Monday, April 13, 2009

Some Things Never Change

Last week Nathaniel asked Emma if she wanted to go out and play with the chicks. Emma was happy to oblige. They took a bucket of chicks and the camera out into the hayfield to enjoy the sunshine and green grass.

I re-read a letter I had written in January of 1998. We had just moved to an 18-acre property in rural Louisiana from a master-planned subdivision (1/4 acre lots) in Clear Lake, TX. Here are some excerpts:

The best part for me and the kids is the chicken house. Nothing warms my heart like our four beautiful Rhode Island Reds. We got them from the former homeowner last Saturday morning, and by Saturday afternoon, BE-HOLD!, the miracle of the egg. Oh, the euphoria that swept through our chicken house as the children and I marveled at our first farm product. Herb remained calm through all the excitement, explaining to me thusly, "That's what they're supposed to do." Thank goodness for him; he keeps our rubber boots firmly planted in the chicken poop.

We have discovered that one of the great joys of country life is that you can burn stuff and nobody says anything. We've had a couple of incidents. We celebrated New Year's eve early when we inadvertently burned some aerosol cans. As we fled the scene, the boom-boom-boom echoing in our ears, I assumed we were under sniper attack. However, upon our return to the dying embers, we discovered the remains of the "shells". We are now applying for a patent on a process I call redneck skywriting, which occurs when a can of shaving cream is heated to 1200 degrees Fahrenheit. (Kind of looked like snow--thrilled the children to no end.) Two days later we were burning a bunch of boxes when Herb noticed that one of the trees in the woods appeared to be smoking. Sure enough, we had ignited a dead tree that was about 20 yards into the underbrush. I raced for the hose and Herb for the ax. Flames were shooting out the top by the time we got back. The kids eyes sparkled with glee; Herb and I sparkled with sweat. Thankfully, my parents were here and Dad had brought his chainsaw. We soaked the damned, I mean downed, tree and felt a corresponding dampening of our own spirits. We have declared a moratorium on burning until we procure professional firefighting equipment: a bulldozer, helicopter, etc. . .

Nathaniel, now 6 1/2, finally has a yard big enough to contain his enthusiasm for the outdoors. His Uncle Bruce noticed that he runs everywhere all the time. . .unless he is on his bike, which he rides with his head in front of the handlebars and a determined look on his face. Someday his head may actually beat the front wheel to his destination. An old family friend sent Nathaniel his hatchet, complete with leather blade cover, for Christmas. Nathaniel almost collapsed with joy. He is utterly consumed with cutting and chopping. In fact, I think the highlight of the holidays for him was when he was cutting a trail through the woods with his dad and Grandpa Somerset. I have never seen him look so content. Like the Sears ad, though, he does have a softer side. He loves to bake, especially Buttermilk Pound Cake, and he still climbs up in my lap for a good snuggle. We just bought him and Emma each a chocolate Labrador Retriever pup, and I can picture him cutting trails and sharing a piece of pound cake with his dear Cocoa by this summer. . .He has also appointed himself labor companion to any chicken who climbs into a nest to lay, and asked me one evening, "Aren't we the best chicken farmers of ever?"

Still the princess of pink, Emma has named her pup Genevieve and adorned her with a pink collar studded with rhinestones and a matching lead. I'm sure we will soon be in the market for pink puppy tutus and matching slippers. She is now campaigning hard for baby chicks, asking me to let the eggs we have collected hatch. When I explained that you have to have a rooster to get chicks, she told me, just a little indignantly, "Well, get a rooster and let him spray his poison on the eggs!" I'm not quite sure where she's been getting her information. Emma will be 5 next month and adores dancing, dressing up, and pushing doll babies in the stroller. You can also see her dressed in overalls dangling from a rope in an oak tree belting out the George of the Jungle theme song. She is incredibly resilient, having survived a lifetime of abuse from her big brother. Perhaps that is why her favorite line in her imaginary play is, "RUN FOR YOUR LIFE!" Emma is taking ballet/tap/gymnastics in bustling downtown Vinton and is disappointed that it is only once a week.

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