Life in the Country

This spring is a different sort of spring.  So many anchors have been removed in the last year.  I walked up the lane yesterday and looked west, out across the wide expanse of hilltops dotting the horizon.  The orchard’s blossoms below where I stood are falling,  fading the white clouds of apple trees to mint green.

There is not much of that old orchard left, and what remains is gnarled and half broken with age and the elements. But the scent still drifts sweetly on the air, the scent beloved of honeybees and aging country girls.

I stood there with a spring wind blowing in my face, and I thought about time past.

There was a time, years ago, okay, decades ago,  when I picked bouquets of apple blossoms and carried them to the house, their woody stems to be plunked down into mason jars.  Ahhh…so quickly they faded.  But they sufficed for flowers until the lilacs and wildflowers bloomed.

My eyes looked beyond to the neighbor’s pasture, a hillside meadow of emerging green. Cows no longer graze there, but there was a time…

The old neighbor, Mary, who lived on that farm, did not see the return of spring this year.  Having lived ninety plus years, she took the soul of a quickly given smile and eagerly shared story, and moved  beyond our earth-bound vision.

Mary was a beautiful soul.  She was generous with me many times in my life…whether it was buying me a new dress for school the year I went into 6th grade, or just calling me and saying, “Teresa, I picked strawberries. Do you want to come and get some?” She exemplified what a real neighbor is.

Mary never had daughters…and I think that my little sister, Betty, and I benefited from that at least once in our early years.  I recall walking up through the “cattle run”, a fenced in passageway that ran between crop fields. It stretched from just above our creek to Mary’s barn at the top of the field. Once past the barn, we stopped and pumped fresh spring water for a nice cold drink, and then made our way across the yard to Mary’s house.

In my memory, she was always happy to see us, and I still suspect that was the case.  She invited us inside on one particular day, and proceeded to show us her makeup.  Here I have to add that Mary, for a country girl to the core, always seemed to have her blush and her lipstick on. Even as a very little girl I thought she was quite the lady…and she never wore trousers or jeans!  Always a dress, even when she gardened or took care of her cows and chickens.

So there we were, Betty and me, wide-eyed with amazement at the makeup before us…all the things that make a woman glamorous and p.r.e.t.t.y.  Our mom never wore makeup, so this was foreign to us…Mary offered to make us up, and we accepted, never giving a thought to whether we were permitted to wear makeup. I am guessing that we were probably around the ages of 5 and 6, maybe 6 and 7.

I remember Mary giggling her beautiful, unique, giggle, that even into her nineties made her sound like a child.  And I recall smiling from ear to ear because I knew that now I was beautiful, glamorous…and very p.r.e.t.t.y.  and Betty grinned from ear to ear, enjoying the very same beautiful, glamorous, fashionable, face that Mary wore, lipstick and all.

And then, it was a Christmas moment! (The memory of it makes me smile so hard while typing this that I look a chipmunk with my cheeks stuffed full of acorns).  Mary said, “Here, I don’t use this one anymore, or this one, or this one…and this one…you can have them…go ahead, take them home with you.”

Holy cow!  We would be beautiful…and glamorous, and fashionable for years now!  <laughing>

We retraced our steps, back down through the cattle run, always watching for new cow-patties. You know they could completely destroy a glamor girl’s image…wet cow-patties on bare feet. Ugh!

I can’t recall specific words, just the expression on my mother’s face as we walked in the back door to our kitchen.  But…I am pretty sure that it involved a hasty interrogation about where we got that stuff on our faces! <laughing harder> and then after proudly showing our near endless-supply of rouge and lipstick so generously given to us, it was immediately confiscated and then our faces were scrubbed with lye soap!

I knew that day that all my hope of being glamorous was gone.  And it was years until I wore makeup again–sneaking it on at school so my dad wouldn’t see it.

In restrospect…it really added nothing in the way of beauty and glamor.  But I suppose that it helped this square peg fit into the round hole that school was.

And Mary? Bless her beautiful heart…I don’t know if mom ever said a word to her about it, but the makeup incident did nothing to lessen the traffic on the cattle run between our homes.  And I grew up happy to know such a lady who even wore her rouge and lipstick when she sat on her front porch in her later years of life.

Today…makeup and me? We have formed an uneasy truce.  Each time I am invited to a wedding, I have to go buy a tube of waterproof mascara (because we always cry at weddings, right?) and my lipstick is chapstick.  Other than that…not so much.  Because I know…glamor is a fantasy sold to us when we are little girls, and being p.r.e.t.t.y is something within our very hearts.

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One Response to Life in the Country

  1. Rhonda says:

    This is absolutely beautiful! It reminds me of my own growing up years in the country. In fact we had a neighbor, also named Mary, who was an elderly German woman. Oh how I loved to listen to her talk. There was no giggling from her though. Very straight forward talk. 🙂

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