's coat and I felt so grown up.

The coat my mom had was a long wool overcoat with a shawl-type beaver fur collar that I loved. I can remember being about 5 years old and when she came home from work every day in wintertime, my brother David and I would meet her at the door. The cold air blew in with her. She would crouch down to be on our level and hug us. I would bury my face in the beaver collar and rub my hand over it. I thought we must be very rich to afford a coat like that! I can still see that in my mind and feel that warm, safe feeling.The picture in my mind is as clear as any photo. Years later when I was grown I asked her if she still had it; I was going to ask her if I could have it. She said she had recently given it to her cousin Florine. I wish I had asked her earlier. 

I was not much for dolls as a child. I was more the Cowboys and Indians type of girl. (The photo here is of my brother David, me, and my sister Kathy.) But one year I got a big "life-size" doll. She would walk if you held her hand and wobbled her back and forth. Her mouth had an open hole in it; she must have had a toy bottle that came with her. My brother David and I crushed a lot of crackers one time and stuffed them down her mouth. After that we could shake her and hear the crackers rattling around in her stomach. We were easily entertained.

Another present I want to mention was not one I received but one my boys were given. I love the idea of it and wanted to share it with you all. My boys' great-grandparents lived on a farm near LaGrange. They had 14 kids, and as you can imagine a bazillion grandkids and great-grandkids, etc. Every Christmas Grandma Betty would go to the bank and get a sack of silver dollars. Any of the little kids that came to see her received a silver dollar. If you didn't take the time to come visit the old folks, you didn't get anything. My boys treasured these silver dollars and as far as I know, they still have them. When they were in junior high some neighbor kids broke into our home and stole them. They took them to a ceramic shop down the street and bought some worthless ceramics with them. Their mom found out and went to the shop and bought them back and returned them to my boys. 

From this silver dollar gift I learned a few lessons. Number one, a gift doesn't have to be costly to be treasured. Of all the things Larry and John have received in their lives, this is probably the one they held on to the longest and surely one that meant a lot to them. Number two, if you don't care enough about the giver to stay in touch, you may find yourself without a gift. Number three, if you have 14 kids and a bazillion grandkids, you have to think creatively to make a gift memorable. Number four, it's not just the silver dollar but the memories attached to it from the visit to the farm that make it a treasure. Grandma Betty was wise in knowing that if you came you would take more than a silver dollar away from the visit.

I hope you all have a memorable holiday this year and take away more than material gifts from your visits and gatherings. I hope you have a place to sit by a fire and sip a warm drink. I hope the Ghosts of Christmas Past that visit you are all dearly loved Ghosts and I hope their visits warm your heart. I hope you can be a child once more and see things from a child's view. I hope you are safe and have a roof over your head. 

Peace out.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Fall Arrives at the Ranch

Saw a female flycatcher on the garden fence this morning. She was beautiful with the sun on her. It's been several weeks since we had any birds here. I left for a few days a while back. At that time I had so many I couldn't keep them fed. Lots of cardinals and scrub jays making their own brand of music.  We also had around 100 white wing doves.

(Photo is a draw on our road in November 1989, the first year we had our place.)

When I came back they were all gone and all I hear is the sound of silence. They heard a call I can't hear, I suppose, and off they went. I put seed out but it hasn't been eaten. We have lots of native food this year. My neighbor said he had the doves at his place and they are feeding on the doveweed that has flourished this year. 

Even the squirrels have left the sunflower seeds alone. They have been working industriously to bury acorns. It's good to see them doing something constructive instead of trying to tear the bird feeders up.

We have had lots of butterflies these last couple of weeks. They cover up the zinnias and the golden-eye daisies in the garden, like these Queens and Painted Ladies. 

Rickie saw a fox walking the fence line behind the cabin this weekend. We haven't seen any in a while so I'm glad they are still hanging around. They come to where we put food scraps out and one year we had a fox that would almost let us walk up to him there. That year they had a den just past the longhorns' pen by the caliche pit.

I haven't seen the turkeys lately. Heard one gobbler a couple of weeks ago and saw him on the ranch cam. And the jackrabbits have disappeared also. 

We had a beautiful moon on Halloween night. The Hunter's Moon. I got a new camera this year and was finally able to take a decent moon photo!

The seasons are changing. The leaves starting to turn; seeing some red on the sumacs and some yellow on the cedar elms and the peach trees. Some of the Spanish Oaks are just beginning to turn the beautiful red we see around Thanksgiving each year. They fill the big draw on the east side of our place. From the beginning Sarah and Rickie and I have always walked over there when we were here for Thanksgiving. We sit on the ground and look up. The red leaves against the clear blue sky, like you get in a dry climate, is one of the most beautiful things I've ever seen. We have never been able to capture that color in a photo but we keep trying.

Our Spanish Oaks are all old and are dying. There aren't any little ones to take their place. One day they will be gone and we'll be gone as well. The most I can hope for is that they last until I am too decrepit to walk over there and sit beneath them. 

I'll be over there again this year and I'll sit a little longer than I used to. I'll try to store the way it looks in my mind and when I can't get around any more, I can close my eyes and see it again. And remember the way it was when the air was crisp and cold and burned your nose and throat a little when you breathed; when we buttoned our coats up and put our gloves on. When we walked down the draw and the leaves on the ground rustled with our steps. When we talked little and then only in whispers, respecting the beauty and the quiet. 

And maybe, just maybe, some little Spanish oak acorns will hide away from the deer and nestle in next to a bushy cedar that is just the right size to protect it. And when I am long gone, one or two of the grandkids or great-grandkids will walk over and sit beneath a beautiful red tree the week of Thanksgiving. And maybe, just maybe, they will know I was there doing the same thing.