Who Says You Can Never Go Home Again?

“Home wasn’t a set house, or a single town on a map. It was wherever the people who loved you were, whenever you were together. Not a place, but a moment, and then another, building on each other like bricks to create a solid shelter that you take with you for your entire life, wherever you may go.”  Sarah Dessen, What Happened to Goodbye

The west veranda at the farm.

The west veranda at the farm.

This is such a simple picture, and yet it brings back a flood of memories for me, even though it was taken on a day when I’m sure I wasn’t even there.  My dad was the only one in his family who made his living by farming.  His siblings were teachers and nurses and professionals, and ended up living in towns and cities.  And all of them – every one – came to visit him and mom here with their families.  If they hadn’t, we would never have known all our aunts and uncles and cousins so well, because running a farm means almost never getting away for trips much longer than a day.  But if the relatives wanted to come and stay?  They were welcomed with open arms.  We had lots of room and the doors were always open.  No offer of help was every refused.  You might end up peeling the potatoes or shelling the peas for your dinner, but you never went away hungry.

The garage is on the far left, then dad, mom, the window to the den, Aunt Lorna, the main door, Aunt Marie, the edge of the big kitchen window, extra lawn chairs, a strange looking wooden whirly decoration that twisted in the breeze, flower beds gone wild.  That little thing hanging on the bricks that resembles a bird house is a box that held a pencil and some notepaper.  On it was written “If at home you do not find us, leave a note that will remind us.”  I once pointed out to my mother that it didn’t make any sense.  If you were away from home, surely you knew that already and didn’t need a reminder of it.  I was just being a mouthy teenager.  But I still think the message is stupid.  And I don’t know why I’ve never forgotten it.

The view to the west was of maple trees bordering the laneway, the bank down to the pond, and fences and fields as far as you could see.    Those numerous round white dots that look like holes are actually real holes in the photograph.  It’s been pinned up to a cork board and shuffled around a lot, stuffed in a box, lost for awhile.  And then it made its way to me.  In this shot it looks like the veranda floor has had some repairs and a new coat of paint.  I remember it being a steely blue grey with loose boards you could lift up and hide things under.  I don’t remember dad ever saying he was tired of nailing them back down.

It’s a summer afternoon, dinner is over, the dishes have been washed and put away, and it’s just too nice to sit inside.  If there are kids around, they’re off climbing trees or throwing sticks for the dog, or gathering firewood for the bonfire in the backyard after the sun goes down.  I can almost hear dads voice, saying something profound in a lazy off-hand manner.  Mom saying “Oh, Hank”, and laughing,  Aunt Lorna’s droll observations (we never knew if she meant to be funny or not) and Aunt Marie’s infectious giggles.

The farm was sold years ago.  We drove by it last October and saw the changes.  The front veranda has been closed in, the barn is being torn down, the gigantic garden has gone to grass.  The house is so old I’m surprised it’s still standing.  It’s just another old building to me now.  It hasn’t been ”home” for a very long time.

And yet in my heart it will always be home whenever I remember all the people who were part of it, and who made it come so alive with laughter and fun.  I’ve had a lot of homes in my life and I carry parts of every one of them with me. The pictures in my head are as vivid as the real ones.  I can visit them anytime I choose, simply by remembering the people I loved who lived there with me, and loved me back.

How Does Your Garden Grow?

With pretty weeds all in a row?  Picture number (what?) of my bucket of random plants over which I exercise no control.  I promise this will be the last one.  But look how interesting it’s all become!  Weeds bloom!

Blooming weeds close up.

Blooming weeds not so close up.

Okay, THAT is the last one, I swear.   To me it’s breathtaking, all things considered, covered in raindrops and growing tall.  Also my bush in the background is now covered in strange little yellow flowers which make it look slightly less bush-ugly.

And at last the tiger lilies have started to bloom.  Finally, something beautiful that I actually meant to have growing in my backyard.












The rain has been falling continuously since the storm and it’s still overcast and drizzling this morning.  Temperatures inside and out are back to something much closer to normal.  So now we can all stop complaining about the heat and start moaning about the rain instead.

Timely Advice


This is the advice my calendar is giving me for the month of April.  It doesn’t know that there’s nobody here who would be dumb enough to plant anything outside until the end of May.  And even then there could be the odd freak snow fall.  As long as nothing has acutally sprouted yet, you might be okay.

There’s also advice from a ladybug.  Spot new opportunities,  Spend time in your garden.  Be well rounded.  Enjoy the wonders of nature.  Keep family close by.  Be simply beautiful.

And, advice from a Bluebird from last month:  Rise early.  Spread a little happiness.  Keep a song in your heart.  Think spring.  Be colorful.  Feather your nest with friendships.  The sky’s the limit!

There!  All the timely guidance you can stand for one day. 

Start the Day

There is something orange in the long green grass. She stands at the kitchen window, barefoot, still nightgown clad, looking into the backyard at the long stretch of overgrown garden that they’re going to turn back into lawn. The grass there is now almost a foot high, tall enough to sway and ripple in the breeze. The coffee pot gurgles and sputters beside her and outside the orange thing leaps.

