If You Were Ever A Child…..

The homeschool curriculum I use with my littles is literature based. There is a list of books for “required” reading and then another list of “suggested” books if you have the time and your child loves to read.

Which mine does.

It was touch and go her kindergarten and first grade year. I wasn’t sure we were going to make it. I gave her a copy of “Old Hat, New Hat” in November of her first grade year. Hoping she could read it. Eventually. Less than five months later she was reading Magic Tree House books. Something finally clicked. Now her favorites are the Rainbow Magic Fairy books by Daisy Meadows. I’m thinking that’s a pen name–you?

As we are looking at wrapping up the school year, I went through the suggested book list and put in many hold requests at the library. (Can I just say I LOVE Interlibrary loans?) We are running a bit behind this year because of the January/February HospitalStay, but reading will be a wonderful pastime for our summer break as well.

Yesterday the first of our hold requests came through, and we ran by and picked it up. Last night my second grader, who loves to read all the time, asked if I would come and read her a story. This was a special treat for me, as she enjoys being an independent reader. I picked up our library book, and we began reading.

Roxaboxen by Alice McLernan, illustrated by Barbara Cooney

Roxaboxen by Alice McLerran, illustrated by Barbara Cooney

Oh my, bless it. Precious.

If you have a child or know a child or were ever a child, you should find this book. And read it. Right now. It’s a story of children playing, imaginations taking flight, and the memories we carry with us into adulthood.

Yes, I cried. It was that good.

It reminded me of our little brick house on Old Boy Scout Road. The little two bedroom house where, when she brought home my baby brother, child number four, Mama told Daddy, “I don’t think another thing will fit in here.” And so we moved to Blackberry Flats. But before I was nine, we lived in that little brick house. There was a spot under the pines between our house and the one next door that was perfect for sweeping out and using the pine needles to mark off rooms and houses. At one point, two young girls lived next door and we would play out there for hours, sweeping and building and playing.

It also reminded me of playing at my Granny’s, where we built toadhouses along the banks between her yard and the peach orchard right next to her. We created whole villages and were allowed to bring cars out (“be particular”) to drive in and out of them. My cousins and I used to play “Cowboys and Indians” at their old house on Rabbit Road, where the deep slope of the yard made for some great chases and use of imagination.

When we moved to Blackberry Flats, we had a horse, Betsy. Each fall Daddy would go and get a load of hay to put back for the winter. I can remember the smell of the sweet hay and the feeling of hefting up a bale and handing it down off the truck to him. He stacked it up in the side area of his building. (I guess it was a workshop, but all we ever called it was “Daddy’s building.”) I remember crawling up to the top of the stack of hay in that little shed and reading. Mama let us have the boxes their checkbooks came in, and we created a post office, each of us having our own “mailbox.” We made up our “names,” and we spent lots of time writing letters and “mailing” them.

Creating. Dreaming. Playing. Imagining. Only it all seemed so real.

Just like in Roxaboxen.

I’ve driven by the old home place on Old Boy Scout Road since I was grown. It seems so much smaller now, like the woods crept up towards the house. The old sand pile is still visible at my Granny’s old house. And while there is no hay, the shed at Daddy’s is still standing, stock full of memories that bring a smile and a tear.

I am thankful for those happy memories of a carefree childhood and for my own “Roxaboxen” places. I give thanks for my girls who love to read and dream, and hang onto the hope that my little guy will also find a love of reading one day. As I write this I look out my front window where my two little ones are playing with their friends, and soon they will come in all breathless, eager to tell me about their latest “adventures.” I love that they too have their own “Roxaboxen” right here on our little cul-de-sac. And I give thanks for those who have gone before, sharing stories and reading books with us, helping us to dream and play and imagine. Right now, I can’t think of a better gift that’s ever been given.

