Friday, June 29, 2012

Living Horsehair

When it would rain in our little town, as long as it was only rain, us kids could go outside and play. We went on grand adventured and explored the "sea life" of the Ozarks that typically remained hidden during long hot summer days.

Crawdads, now called "crawfish', were favorites to locate and do battle until one would lose a claw, we'd toss them aside and go look for others. If it was a down pour, forget finding crawdads, we ran to the ditches where we would ride the waves of fast moving water like snow sleding in winter. We'd dodge broken bottles, old tin cans, litter and all sizes of limbs too weak to hold on against the deluge.

At times one of us would get caught in a whirlpool and would have to be rescued by the rest of us running in to grab them. We'd yank them up and out of the rushing flood water and wait as the rescued cough, spitting out grass and mud. Crisis averted, we'd run back to the outspout where the drain shot out water like it was shot from a cannon. When I jummped in from above the outspout during a downpour, I can't recall ever feeling the grass hit my feet and of course we were all barefoot.

As the rain slowed, it allowed for a more intense search of the area Papaw told us to look for the most magically transformed creature animal know in the Ozarks, horsehair. Papaw told us that big storms brought big magic in such a way that it could turn horsehair to life. He said we would find these rare animals if we searched the gutters as they would stand out. If we looked in the grass, we would never find them. The gutters hypnotized the transformed creatures. His eyes would almost glitter, as my Papaw rarely smiled with his mouth, he would lean forward then whisper as we all leaned toward him, fearing we would miss some tip that would let this living horsehair ellude our grasp, will be the hind end of the horse, the tail. The secret was they were so rare because they took longer to come to life, they were longer, it took more magic.

Us kids would search for these horse hairs and would rarely find one but once it was found, we'd watch it squirm, flipping this way and that way in the shallow water for what seemed like hours before one of us plucked it from the water and tossed it into a jar. Because it was a sea creature, we kept the jar filled with water. If I grabbed a horsehair and got it into my jar. I would watch it swim in it's watery home and think, this used to be something else, something that swatted flys away from the rear end of a huge beast but now with the magic of the rain, was a prized sea creature and I head home. Wet, cold, it was usually getting dark, I was always hungry and I wanted to show Papaw my prize catch.

The next day, it would inexplicably be dead! I didn't wail over a dead sea creature that may have been magic but never did anything magical for me, I saw dead things all the time. I would toss what at that point looked like a piece of over cooked spegetti noodle in the garden out back, wash the jar and put it back into the shed.

It wasn't until years later that I discovered these were really baby snakes that had washed from their nests into the gutters. The only possible way to catch snakes this young was when they were trapped in gutter water. I also learned the older the snake, the longer it was. Magic my hind end. We was tricked into snake hunting for my Papaw!!!

It was still great fun or I wouldn't be smiling right now writing about these adventures. I remember after a hot bath I would climb into my bed, crisp sheets smelling of outdoors after hanging on the closthsline before the rain. I would place the jar on my dresser and my gum on the back of the bedpost feeling very safe and content. I fell asleep after my prayers thinking it was a most perfect day, the best day ever to find a most magical thing in the Ozarks.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Hiding in the Hamper

I can still remember the smell of dirty cloths when I dug deep into them, making myself as small as possible, trying to become invisilbe, when my mother was on a rampage. This was before the days when I would step between my sister and my mom, before my little brother was born, the days they don't recall my mother's rages and days I will never forget. The hamper could not have been more than the size of small washing machine. It had a hinged door for dropping in dirty cloths that sprung shut, snapping at fingers as it took the deposits of shirts, sheets, and dirty socks. These were the very things that I hugged to make me disappear only occationally peeking between the slit where the angry snapping door allowed some light and visual down the hall.

I could hear her angry march before I saw her and usually she would be cussing like my Uncle Bill, that was quite a vocabulary of dirty words for a woman in the 1950's. I would head to the hamper when I heard a tone in her voice, if it wasn't aimed at me, I didn't want to find myself in her sights. If I was not near the hamper, I would run outside and climb into the dog's house. Another story for a another day.

My mom had very dark moods at times and they errupted in fits of rage that on at least two occations sent me to the emergency room and resulted in new caps on two teeth. I loved my mom, I still do, but her moods were unpredictable, at least to me, until she finlly left us all and moved to another state for two years. When she returned, she was better, happier. She was divorced and starting a new profession, as she completed college while she was gone. This is the mother I try to recall when I think about her. The one that sang, danced and was beautiful. The one that would fix tomatoe soup and put a cool cloth on my head when I was ill. The one that on occation, said, "I love you" and I actually belived it most the time.

After I was an adult and moved away, I got a long letter from her when I was in my 30's. She told me a story of watching chickens when she had to gather eggs and in particular, mother hens that had many chicks. She described squating in a dusty area in the corner of the pen to see if the chicks would come up to her but they stayed with their momma chick. She began to notice momma chickens had a tendency to reject one little chick, to the point of pecking it away from the rest of the chicks and herself, at time harming the little chick. My mom told me I had been that baby chick for her. She didn't know why and didn't know how to fix it but did want me to know she was sorry for all the times she hurt me and didn't comfort me when she knew it was what I needed.

I saved that letter. I pull it out when I am in a dark place because it still means so much to me. My mother's mind is gone, my beautiful dancing mom who would sing when she was happy, she is gone. All I relly have is that letter and when I pulled it out last month, the words had faded to where I can only make out a few sentences. My heart is broken. This post was going to be about the loss of my father but somehow, my fingers found the keys typing about my mom.

I am happy that my last memories of my mother are the nice ones and I fight to keep the horror of her fists and hair pulling off to the side where we all put things painful, in the hope it will eventually disappear.

I don't think I want to completely forget that part of my mother, she helped to make the person I am today, along with the rest of my family, and I am forever grateful to her for giving when she felt she had so little of herself to give.

I can't proof read this, won't read it again so forgive so many errors in spelling and grammer, as I am sure there are many, but the spirit of my message today was that I honor my mother, even with the bad times, and I miss her dancing and singing most of all.