Well, it really was no springing bound and barely fox-like. The second attempt at a hurdle ends in an ungraceful galumph. But kudos for getting out there and trying to act like a normal cat, she thinks. It can’t be easy.

She has noticed him before in her yard just passing through, looking like a short and rotund fuzzy orange blimp. The fattest cat she has ever seen. This jumping thing is new. There must be lots of creepy crawlies in the long grass that need pouncing upon and he’s giving it his best shot. Surging vault number three. But this one appears to have done him in. He sits and nonchalantly gazes off somewhere in the distance to give the bugs the impression that he no longer cares.

She pours her coffee and leans on the counter cradling the hot mug in both hands, takes that first invigorating sip. Watches the cat pause, consider; perhaps in this ones case, catch his breath.

Suddenly a magpie flaps his way overhead and lands with a squawk on the flat board on the top of the fence. He turns around, stomping his little bird feet, and then he gawks down at crouching orange thing in the grass. Cocks his head. Waits for what will happen next.

The wait is not long. There is no spring left in the cat’s repertoire this fine morning. Perhaps he has had previous altercations with magpies and does not fancy another one at the moment. Or maybe someone just called him home for breakfast. Either of these reasons, or some other mysterious cat notion, gets him up and off and running. Okay, more like lumbering, but moving away from the bird at a pace that’s faster than his normal calm meandering.

The magpie squawks some more. Where are you going? What kind of cat runs away from a bird? Hey! I’m talking to you! And then he takes to the air and is off in search of better less lame adventures.

All is quiet in the garden plot. She was going to get out there this morning and weed whack that long grass to start the process of getting it ready for sod. Maybe today, maybe not. There’s no hurry, really. She tops up her coffee cup and turns away from the window.

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Best TV Cooking Show 1960

It’s mid morning but already the sun is beating down on their heads and freckling their little noses. They are barefoot and sitting cross legged in the sandbox, intent on their latest recipe creation, trying to get it exactly right.

Lara is seven, dark haired, serious and focussed. Ainslee is five, and no less intense at the moment, although her attention will waiver shortly to the hot sand between her toes, to how her blonde curls itch and cling to the back of her prespiring neck, or the great amount of grit she’s managed to collect under her fingernails, or the fact that her clothes are sticking to her hot skin and begging to be removed. Anything really can distract her, so Lara tries to keep talking.

“Place the ingredients in your blue bowl and mix everything thoroughly. Our bowl is shaped like a sand bucket so that it holds a lot of batter. An egg beater would be good to use, but a big old wooden stick is okay too. If it gets hard to stir you can stop and rest, but it’s best to keep going or you won’t get it finished in time for supper. Now this needs something to stick it all together. Water, and a squish of cucumber juice with lots of seeds, and what do you think? One egg or two?”

“One BIG one”, Ainslee decides (because one is all they dared to snitch and thus all they have) and she cracks it open into the pail, bits of shell and all, and watches while Lara stirs it into a satisfying yellow slime. She dutifully adds chunks of green beans, tops of carrots, bits of green leafy lettuce and some colorful petals as Lara instructs her. They are on tv, and she is the helpful assistant. They are making the best cake ever.

Earlier they had furtively raided the hen house, a flower bed, and finally the garden, taking turns being on the look-out for grandma since she frowned mightily on raiding activity of any sort. They had also gathered a few raspberries for garnish, but those are long gone except for the faint red stains on Ainslee’s chin. Mom never pays much attention to what they’re doing as long as they’re not fighting and they promise to keep the sand clean. Whatever that entails they can’t imagine. They both agree that grandma should be on Dragnet. The police could probably get a lot of information out of her with her eyes in the back of her head and all.

“Anything else?” Lara asks her helpful assistant. She sincerely hopes not, because her arm is starting to ache. Her sister looks around to see what they’ve missed and sprinkles some blades of grass and a few pebbles into the mix. All the evidence of their secretive collecting appears to now be safely enveloped into the sandy mix. As they’re finally turning their lumpy composition onto the baking pan (a long flat board which must be manouvered very carefully to avoid splinters and slivers) Ainslee suddenly remembers a key ingredient.

“A pinch of garlic!” she screams. “We almost forgot!” It’s by far her favourite part of the cooking process, the last but most important component of any successful dish. Her favourite part of the cooking show. If it’s not part of the recipe she is always sorely disappointed. She pinches her finger and thumb in the dry sand and waves her hand over their divine creation and pronounces it perfect.

They admire the sodden mess for a minute, carefully tilting it away from them so that the camera can get a better shot for all the folks at home.

“Ladies and gentlemen”, Lara announces, “the Best Cake Ever!”

“Gentlemen don’t even watch this show”, Ainslee informs her as she pulls her shirt up over her head and tosses it into the grass.

“Hey! Assistants don’t take their clothes off on tv!” Lara exclaims.

“I’m not playing anymore”, Ainslee tells her. “And I’m too hot. I’m going to stick my feet in the frog pond.”

She walks away as Lara smiles and appologizes to her viewers for her assistant’s crazy behaviour.

“See you tomorrow!” she tells them gaily with a royal wave. And then she leaves the set as well, and runs off to join her sister.

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