Easter Grass

Last night as I was piddling around here late after everyone was asleep, as I tend to do on nights before the big holidays *ahem*, I looked at shredded colored paper and thought how lovely it was to be able to color coordinate the paper with the baskets.  (This was thanks to a find at the GW Boutique.  This is not how I normally roll.)  I remembered the green plastic grass from my years growing up.  After we fished out all of our jellybeans and Robin’s eggs (aka “lipstick eggs”) and bubble gum eggs and so on, we took all of the “grass” from our basket and placed it back in the Sunbeam bread bag that it had been stored in since the previous Easter.  I can remember the colors fading and wearing off the bag over the years, we used that same one for so long.  I am sure we got our money’s worth out of that single bag of Easter grass.

As I did what I do last night, a story my Daddy told me came back to me and I had to sit down on his brown couch that is in my home next to Mama’s end table and lamp and smile and remember.

When they moved to the house on the farm, Daddy was around Cooter’s age–maybe 7?  He remembered their Easters.  Daddy said he and his older brother would go out in the yard the day before and dig a small hole, about the size of a bowl.  When they finished they would pick grass and line the “basket” with real grass.  Their eggs would be left there to be found on Easter morning.

Isn’t that the sweetest picture?  I can see my Daddy as a little fella, digging in the ground, crouched over his hole, working intently, occasionally pushing his hair out of his eyes, and focusing on getting it just so.  Then running all over, picking and pulling up grass, the very grass that was cool under his bare feet in the heat of the day.

What a precious story.

And one that makes so much more sense and feels so much more authentic than our plastic or shredded paper “grass.”  And what a relief it must be for that poor little Bunny that he doesn’t have to find his way inside.  I love that tradition and that story so much.

Sometimes the simple ways are best.  I wonder what my crew would do if I have them dig their own baskets next year?  Worth a shot?  Just imagine the memories–good? bad?–that could come from that.

Love and merry memory-making to all.

Push Those White Shoes to the Back of Your Closet Please

Today we said goodbye to summer.

Oh I know the first day of fall isn’t for a couple of more weeks.  But today the crew and I said goodbye to water fun with Mess Cat and her family.  There seemed to be a promise of fall in the air, and it was that little promise that kept me out of the water.  I knew I had chosen wisely when children shivering with blue lips came up to us for towels.  But they had a summer of fun and didn’t want to let go.

But that’s what we must do.

And thought it might be hard, you too must let go.

It’s time to put the white away my friends.

No White Shoes After Labor Day by Mike Licht, NotionsCapital.com, via Flickr

No White Shoes After Labor Day by Mike Licht, NotionsCapital.com, via Flickr

Yes, as in “don’t wear white after Labor Day.”  Especially the shoes people.  Put them up.  Let them go.  It is time.  I say this because I care about you.

I do follow that rule, even if it seems silly to some. I remember finding a kindred spirit in college.  We stood at the Easter convocation before it began, scheduled four days BEFORE Easter, and as Baddest Mother Ever would say, “We clutched our pearls.”  Do you know how many people were wearing white shoes? *gasp* Never after Labor Day and never, ever before Easter.  No matter how late in the spring it is.  Just don’t.

I was raised on those old ways of doing things.  The women who were the greatest influences on my Mama were her grandmother, her great aunts, her aunts, and her mother-in-law.  They all passed along the wisdom from days gone by.

And I hope to pass it along to my children, outdated and silly as it may seem.  It’s my way of showing respect and sharing our family stories.  And I have a thing for all things old.  I just do.

I don’t wash clothes on New Year’s Day because I don’t want to wash anyone out of my life.  Mama usually doesn’t, but one year (and that is the only time I can remember her doing it) she had to wash something of Mess Cat’s.  I worried over that girl all year long.  What a relief when the next year came along and she was still with us.  I also don’t usually sweep after sunset–that can sweep away happiness–but sometimes you have to do what you have to do.

On New Year’s Day I am very intentional in what I do because “they say” whatever you do on New Year’s Day you will do all year long.  (I try to stay organized and keep the sink clear and not raise my voice in the hopes that all of that will stick.  *sigh*  I guess I’ll try it again next year.)

I don’t tell my dreams before breakfast unless I’ve obsessed over and found no harm in it coming true.  Because they do.  If you tell them before you eat breakfast.  This one kills my oldest because she starts talking about her unusual dreams as soon as she wakes up.  I have to hush her and make sure she eats.  Then she can share.  There’s some dreams we don’t need coming true, just sayin’.

We make wishes on eyelashes and dandelions.  We say “bread and butter” if we are walking together and get separated for a moment by a pole or vehicle or whatever.  I avoid stepping on cracks like the plague.  There’s just no good reason not to.

The first thing I did when I took my babies out of the house for the first time after leaving the hospital was walk them around whatever house we were living in.  I think it was supposed to be after being inside the house for a month, but whatever.  I did it even though the time might not have been right by the rules.  I didn’t cut any of their hair before their first birthday–supposed to keep them from being sickly or having bad hair.

One that I don’t particularly give any credence to is the one that states that black cats are bad luck.  The best cat I ever had was black and named Midnight.  I adored her.  Can cats be intuitive?  I believe she was.  So no bad luck there.

