It is so strange, the beginning of a new year always sends me backwards in my thoughts. Perhaps it is because there is so much more time behind me than in front of me. I am 77 years old; turning 78 in February. I live a full and happy life in "real" time, however past memories have a way of holding me in their ethereal grip and I go stumbling along after them like Alice tumbling down the rabbit hole.
Today I was wandering in a fenced in yard; I see wooden steps leading from an unpainted clapboard house, long skirts, and aprons. Where has this come from? Oh, yes...now I remember.
Dust flew from the barren yard, feathers were flying, the chicken was squawking, my great aunt was singing, and I was running, toward the action.
At an age in the four or five year range, I most often stared at peoples feet or their middles, and even that was a stretch. Long skirts hovering above sturdy dark shoes tied with strings;, aprons of printed feed sacks (I later realized.) None of these were as pretty as my sailor dress made by my mother, or my little white shoes that had several straps that snapped around my lower leg. I was a city girl, and this was definitely not the city.
It was not Aunt Mae, or Aunt Grace since I remember their benevolence to a slightly wild child. It was a great aunt on my mother's side; her name long gone. In a flurry she caught the unlucky bird and handed it over by its feet to my grandmother who then proceeded to wring its neck. I wonder what child today could stand the trauma, and live a normal life after experiencing such, but I did. I really didn't care about the chicken because earlier in the day her rooster husband had chased a little red headed girl (me) up those shaky steps and pecked the fire out of the back of my legs.
My grandmother was proficient in her neck wringing procedures and soon it was over, The hapless bird flopped aimlessly (of course, without a head, she was directionless) in the dirt and landed at my feet. Then there was a second round with a new bird; about then I was lifted in my mother's arms and comforted over something I was feeling no unease about. I loved fried chicken. But, first I had to get away from the smell of scorched feathers.
During the time of feather plucking I headed to the garden in the side yard. I looked for Mr. McGregor in the cabbage patch. I watched my daddy dig potatoes from the dark rich earth and later I gobbled mashed potatoes with red scraps of skin still in them.
Life seemed fun here on the farm; far away over many hills from my tame and quiet town yard. The women, I remember many there that day, laughed and called to the big children to come help. They stirred and cooked and put all the food on a big table covered with the prettiest table spread. It was printed with red, yellow, and green apples all over its slick surface. I put my nose close to the table and took a lick, it smelled and tasted funny; Mother said it was oil cloth, it could be wiped clean.
The large blue crock was my favorite happy memory of that day, it was filled to the rim with a deep yellowish whipped cream, I could have fallen into it and been drowned if I wanted to, and for a moment I did want to.
Late in the day my daddy carried me to my grandfather's sedan, I think I remember the word "Nash." It was big and held us all, our family of four, and Poppa, Mamma and three of their younger children who came that day. We doubled up, I sat in my uncle's lap, he was only 14 and beautiful, I remember planting a tiny little smooch on his cheek before I said my traveling prayers and fell into a deep and deserved sound sleep; maybe he didn't notice. I've always wondered.
Oh my, I'm back now, and how I enjoyed the visit. These memories have been as deeply asleep as the nap I took on our way home from the country. What dredged them up today? I think maybe, the chicken dish I made such a mess out of for lunch, I ate it anyway, just to show my husband it wouldn't kill a person, but later tonight I may take a chicken trip of another kind, it could be rather like a nightmare...