Publisher's note: Please join me in welcoming Author Michele Rhem, who presents us with her poignant memoirs of the Rabbit Patch, where her diaries weave tales of a simpler, expressive life lost to many, but gathered together in her most familiar environs - the Rabbit Patch.
The "early service" this morning, was a gentle affair. Light fell across the territory in rays just bright enough to cast faint shadows. Certainly, I was thinking of my father, on this day and thought how he too, rose from a poor little boy on a back road to a noble man . . .quietly, without fanfare . .yet with a mighty impact. No one wants to disappoint "Grandaddy". I think that is a high level of respect, for loyalty out of fear is a temporary state . . . but loyalty out of love has a fortitude, that endures.
Sunday dinner was in the making, just after the mockingbird sang. A pot of beans simmered and a large bowl of raisins were soaking for a cake. There was no rush to this morning. I had the pork smothered in gravy cooking slowly and thought I could afford another cup of coffee . . . and so I was sitting under an old tree, watching the morning, when Tres came in. What a sweet surprise that was!
The meal was especially nice. Mama brought the first fresh summer squash of the season and they paired well with the butterbeans and creamed turnips. I fried cornbread at the last minute, as I always do, for cornbread is best that way, served hot and straight a-way, from the skillet.
The afternoon was quiet and peaceful, a far cry from most days at the rabbit patch. How good it felt to pack leisurely, for my trip the next day to Elizabeth City. I was especially happy about this particular trip, as this time Brant was going, too.
Each night, I have practiced my "fair-weather" habit of going out to bid the world good night. The sky is filling up with stars as of lately and planets also. Now we clearly see Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn. The crescent moon hangs over the field like a magnificent charm, casting a spell of peace, hope and a sense of well being.
It was mid morning, when I turned in to the "Riverside Village" nestled by the "laughing" river. It felt like a holiday for of course we had planned special meals. Will and Brant had a list of projects to accomplish. One task was restoring a dresser for all the little dresses Jenny will need the first of September.
Lyla made a "big production" about my arrival. For a few moments, the kitchen was filled with dancing and clapping for I joined in the celebration in the same manner as Lyla. Oh, to be a "Honeybee"is a wonderful thing.
In the afternoon, Lyla and I made Brant a birthday cake, while Brant and Jenny painted the dresser. It was a "banana split" cake and did not require baking. We listened to the Brandenburg Concertos, which are my favorites. Lyla is now convinced that you must listen to music when you make a cake, for we always do.
Brant chose rutabagas for his belated birthday supper. He also chose pork chops and parslied potatoes. Lyla has no interest in cooking such things and abandoned me in that pursuit.
Rutabagas are a root crop that are the most difficult thing I know of to peel and cut. They were a staple, when I was growing up. Now, the vegetable hardly ever shows up on a menu . . .or a kitchen table. I suspect this is due to the tedious preparation and the length of time they must cook. Despite, the process, rutabagas are worth the trouble. They taste like a cross between a carrot and potato, but a bit sweeter in flavor and as it turns out very nutritious.
Will came home early from work, which added to the "holiday" atmosphere. The evening meal was a huge success, and Lyla presented her cake with great ceremony-while she sang "Happy Birthday" to her Uncle Brant.
Tuesday was hot. Brant cleaned out the shed and Will mowed the yard. This delighted Lyla and she was eager to help. She swept the little shed and carried branches for a good while. Jenny did laundry and I kept an eye on Lyla, besides relaying messages and assisting everyone at some time or another.
All of the activity reminded me of my childhood, on the farm. Everyone busy and working together "for the greater good" of the family. I still remember those days vividly and with great fondness. I doubt that Mama and Grandmama knew that I would remember them picking squash, for decades . . nor that the memories of Pop and Daddy bantering, while repairing a tractor, would strike me so tenderly, now a half century later. The contents of a life are never a collection of things acquired, for new cars get old and even the grandest wardrobe is discarded piece by piece, due to to tatters and frays. Gadgets break or get lost altogether . . . no, the contents of life are comprised of deeds done and who we share our seasons with, I think . . . and do not decline in worth. Even the bittersweet memories, can offer us some advantage.
Shortly after noon, the heat was unpleasant enough, so that everyone pushed to complete their chores. Brant went back to work on the dresser, on the shaded porch, that faces the river. Lyla gave some dolls a bath and Will went shopping for supplies for more projects.
As is likely to happen on sultry southern days, a thunderstorm popped up in the evening and cooled the air. I sat on the porch while everyone caught up on the World Cup, feeling quite content.
Dear Diary, I am glad for crescent moons and birthday cakes. I am glad for memories sweet enough to make you cry and keep your heart tender -and I am glad for cooling showers in June . . .and dances in the kitchen.