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Another Day in the Country

Finding fun in 2021

© Another Day in the Country

My family home was a cautious place. My relatives and my parents were careful people. By in large, they didn’t tempt fate. 

Probably the most dangerous thing my mother ever did was to ride down a snowy hill on a scoop shovel. She was younger than 8 at the time. The most dangerous thing my father chose to do was smoke cigarettes when he was a teen-ager. He quit before he reached 20. 

Carefulness became a creed in my growing-up years. We were careful with dishes and furniture, curtains, and clothes.  We were careful with woodwork and chairs — we didn’t lean them on their back legs while sitting.

We were careful with windows or glass doors — not putting fingerprints all over them. 

Clothes were also a thing to be careful with — buttoning them carefully, for sure. Not getting them dirty or torn by climbing trees in dresses, for instance. And being girls, dresses are what we wore, carefully. Mom ironed them carefully.

We had three classes of clothes: play clothes (worn out, outgrown, old), school clothes (utilitarian, lasting, simple) and church clothes (one or two dresses, fancier, favorites).

If we chose the wrong clothes for the wrong activity, we were in trouble. I always was longing for jeans, jean jackets and boots — poring over the Montgomery Ward catalog, turning down pages — all to no avail. Mom made our clothes. Oh, how I hungered for a dress or a sweater that was boughten.

When my sister came along at the beginning of my teenage years, she loved frilly dresses. Our mother was ecstatic. Finally, she had a child who appreciated her skill as a seamstress and Mom took to making lovely, elaborate outfits for Jess like a duck takes to water. 

All too soon, Jess became aware of the clothes categories as our mother turned out dress after dress with fancy tucks, flouncy skirts and long sashes. 

The favorite dress was delegated the church dress, and of course you couldn’t wear it anywhere but church. 

On picture day at school or any special occasion, Jess would beg to wear the dress, “Just once, pleeeeease!” but Mom never relented. And then, all too soon, she outgrew her favorite dress and it went to Goodwill.

One day Jess showed up at school, and was horrified to see her favorite dress on a girl in a grade below her who was walking down the hall.  She couldn’t wait to get home and break down in tears about the dress she wasn’t allowed to wear at school. Here it was, showing up on someone else because it was in such good shape after she’d had to be so careful with it, wearing it only for church!!

When I grew up, I pretty much threw out the clothes categories … except for formal wear, of which I had very little. I wore what I wanted, where and when I wanted. 

Today, if I’m going to get dirty, I usually don’t change clothes. “They’ll wash,” I say.  If I decide to paint, I don’t put on a smock nor do I wear an apron when I cook. “I’ll be careful,” I think.

“You are tempting fate,” my sister often warns me, but I rarely heed her advice.  Most of the time I’m okay, I’m careful; but then again. . . .

We were doing yard work, raking leaves, trimming back plants, and watching the chickens as they scratched in the flower beds. 

I had on a new, cozy, plush top in a red-and-black, buffalo plaid that I’d only worn a couple of times. 

A friend had just delivered a whole round bale of hay and I was ecstatic!

“I’m going to put hay in the nest boxes,” I said. “The hens will love this when they come back in.”

I set about grabbing arms full of hay, carrying it over to the house, and arranging it in the nests. Seeing the results made me feel cozy and warm. 

Then I brought in several more armloads to scatter on the floor and threw down some scratch grain. “Perfect,” I said, as I herded the chickens back inside. 

Somewhere, crossing the yard, I looked down at my new plush top and I laughed, “I look like a walking haystack,” I called out to my sister, as I brushed at my shirt.  The hay didn’t move. It clung to the soft fabric even tighter.

Jess took one look at me and shook her head, “When will you ever learn,” she said, “You’ve ruined that darling shirt.”

“I’ll take a brush to it,” I retorted — which I did, vigorously, and it didn’t help. The more I brushed, the more tenaciously the straw clung.

In fact, it worked its way deeper into the loosely woven cloth and broke off when I attempted to pull it out.

“Throw it away,” said a friend.

“Just buy a new one,” she advised; but I couldn’t, there weren’t any more. I hung it on the line outdoors for days. I brushed, picked, struggled, worked, shook, and washed it repeatedly, castigating myself the whole time, “You are old enough to know better,” my mother’s favorite phrase, ringing in my ears.

It’s another day in the country, and as I write, I’m stubbornly wearing that shirt — albeit with another shirt underneath because it’s itchy! 

I’m still picking pieces of hay out of the plush.

Last modified Jan. 21, 2021

 

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