Mimosa Memories

pic of mimosa tree

We had three mimosa trees in our front yard at Mama and Daddy’s.  The two on either end were somewhat smaller than the middle tree, and for whatever reason, the middle one is the only one we would climb.  I LOVED that tree.  It was my escape, my hideaway, my “house.”  There were two limbs that were sturdy and ran parallel all the way up as high as our roof.  I would use them as stairs and hand rail and climb up to the spot where the top branch formed a cradle with three branches–perfect for laying in and reading or dreaming or cloud watching.  It was this “room” that was the room of Scarlet Royal Winters, my alter ego, I guess, and the room was “decorated” in red, gold, and white (get it?).  I devoured many books up in that tree.

Mimosas are such interesting trees–they have these beautiful pink blossoms that look like they belong on dancers in movies from the 40’s and 50’s.  (I’m reminded in this moment of the costumes from the shows in “White Christmas.”  Ahhh…..beautiful.)  The blossoms hang on until they turn a brownish color (or are picked and put in one’s hair), and then they drop.  These trees also drop seed pods.  Sometimes the seeds take and little ones grow.  I can remember mowing over more than one seedling in my days pushing the mower.

We each of us three girls had her own spot in the tree, but mine was the best I was sure.  My brother, nine years my junior, was too young to climb, but he had his own interaction with the tree.  He had been playing outside, and somehow Mama figured out he had eaten some of the seed pods.  (Or maybe just the seeds?)  She did her research, which in the days before Google and the internet, was probably calling her doctor or poison control.  Yep, her source told her they were toxic and she should administer ipecac syrup as soon as she could.  Which she did.  Only this special medicine, designed to make the recipient throw up whatever they had ingested, did not work.  Mama was concerned.  As she tried to figure out what to do next, my little brother, a toddler at the time, climbed on his Sit and Spin–does anyone else remember these?–and went to town on it.  As he turned the steering wheel and spun around and around, he got very dizzy, and well, the Sit and Spin did what the ipecac had not.  No more seed pods (or anything else) left in him.  From then on, we were all in charge of watching him and making sure he didn’t so much as look at the mimosa tree seeds.

There’s another thing about mimosas.  Probably my favorite thing. (I’m whispering this to you.)  They go to sleep at night.  It’s almost magical.  Isn’t that amazing?  No kidding, when the tree’s “brain” detects that the sun is going down, the leaves fold into themselves, showing the underside which appears rather silvery or gray.  And then, when the sun begins to rise, they open their faces to the new day once again.  Absolutely fascinating.

I’ve thought a lot about those trees today.  The two side ones got a tree disease and had to be taken down and eventually my old Friend did as well.  Today some silver maples are in their places.  It’s just not the same, although the mistletoe hanging from one is really cool looking.  (Yes, I know it’s bad for the tree.  Yes, I will do something about it.  But still, it’s cool.)  I miss those days huddled in my coat on the leafless branches and the days where I’d watch the patterns on my legs of the sun shining through the leaves.  One of the most exhilarating memories I have from my childhood is sitting up in my “cradle” as a storm approached and the wind picked up.  All of my senses were heightened, and I held on and “rode” the storm.  (No, my Mama didn’t know, and I did come down when the rain started falling.)

Tonight I am thankful for my little brother and all family lore, but especially the story of The Mimosa Seeds and The Sit and Spin.  I can’t wait to share it with his three little guys.

I was thinking about my old Friend, when I remembered this post by the Dream Center, a non-profit organization in LA that seeks to help individuals and families by fighting trafficking, hunger, homelessness, in addition to promoting adult education and helping families stay together.  A great group of folks, and what an amazing thought:

pic of fb message

I am thankful for whoever planted the mimosas there, because I was the one who got to enjoy them.  Thank you.  Makes me think an awful lot about what seeds I have planted today.

And tonight, in the midst of having a tired body and a weary spirit, I am thankful for the lesson that we are given in nature.  When the sun goes down, wrap yourself up and rest.  The time to rise will come again in morning.  And when we are rested, we can plant seeds that will bring joy to someone else tomorrow or the next day or next year…..and in the present, the gift of a rested spirit is we can smile and share light with those around us.  And so the seeds scatter…..and on and on.