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Arden Raine is an ex-theatrical making sense of life through many lenses.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Letters to the Kidlet part I

Dear Kidlet,

Today is Wednesday,  July 16, 2014. And thought I've hand written you letters since before you were born I've not addressed a virtual letter to you specifically here on my blog.

And since this is forever I promise to not be overly sentimental or maudlin. One must consider your teenage sensibilities after all.

I've privately written to you of my desire to give birth to you. I've written of my hopes for you. I've written love letters and volumes of private messages on my doubts and fears and failures as your Mom.

Here and else where you will find the words I've penned about my struggles to live a good life.  And when you are much older you and I can talk about 99% of my childhood and your Dad's and my life together.  The last 1% is mine alone. That's a lesson I hope you'll understand when we have those talks. Because some things are too precious or painful to share.

So what am I going to write about to you today? Summer.  Glorious childhood summers.

You will start school in a few weeks.  Friends and freedom and responsibilities and pulls on your time all await your eager and open mind.

Time has flown.  It feels like yesterday we we toddling to the park together.  Exploring the grounds. Building faery houses.  We'll do more of that I promise!

And I also promise we'll do more family things like camp and random drive and Creek walk and map explore.  And honestly we'll do that way past the point where you'll want to participate.  Your Dad and I have those kinds of hearts. We do what we love and exploring together is what we love best.

I promised you some of my summer childhood so here goes:

I know you don't remember Great Grammie. But she was my world when I was five. Every morning I'd run down our back yards,  which was truly our side yard divided, through silvery grey predawn. 

The grasses were so dew drenched that my legs and socks would be soaked through. 

The cold squishy sounds of my sneakers slapping down on the hard packed path to their house are still loud to my ears. It was only a few hundred feet but I dreamed through several worlds each morning. 

The path ran past the yew sentinels that shielded the driveway from view.  The patch of heady scented double roses with their oddly sticky stems where I'd hide for hours drifting in rose scented oceans being pulled a sea by the buzzing of heavy laden bees.
The Rose Arch. I still think of it in capital letters. Twining red and white arms of razor thorns seven feet high. Scent less and perpetually scornful of hijinks.  Ever ready to rip shirt or skin alike if proper care and decorum were not taken when passing through their watchful space.
The wall. Only a small step stone down to the lower yard. But an ancient fieldstone thing with only the one pass through guarded by The Rose Arch. No hand holds.  I'd always jump. Landing in the amazingly soft taller grass of the lower yard. It was a lovely plot of grasses.  Twice the size and length of our own yard now. We never used it except to run back and forth to Gramma's or to cross with the trash cans that lurked at it's far end hidden under a blind of lilacs that were 10' tall. This grassy patch became a steep slide down past a row of pine trees to the right, tall and blue, and to the left a hedge of Rose of Sharon, grey and peeling.  At last to the front gate and Gram's! Grandpap would be sitting on his rocker on the porch waiting for me. And then we'd go inside.

Even in the hottest part of the summer there was a smoky smell to the living room. I imagined it was the dreams of the fall sleeping in the potbelly stove that I could smell.

Through the dinning room arch, I never took the hallway route, and I to the kitchen. Gram always had her house coat on. And there we'd sit and eat watching the sun rise drinking tea, chamomile with lemon for me and hot lemon water for her while eating toast and butter sometimes with tomato butter and sometimes with American cheese. What's tomato butter you ask?  The sweetened heart of the fruit made spreadable.

Here's another summer memory for you my dear kidlet:

Just like you and I haunt the park in late June to see if the berry patch is ready, black berry season was a huge event each year.

Understand that what we call black berries here in western Pennsylvania are actually black raspberries.  But it was a goal post each summer. A milestone to let you know Summer was half done tripping and tramping over the land.

Watchful for weeks we'd wait impatiently for the white berries to green then blush then bruise to deep dark purple.  Then with sleep crusted eyes we'd wake before the dawn chorus.  Dress in layers of long john's, dug out the night before from the back of the wardrobe, and jeans. Two pairs of socks and three shirts. All to ward as best we could our skin from the brambles. And then heavy in cloth and burdened with as many pails and bowls and bags as we could muster we'd run down to Gramma's.  They'd meet us and help us shed a shirt or two. Feed us a small meal of cold cereal and then we'd start picking.

We'd finish the hedge of brambles along side their lower yard by the time the sun was up. Then we'd travel down into the hollow they owned below their manicured lawns and gardens. It was the one time a year we were allowed down into that thicket. We'd run down to the spring startling deer and critters.  And then we'd cross over the big oak. The big oak was a huge fallen tree it spanned the spring's creek. Larger than 3 men's arm length around we'd bridge the gap from lush dark wood into a full acre of brambles growing unchecked in the sun at the edge of fallow field.

For the next two days we'd repeat this trip. Those days of cuts and stings and eating so many berries that it amazed us that there were any left to fill bucket after bucket are some of my most cherished.

How can you truly describe the sound of thousands of bee and wasp wings humming in concert?  How can I help you smell the scent of crisp dew, overripe berries and hot sunshine as it mixed into the permanent smell of July for me?

I can tell you of the time your Uncle Chris decided to climb under all the arching blue brambles to eat the berries underneath.  And he fell asleep and we searched for hours calling him but eventually found, after tearing strips of shirt and skin from our bodies, asleep in a curl with the sweetest smile on his face.

I can tell you of being dead center in the field when the neighbor's huge and vicious dog found me too far away from anyone else to rescue me. The smell of my sweat an acrid cloud as he came slinking through the vines towards me. I can still recall the relief that causes me to lose the strength in my legs and get so tangled in the vines that later my Grand pap had to cut me out when Smoky our 1/2 wolf charged out to discourage the huge beast from eating me.

And oh the bounty. Four refrigerators full and two freezers packed with purple globlets of sweet/sour heaven.

Then the days of pies and jams and jelly making. The week of drinking blue milk at the end of our cereal.  The stains. Oh Lord the stains.

The pretty red ish - purple turns blue then brown. On everything.  Hands and arms and faces and socks and underwear. The brambles loved snagging our undies.

The love and joy becoming repulsion as the week draws closed.

"More berries?!" "No thank you!" "What's for lunch/dinner/breakfast?" "Not those things again!" "Can't we have peaches yet?"

But as sick as we always were by mid month we secretly waited until New Year's Eve when the cordial was ready and the treats frozen were shared. And we knew that come next summer we'd be watching and waiting for the fruit to turn again.

So when we say let's go have an adventure.  What we are hoping is that we are making for you my dear the kinds of memory that I've shared with you above.

If I repeat myself in waxing on about those halcyon days. Be gentle.  Because I promise someday you will have glorious stories of your own to tell.



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