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Posts Tagged ‘spring’

I am remembering my cousin, Steve Oakley, on this morning before Easter. Our coloring eggs together is a favorite memory of mine, and I have very few childhood reminiscences in which he did not have a significant role. We would sit at our kitchen table and joyfully transform the dull hen’s eggs into a rainbow of Easter eggs, making a most iridescent mess for my mother to clean up afterwards.

The odor of vinegar would pinch our noses as we concocted the dye in containers that we gleaned from who knows where. Paper or Styrofoam cups were not readily available to us then. We often tried to create exotic colors by mixing hues and double-dipping the eggs, an effort that was largely unsuccessful. Nevertheless, Steve always had some innovative idea for designing unusual eggs, despite past failures.

Steve and I both owned Daisy BB guns, and one Easter weekend, he was suffering from a very red and swollen eye, the result of a ricocheting BB, but he still arrived as usual to help me color eggs. I can see him as plainly as if happened yesterday, dipping eggs and doggedly “enjoying” the activity. I was so upset about his eye, but he would not let our tradition go unobserved.

On Easter after Sunday School, my mother would hide the eggs in the vacant lot across the road from our house, and several of us would run wild in the tangled vinca vines and tufts of spring green grass, gleefully searching for them. After all the eggs had been found, we’d often hide them again, but eventually, we’d loll in the grass, drape ourselves over the steps, or sit on the porch and peel the Easter from the eggs. My mother would give us all a cold bottle of RC Cola, and the finder of the lucky egg received a quarter.

We were fortunate to be happy and uncomplicated children, growing up in a quiet, close-knit community. One of my favorite books is “To Kill a Mockingbird,” but as I remember those Easters, I am convinced that Jem and Scout had nothing on us.

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Memories are often obscure and elusive threads in the fabric of our psyche, but sometimes an image or incident will recall a hidden remembrance and release a vignette from the past. I experienced this recently when an online ad caught my eye, and I was transported from my web surfing to relive one of my childhood’s greatest pleasures.

The ad hawked Burpee’s seeds and nursery plants, and I was immediately reminded of the excitement that the arrival of the Henry Fields seed catalog elicited among our family members. My mother was an avid gardener and had a thumb as green as Ireland. She generally ordered seeds from the Fields catalog, and we would pore over the colorful book for hours.

I devoured every page, imagining rows of peas and corn, emerald shoots of onion blades, and dewy cabbage heads. My mother usually added to my vegetarian fantasies by cultivating plants that were not widely grown in our region at that time. She was the only gardener that I knew who actually grew eggplant, lemon cucumbers, and kohlrabi.

In addition to my vivid daydreams of vegetable gardening, I enjoyed looking at all the flowers and reading their names. The roses were my favorites both for beauty and for their romantic and interesting monikers. American Beauties and Mister Lincolns blazed from the pages in scarlet glory, but they could not eclipse Charlotte Armstrong’s bold pink petals or Jeanne d’Arc’s virtuous white blossoms. I found the Peace rose to be the most beautiful, but its name left me dissatisfied. There was nothing peaceful about the brillance of the burnished yellow petals streaked with fiery pink.

Along with vegetables and flowers, fruit held a prominent place in the catalog. I feasted my eyes and honed my reading skills on pages filled with glowing apples labeled MacIntosh and Jonathan, ruby Montmorency cherries, and blushing Elberta peaches.

The gardening catalog usually came in the mail in February, and with it came a hint of spring. The wind could blow and snowflakes beat the windowpanes, but Henry Fields proffered golden ears of corn, crimson tomato globes, orange sheaves of carrots, orchards of fruit, and a rainbow of flowers. Winter’s cold and ice could not withstand the warmth and brightness that emanated from those vibrant pages.

Harbingers of spring still abound. A note of birdsong, a warm breeze, blue skies, and greening grass all herald its approach, but I still long for roses and apples in February and for the mailman to bring the promise of bounty and beauty to my door.

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