Thursday, February 27, 2014

Where Have All The Flowers Gone?

It amazes me that as a child I paid such close attention to my surroundings.  What amazes me even more than that is that every once in awhile did as I was told.  Because I paid such close attention to my surroundings, I have memories with vivid details. Its almost like being there again. 

My exposure to horticulture started early on and the neighborhood flora seemed to have played a pretty large role in my formative years and on some of the memories I still cherish.  When I remember the plants around my house it always makes me smile even though the plants themselves weren't anything uber special or so I thought.  At the corner of my house sat a lilac bush that bloomed every May.  If I close my eyes I can still smell its sweet fragrance.  Nameless, naughty children would eat the blossoms. Why?  Just because they could! In fact they did many things just because they could. Along the front and street side of the house grew irises and day lilies.  The purples and oranges were stunning when they were in bloom and were safe from the nameless, naughty children's wrath and veracious appetite.   

Early on there were two bridal wreath bushes that framed the front entrance of my house.  The lovely white fluffiness never lasted very long and the bushes were removed at some point in time.  I wasn't consulted on their removal so I don't have a clue as to why they were selected for elimination.  That one I'll have to run by my mother and see if she remembers why they were dug up.  In the back between my house and the neighbors grew a few burdock bushes.  Burdocks are no more than an invasive weed, but for nameless, naughty children they were a plethora of trouble.  Many a burdock from those bushes found their way into neighborhood children's hair.  They would stick and tangle and cause quite a little to do.  Dandelions are also considered weeds, but they were so beautiful blooming against the deep green color of the soft, velvety grass. I never understood how something so lovely could be called a weed.  As mentioned in a previous blog post,  nameless, naughty children found mischievous uses for those lovely weeds by staining white porches with them.  My grandmother used to dig up the greens from her yard in the country and cook them...OMG! They used to make me gag. Now, fiddleheads on the other hand are a great treat to eat. 

In the neighborhood, I remember blue hydrangeas (no one ever seemed to add any chemicals to turn them bright pink). Chinese lanterns had a firm orange ball inside that always fascinated me. Buttercups (why don't you build me buttercup...sorry, I couldn't help myself from singing that song and now damn it, it's stuck in my head) were used by nameless, naughty children to make predictions. If a yellow glow could be seen when holding the flower under someone's chin then that meant crazy things were going to happen. If I remember correctly, the predictions were as naughty as the children were. The neighborhood maple trees turned brilliant shades in the fall and when the leaves started to drop, we raked them up into the huge piles to jump in and cherry trees a few houses up from where I lived had gnarly diseased branches that nameless, naughty children used to chase other children around with claiming it was dog poop on the branches.  Those nameless, naughty children seemed to be like the hoards of "walkers" from The Walking Dead...what a menace!  I wonder what naughty things they do now!

While I was looking at pictures of various plants that are indigenous to Maine, I discovered one of the weeds/plants from my childhood days that grew everywhere.  I remember being told it was poisonous and luckily none of the nameless, naughty children ever tried to do anything with it other than pick it and throw the ripe juicy berries at one another.  The bittersweet nightshade plant is in the tomato family.  Wow!  I'm almost in a state of shock that I never pushed the envelope and tried eating one or that my brothers didn't hold me down and stuff a few in my mouth to chew... the possibilities really make me cringe!

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Handprints In The Attic

Yes, there were actual handprints attic.  They were put there to imprint my legacy on the house I grew up calling home.  When I was young, my attic always had an air of mystique.  Often times a strong draft would make the door creek open and shut causing the appearance of it being haunted.  Who am I to say it wasn't haunted?  I only lived there! But the fear I had of the attic when I younger soon dissipated when I discovered its true value.  It was a great place to skip school when I had no other place to go. My friend, Linda and I spent many a day tucked away in the attic discussing boys, very quietly listening to all the best songs on the radio and practicing the latest dance moves.  

The attic had 3 rooms.  One room was sealed off from the rest of the attic.  It was dark and foreboding.  I never explored it nor did I ever shine a flashlight into the window size opening that was on the top of right side of the stairway.  As silly as it sounds, I was always afraid of what I might see.  The other two rooms were on the left side of the stairway.  The room directly at the top of the stairs had exposed rafters, but had finished walls and a wide plank wooden floor.  It had a large closet partitioned along the back wall.  That made a great place to stash pillows and blankets for when it was cold and we used that space as a pseudo bedroom because it was so cozy and secluded from everything else.  The other room had two windows in it that looked out to the street that ran past my house.  That room was completely finished and had a crawlspace the length of the room along the  left side.  Upon exploring it, I found old papers and other things stashed in it, but none of it seemed of any value to me.   

Slowly the attic became transformed into a semi-furnished place to hang out. The transformation began as soon as I started hauling discarded furniture up there.  Soon the attic had 2 old sofas, several chairs, a table, a radio, lamps and other various items I collected and hauled up there.  What I remember most about the attic is its musty smell.  I thought of many ways to eliminate that musty smell and tried things like burning incense and spraying air freshener, but what helped most was when I decide to paint the walls and floors of the 2 useable rooms. 

The transformation hit high gear when I organized  a painting party.  Each person who planned to attend brought whatever remnants of old paint they could find.  My contribution was tangerine colored paint that was used to paint an old sea captain's trunk (I always thought my mother was crazy for painting that trunk any color), lemon colored paint from my bedroom and lavender colored paint from one of the bathrooms.  The wide plank floor was painted in stripes.  Each plank was a different color.  Then the room took on a whole new life of its own when we all used the rest of the paint in a much more creative way.  We put multi-colored handprints all over the walls.  The final result looked like something out of a lunatic's mind or perhaps a scene from a Dr. Seuss poem. 

One hand
Two hands
Red hand
Blue hand
Black hand

Blue hand
Old hand
New hand
Some are red and some are blue.

Some are old and some are new.
Some are sad and some are glad.

And some are very, very bad.
Why are they sad and glad and bad?

I don't know. Go ask your dad.

Some are thin and some are fat.
The fat one has a yellow hat.
From there to here, from here to there,

Funny things everywhere.
Here are some who like to run.

They run for fun in the hot, hot sun
Oh me! Oh my!
Oh me! Oh my!
What a lot of funny things go by.
Some have two hands and some have four.
Some have six hands and some have more.
Where do they come from?
I cant say.
But I bet they have come a long, long way.
We see them come.
We see them go.
Some are fast.
And some are slow.
Some are high.
And some are low
Not one of them is like another.
Don't as us why.
Go ask your mother.

(adapted from "Red Fish Blue Fish" by Dr. Seuss)

Many years later the plot thickened into a sort of silly jiggly jello kind of mess.  My home was sold and converted into 3 apartments.  My cousin, Debbie still lived next door and the new owner asked her if she knew who used to live there.  I think she must have been a little hesitant to commit to answering that question until she was asked if she knew that someone had painted handprints all over the attic.  With that she laughed and nodded her head.  It was that crazy Mary Jane Doe who joyfully left her imprint on that very old, very bold yellow brick house.