Memories I love:
1. Laughter. I used to have a best friend in high school whose laugh was loud and obnoxious. I would purposely wait until we were behind a group of people (preferably the cool people who couldn't be bothered to notice if I was alive--this was high school, after all), then I would say something that would catch him off guard and make him laugh. He would glare at me when he regained composure and remind me that a REAL friend wouldn't do that. He was right, of course, but that didn't stop me from continuing the habit when I met AtP, whose laugh is similarly, delightfully loud.
2. Huckleberries. They grow wild in the mountains behind my childhood home. We would gather them in the summertime. Our dog would lie down in a patch and eat them from the surrounding bushes. Once I encountered a black bear stripping the bushes of leaves and berries. It looked at me. I looked back. Then it fled. I was relieved beyond measure.
3. Driving a tractor. My father taught me when I was almost ten. My first job was to level a plowed field. I would level the upturned soil, row by row, making side by side loops in the corners so none of the ground was left unsmoothed. Later I graduated to plowing, discing, and drilling the seeds. I don't remember ever being bored by the solitude. It was alone time I adored.
4. Kittens. My father allowed us to have a large number of cats. They kept the rodent population under control and made wonderful pets. Litters of kittens were celebrated. We gave some of them away to neighboring farms, but kept many. I always chose the black ones, however one year we had a litter of tabby kittens and one had a mark on her head that looked like the infinity symbol. Her coloring was unusual, too, made up almost exclusively of bright gold and deep black. I taught her to fetch, and she would leap onto my shoulder and sit there. She was definitely my favorite.
5. Roommates. I had some amazing ones. We were all on academic scholarships, but you'd never know it if you spent time with us. We were quirky, and funny, and adorable. Our home evening brothers spent more time in our apartment than in their own even after they found out that we had made a pact never to date them. We made up imaginary poltergeists, created Marshmallow Art, and tried to have sleepovers in the park (dumb police person who foiled our plans--apparently there is a curfew or city ordinance against it, or something else equally stupid). I miss those girls.
6. Hay harvest. If you've ever actually done this, you know it's actually pretty awful. The hay creates a fine dust that gets everywhere, but is especially irritating in the nose and lungs. It finds its way inside clothing, lodging and chafing in the creases. The days are hot and dry and the work is incredibly fatiguing--at least the way we did it. We were unable to afford the labor-saving equipment that would bale and stack the hay simply by using a tractor and some levers. Instead, we baled the hay in rows and stacked the bales by hand as they came up an elevator attached to a bale truck--which we then drove to the hay shed where we would unload the bales onto a larger elevator, and send them into the shed where they were again stacked by hand. Why did I love this? To this day I'm not sure. I think it had something to do with working as a group, loving the warmth and sunlight, feeling lost in the blue sky, and knowing at the end of the day I would be able to shower all the hay dust off me and sleep soundly because I was completely exhausted.
7. Peonies, daisies, tiger lilies, lilacs, and columbines. All my life I have wanted a flower garden. My mother would never allow it, telling me we needed all our garden space for fruits and vegetables. I still tried to plant flowers in places I thought she wouldn't notice. They never grew. When I was ten, my grandparents built a new home and we moved into their old one. Grandma adored flowers. She had planted peonies near the front of the yard, daisies and tiger lilies on one side of the house, and columbines near the front porch. Two large lilac bushes graced the south side of the yard. For the first time, I had flowers. My mother never tended them, and our dog used to lie in the daisy patch, but I was in heaven. Throughout spring and summer, I used every glass and jar I could find, filling them with blooms and placing them on every flat surface in our home. My mother complained that they aggravated her allergies, which is probably true. I chose not to notice. Those flowers still bloom today near the house no one lives in anymore.
8. Photographs. When I was a child, we had a cardboard cube about six inches tall, in which we kept current or favorite photos. I would systematically flip through them at least once weekly. If a visitor was unlucky enough to be cornered by me, they were pressed to look at each picture and hear the accompanying story. Regardless of how many times I had seen them, I giggled at the funny ones, and melted when I saw the beautiful or adorable ones. I had to talk quickly because at the first lull in my narration, my spectator would escape. I've never lost that love of looking at photographs and hearing the stories behind them. During one of my visits, Tolkien Boy surprised me by pulling out a photo album and sharing his past with me. I'm certain he had no idea that he was giving me a beautiful gift, as this time I was the guest chosen to see the photos and hear the memories. I was allowed to linger over each picture and ask questions, and I enjoyed every part of that moment.
9. Potatoes. I've always been fascinated by how they grow. When I was small my parents had to watch me carefully so I wouldn't pick the blossoms. Because of the dirt and digging, my sisters hated harvesting them but it always felt like a huge surprise to me. One never knew how many, or how large, or what color the potatoes would be. I loved gathering and cleaning them. My grandma would always ask for my help when she dug the tiny new potatoes so that the the others would grow very large. Then she would shell fresh peas, scrub some tiny carrots, steam them with the potatoes, and add fresh cream and simmer until the sauce was thick. I've made creamed peas and potatoes since then, but they never taste the same. Darrin believes it's because I don't always grow the vegetables myself, but I think I'm just missing the right company. There are days when I would give a great deal to have a simple meal with that grandma again.
10. Lambkins. We didn't raise sheep on our farm, but occasionally we bought bum lambs (Sometimes ewes refuse to allow their lambs to nurse--especially, as often occurs in lambing, when there are twins born to her. When that happens, the abandoned lamb is called a "bum lamb" and must be bottle fed and kept separate from the rest of the sheep.), raised and slaughtered them for meat. I always became far too attached to the animals and my father would not allow me to help with their feeding or care. One year, however, we got a lamb that immediately bonded with me. I named him Lambkins. My mother would remind me not to think of him as a pet, as soon he would be lamb chops. I ignored her.
Lambkins was somehow able to get out of every pen we put him in. Eventually, my father allowed him to roam freely about our farm. Lambkins took up residence on the front lawn (which he kept neatly mowed, but was not nearly as nice about cleaning up the droppings he left behind), followed me everywhere, and adopted our dog, John, as his surrogate mother. Lamkins soon forgot all about me as he began to imitate our dog. He tried to herd cattle with John (much to the poor dog's distress--the cattle would scatter everywhere when the lamb began chasing them, rather than heading for the milk barn as John intended). We had to hide the dog food to keep the lamb from eating it. John was fed in a secret place while someone distracted Lambkins. Our dog took on a look of pained long-suffering.
When we drove into the fields in the pick-up truck, the kids rode in the back. John would jump over the side or closed tailgate of the truck and join us in the truck bed. One day, following John as usual, the almost adult Lambkins made his first attempt at leaping into the truck. We heard his body slam into the side and assumed he wouldn't try again. To our surprise the lamb slammed itself repeatedly into the side of the truck, trying to sail over the edge to where his unconcerned surrogate mother sat. Finally, my father took pity on the animal, lowered the tailgate and lifted Lambkins into the truck where the lamb trotted over to our dog and leaned adoringly against him while John whimpered miserably. As he got back into the cab of the truck, I heard my father mutter something about needing to make a meal of that animal. I remember thinking that it might be time. Poor John was having a nervous breakdown.