I recently encountered a humorous individual who claimed to enjoy “spelunking, knitting and tatting“.  A curious combination of pastimes, I thought.  I don’t meet many people who tat and even fewer who spelunk.  My grandmother actually taught me how to tat on an ivory shuttle.  She and my grandfather lived on the farm next to my childhood home.

DSC_0052 (2)Their farmhouse was simple by modern standards, but in my eyes, it was a wonderland of discovery. A screen covered veranda hugged the front and side of the house.  I found it infinitely impressive that one could be both indoors and outdoors at the same time.  A walkway lead from the gravel lane to the backdoor. Just outside that door, imbedded in cement, was a bootscraper. Before going inside, the bottoms of boots were dragged along its dull metal edge to clean off clods of earth collected throughout the day.

I recall the mudroom and wading about in my grandfather’sGwen fall 1967 white barnyard in background 001 rubber boots. My grandparents’ jackets hung in rows from wooden pegs and smelled of honesty and hard work. Their sleeves tickled my face when I ran along the wall.  A trapdoor was cut into the sandy plank floor. Beneath the weight of its metal pull ring lay a mystical place where children weren’t allowed. The root cellar was damp and musty, its walls lined with dusty jars of canned tomatoes, pickled crabapples, beets, and chile sauce. Wrinkly potatoes sprouted roots through burlap bags.

A memory is returning to me now of cucumbers in a tall ceramic crock pot, floating in salty brine. My grandmother wearing an apron, her cheeks flushed with exertion. One of those crock pots lives in my home now. Instead of pickles waiting to be born, it holds umbrellas wishing for rainy days.

Harold and Cleo farmhouseThe kitchen was snug but no one ever minded. The window above the sink looked across a cornfield flanked by woods. There was always an African violet on the windowsill and another plant, a succulent, whose name I can’t remember. It looked like strings of green pearls tumbling from a pot.

There were hyacinth glasses and forced bulbs to mesmerize me as well. Their roots waved through the water like translucent hair.

Of all the images  this exercise of remembering conjures, it is this one that causes the lump in my throat to rise and the tears to come.

Oh, and by the way, tatting is a form of lacemaking that uses a “shuttle” and white thread.  As for spelunking,  I’m not sure, but I don’t think we did it on the farm!


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