And another one that Daddy threw to the wayside was if you plant a little cedar, by the time its shadow is big enough to cover your grave, you’ll be in it.  When I was young we would hunt for our Christmas tree on my Granny’s farm.  We’d usually pick one the deer had rubbed against and it wasn’t likely to make it anyway.  We put the bad side in the corner and it was perfect.  This one year we found three baby cedars at the edge of the woods.  Daddy sent me back to the house to ask Granny for a paper bag but said not to tell Granny what it was for.  Of course I did–probably volunteered the information without her having to ask.  As I recall she grumbled to herself and gave me the bag.  We knew she wasn’t pleased.  While Daddy left us way too soon, he did outlast that shadow from the cedar.

When I was pregnant with my oldest, many of the staff I worked with at a non-profit childcare center were African-American.  It was interesting to have the beliefs of their culture enter into the mix.  If I went to the grocery store and needed something from the top shelf, I looked around and made sure no one I knew would see me and I stretched and got it.  If any of them had seen me, I would have been in big trouble.  The lifting of arms and things above one’s head could cause the cord to wrap around the baby’s neck.

Once one of the teachers came in my office.

“Miss Tara, you know when you got upset with T and P?  A few minutes ago?”  Miss G asked.

“Yes ma’am I do,” I replied.  The children had taken a bouncy ball and bounced it so high that it hit the fluorescent light above.  I had been livid.  Someone could have been hurt.  Bad.  “I’m sorry but that was dangerous.”

She waved her hand in dismissal. “Oh yeah, they deserved to be in trouble, no doubt.  But you need to be careful.  If you get angry with someone and then touch a part of your body, the baby will be marked by that person.”

Wow. First time I’d heard all of this.  I was careful from there on out.  Oh and if I got really scared by something or someone that could mark the baby too.  One of my teachers had a brother who had a birthmark in the shape of a chicken, wings outstretched, almost in flight–just like the one that came up on her Mama and scared her when she was pregnant with the brother.  Amazing.  There was also a concern about eating blackberries.  I really didn’t get it, and blackberries were not readily available, so we just didn’t worry too much about that one.

There are all kinds of these “superstitions” or “beliefs” that have walked in and joined me and my family over the years.  It’s what we do.  To honor our loved ones.  To remember the old stories shared by the women in our family over the years.  They were really amazing and strong women, especially considering the era they lived in.  It’s my way of staying connected to them.  (Mama always said the no laundry on New Year’s thing was about honoring her Grandmama and had nothing to do with being superstitious.)  But most of all we continue these traditions and ways of doing things to love and laugh and appreciate.  Some might be quirky, but every now and then, we hit on a real jewel.  And some, like the no white after Labor Day, keep us from making some really big mistakes.

What stories, beliefs, or superstitions from the past do you still honor today?

Take Out and Help Yourself…..

Today as I was cooking a big noon-time dinner, I thought about my great Granddaddy Holder.  He was my Mama’s granddaddy, and we all loved him dearly.  He lived in a house on a slight incline, so when we drove down their road we were looking up at the steps up to their screened-in front porch.  The pond he loved to fish in was just down the road a piece, also on his property.

I can remember visiting him and Granny Inez from when I was very young.  She was his second wife, as my great-grandmother who had the beautiful red hair and taught my Mama to cook died when Mama was 14.  That was one of the worst heartbreaks of her life I think.  Granny Inez never treated us any differently though.  I can recall times when her grandchildren were there too, and we had so much fun.  I loved playing on the porch.  I think they were the only folks I knew with a screened porch at the time.

I stayed the night with them one time when I was spending a few days with my Great Aunt.  They got an early start in that house–Granddaddy and I were up and headed out to his truck to check around the farm by a little after 5.  We were back home and ready for breakfast around 6:30 or so.  I remember the ham, red-eye gravy, biscuits and well, just all the fixin’s.  I LOVED that gravy.  The way it soaked into those biscuits.  Some kind of goo-ood, I am telling you.

pic of table full of food

Granddaddy was a gentle man but he was strong too.  He had lost his hand in a mill accident many years before.  I don’t remember being frightened by his arm.  It seemed to make his hugs even better actually.  When we were all over there to eat with him and Granny Inez, that table was creaking from all the food spread out on it.  All kinds of vegetables and a ham or roast, cornbread or biscuits, and desserts.  I remember Granny Inez’s specialty was a lemon cheese cake (not cheesecake, this was layers of cake with something like lemon curd as a filling–divine!).   The best part was I don’t care how high you piled your plate or if it was your first go ’round or not, Granddaddy was known for saying, “Take out and he’p yourself, you ain’t et hardly nothin’.”

To me that was the epitome of Granddaddy’s hospitality.  If there was food on the table, he wanted to share it.  Maybe that’s where Mama got it from–feeding folks was one of the ways she said “I love you.”

It’s a sweet saying that has been heard around the table at home all my life.  It’s a way to remember Granddaddy, a generous man who was intelligent and hard-working; he served as a judge in his county as well.  But it’s also become our way of showing love, just as Granddaddy did–a way of saying, “If I got it, it’s yours.  He’p yourself.”  And I particularly like to hear it at big meals like Thanksgiving–that part about having et hardly nothin’…..yeah, in that case, I will have another go at it., thankyouverymuch.  There’s such generosity and grace in that.  Just like in my great Granddaddy.