I read a piece by Amber Haines yesterday. Amber is a new discovery and a new favorite. She’s from Alabama. Seems that she grew up with lots of real life like me. Her piece was about washing her grandma’s car and eating strawberries when she was little. I was very encouraged reading it. I thought, that’s the kind of stuff I like to write about, too. The everyday, that’s not really…everyday.
So, today I thought I would share a memory that just flashed across my mind. I’m staring out at the remains of the tree still in the yard…thinking about what still needs to be done for us to be able to burn up every inch of that sucker. There are some branches that the girls trimmed up with clippers, those still need to be cut into fireplace size sections. Ideally, it’s a chain saw job, a quick and easy chain saw job. I want it done. I want to start depleting that pile of wood. I want to get it out of the yard. But, I don’t usually run the chain saw. It’s too heavy for me. I would cut them to size with an axe, if we had one around here, ours has disappeared. There is a twelve pound maul, but that is overkill for the job.
Thinking about our missing axe, reminded me of being at Nana and Dada’s..specifically, their garage, where I kept my “axe” when I was little. It was really just a hatchet. I have never been very big. So, I used a hatchet to do most of my cutting. I loved that hatchet. It gave me my first taste of empowerment. I primarily cut dead branches free with it. I kept it in a cubby like space of their one-car garage in their 1940’s bungalow. I loved that garage. It was dark. There was a window with plants rooting in jars on the sill. Tropicana roses seemed to bloom year round on the other side of those window panes. A single bulb addressed the issue of lighting. It smelled fairly musty in that tomb like space, like the air didn’t circulate much in there, it didn’t. There was an oily film on everything that held the dust in place, once it settled, and kerosene and gasoline perfumed the air. There was an old freezer that held that summer’s butter beans and cream corn crop, maybe a few bags of our blackberries as well. And down deep, in frozen ovals were bream and bass from one of our fishing outings. The freezer hummed friendly, but the furnace belched and bellowed, startling me often. The ceiling was high, vaulted unlike the indoors of the house, and in the rafters were fishing poles, baskets, pieces of piping and such.
It was always cool in there, even in the 100 degree summers. I remember sitting, cool on the rutted dirt and gravel ground and making rolly pollys rise with incantations and magical finger circles in the dirt. I poked around that garage and made discoveries daily. All along the edges were niches made by the addition of a few 2 by 4’s nailed to the supports. These were full of treasures. Oil cans, jars of pinkish elixirs – soaking pigments free of our brushes. There were gardening tools, too big for my hands to span, hose nozzles and all manner of hardware store staples.
Higher, to keep me? maybe cats and dogs safe, was an arsenal against meal worms and aphids and the like, Sevin in its signature squeeze, red and yellow, plastic cylinder, and liquid deaths that long preceded old Round-Up.
There were shovels with handles worn smooth from sweat, a short spade from the Korean conflict, hoes that killed any snake that ever came upon us and a BB gun for scaring off neighbor cats. There were thick tracks of rope and green plastic coated chain. There were hand saws for cutting limbs and hand saws for boards. There was an old, rusted tool case with wrenches and screw drivers, but minus the pliers which stayed inside, at the ready for skinning catfish on the porch. All these tools were at my disposal, they were my play toys. Can you see why I liked being there, at their house, so very much?
I wasn’t hemmed in much as a child. I had the run of the property and anything useful. I played in that mysterious space, imagined all the ways those tools had been used and could be used to make marvelous adventures for me.
Nana had a TV. We watched the Braves play sometimes after dinner and we never missed Lawrence Welk on Saturday nights after Hee Haw. But, I never sat before it in the day time…I wandered and tried things out and made stuff and just plain played with my treasures, my imagination and my hatchet.
How about you?