Views from Annie's Cabin

miscellaneous musings on aging and living and loving

Remembrance of Things Past

on July 3, 2014

When to the sessions of sweet silent thought

I summon up remembrance of things past…….

                                                         [Sonnet 30]

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Walking Gracie, our rescue dog, yesterday in the still of the mountain morning, coming round one of the river bends I heard the faint purring hummmm of an old gas mower. And, like Proust’s remembered madeleines whose taste and scent transported him back to his youth, to a simpler and softer time, the sound of that mower took me back to 1963 when I was a girl of fifteen, and sleeping late, or rather dozing, in the warm luxury of an early summer’s morning.

Windows open, soft breeze trailing in, I could hear the mower in the back yard and smell the scent of newly mown grass. I knew it was a Saturday and I knew Pink was here, helping Mother and Daddy with housekeeping chores. I also knew it meant all was right with the world, with my world; that there was no need to get up, or hurry, or do anything at all except bask in the very sweet moment of now. Somehow, even as a girl, I knew that I was in a moment, a bubble of time, that would never end in my mind and memory and being, even though, inevitably, it would end in real time. For times change, and young girls grow up.

So I’m hearkened back to a more innocent world, a world barely out of the 1950s, a world where two races moved together in harmony. My family were leftovers from the Great Depression, and lived modestly and frugally. Mother made our clothes and every summer Daddy would come home from the office for midday dinner where we would all eat a good simple meal round the big dining room table. Good china and ancient silverware, passed down from generations before. Faded elegance. Slipcovers on furniture in the summer and clothes shared down from sister to sister.

And Old Pinckney, one of the most gentlemanly of gentlemen I’ve ever known in my life, would take the bus from his home to ours, dressed in his neat dark suit, clean white shirt and hat, carrying a small bag with him. When he arrived on Saturday, he’d slip into the hall lavatory and change into work clothes and help Mother and Daddy—and me—with things that needed to be done around and outside the household.

He’d start outside, mowing the lawn, while it was still cool and breezy, before the day got too hot. And that’s how I knew it was Saturday, that I could afford to sleep and think and dream just a little longer….fuelled by the putt-putting purr of the motor and soothed by the fresh scent of dewy grass being mown.. Then I’d hear a low whistle and know that Daddy had brought our cups of tea to my sister and me, placing them almost at the top landing of the steps, reaching through the bannister rails and setting the steaming cups sweetened with cream and sugar on the first of the uppermost curved steps. That was my signal to get up: To get that fragrant delicious cup of morning tea, I had to get out of bed and pick up the cup! Clever Papa…..it worked every time, without fuss or muss………..

Pink would polish the brass fender and coal scuttle in the living room, the door knobs, and whatever other brass was about the house. And occasionally would wax and polish the hardwood floors the old way, on hands and knees with wax and rag. That, too, was a wonderful old-time scent. And many years later, when we girls were grown up and all home together for a visit, I have a photograph of the three of us taking over Pink’s job…on our hands and knees, wax tin beside us, dining room table and chairs moved out, waxing and polishing the floors for Mother and Daddy. Continuing the old ways long after the old times had slipped away.

And Pink would help me, too, a fifteen year old girl who kept pet rabbits in hutches in the far end of the back yard. Snowball and Daddy-O….who always seemed to have baby bunnies in the depths of winter, and I’d have to quickly, upon discovering the newborns, move old Daddy-O to a separate hutch and more often than not, there’d be a bitter cold snow and I’d have to go to the hutch and pick up the babies and bring them inside. I remember like it was yesterday, sitting on top of the heat vent in the kitchen floor, hairless bunnies in lap and hand, feeding them with an eyedropper. Till all danger of freezing was passed…….We all loved the excitement of having a cardboard box full of squiggling baby bunnies in the kitchen.

But with pets come responsibilities, and my chore was cleaning out the hutch. And so Pink and I would get out there together and clean the inside sleeping compartments—and muck out the rich rabbit dung fertilizer. Sweet and scentless and rich with the promise of making anything at all grow…..we’d divide the dark gold and I’d take my share to the compost heap and Pink would take his share home in a strong bag, all nicely tied.

He’d have lunch in the kitchen with us girls and the rabbits and then he’d slip back into the hall lavatory, and change back into his gentlemanly attire, walk the block up to the bus stop and make his way back home. I later learned that even when he was too old and frail to work any more, Mother and Daddy continued to pay him, continuing to honor the old gentleman who shared and enriched our life in so many ways.

And isn’t it remarkable, how, walking this morning, no longer a girl of fifteen but sixty years later, when I hear the soft purring hum of an old gas mower, like Proust and Shakespeare, I summon up my own remembrance of things past….

What a rich repository memory is…….like a movie-tone reel rewinding through my mind. A summer morning in 2014— far removed form 1963…and suddenly I’m a girl again…in my heart…and memory.

 

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One response to “Remembrance of Things Past

  1. Jean Ohmsen says:

    that was wonderful to read–I too have wonderful memories of years gone by–but can’t put them into words as you do. Happy 4th of July

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