Sunday, May 27, 2012

Life as we know it

My sister Nance's dog "adopting" a batch of motherless kittens she found in the bush.
Our mother's legacy lives on in all of us, even our dogs!

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Under the Dumb Plum Tree

Mud Street
by Jaime Kaufhold
(May 1991)

Finally it is spring. We will still get those colder days, but there is a warm, softness to the air and the sun is definitely getting hotter. The plum tree has already blossomed and soon the flower gardens will be in full bloom.

Spring has a different affect on everyone but for me “spring fever” means it is time to start cleaning. I remember for my children it meant going outside to find some mud. Being a mother, I found that many times our objectives in life clashed. Ironically, we lived on First Road, just off of Mud Street. Yes, that was the name. And during those years of my life I wondered if I’d ever rid myself of the mud.

My children loved the stuff. As soon as they could, they would be fixing up the fort along the treeline (ditch) in a neighbouring field or throwing mud balls at one another. As I watched them trudge off toward their next great adventure, I’d holler, “Stay out of the mud!” By the time lunchtime rolled around they’d be home, totally unaware that they somehow managed to cover their entire bodies in mud. Of course these excursions always meant the dog(s) went along too, adding wet dog smell to the clean up fun.

The kids would go out of their way to stomp in a mud puddle with nice clean shoes or somehow slip into the ditch while waiting for the school bus. Many times I had to hose them off outside. I thought that as they grew older they would lose their fascination with mud but I was wrong. The bigger they got, the more mud they brought home. I think what they enjoyed most was trying to beat the mud. Where we lived it was the consistency of wet cement and pulled like quicksand.

Once Darlene got stuck behind the garage and Nancy got stuck trying to pull her out. I thought they looked pretty funny until I found myself calf deep in the stuff. Karen, who liked mud the least, was able to rescue us by dropping a board down in front, giving us something to crawl onto while we pried our legs out.

And we never forgot the time Mark was late coming home from delivering his newspapers. Sometimes he’d stop and play with friends along the way, so I didn’t start to worry until he didn’t come home for supper. One spring day he’d gotten stuck taking a short cut through a field and it took a few hours before he could unstick himself. I was just getting ready to go look for him when he walked up the driveway, caked mud to his waist, minus his shoes.

Now with the kids grown it appears that I’ve finally beaten the mud. Spring comes so I clean, but there is no one here now to mud things up. Sometimes I watch out the window and see the grandkids working their way past the plum tree towards the garden, pail of water in hand, and I smile. Then I laugh when their mothers try a few hours later to load them in the minivan.

“How did they get mud all over their jeans?” they ask.

So I explain the biology of mud. Not only does it get in their jeans, but its in their genes and from growing up just off Mud Street.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Life as we know it

The Hungry Cat

There is a pink playhouse in the yard at the house where I live now, a whimsical little building that I can’t make use of at this juncture in my life as it is clearly meant for children. Mid-life is a perplexing place to be. I am still a mother, but I have no children living here.

A few weeks ago I was outside cleaning the flower beds and saw a tabby cat with white boots and chest watching me from under the big spruce that shades the playhouse from the afternoon sun. The cat scurried under an opening in the wood pile along the back of the little house as I walked by, and I didn’t think much of it at the time. Living in town means the neighbour’s pets often walk through the yard, adding a bit of excitement to our little dog’s life when he spots them while perching on the back of the love seat along the front window. He badly wants to go out and introduce himself to the dogs or chase the cats. Last fall he took off after a rabbit, across the street, into a small bush and it took awhile before he found his way home.

Yesterday I noticed the rabbit is back. So is the cat. Except I think that the cat never left, as I started seeing her every day, first sitting in the grass and then on top of the plywood that covers the sandbox. Yes I have a sandbox, too. Cats love to poop in sandboxes so I expect that is why it is covered. Maybe the cat has been here all along.

Growing up, our house was a magnet for stray animals. My mother never turned anything away, in fact, the first thing she would do was feed whatever came into the yard. Then she’d give it a name. Some of the best pets were those who chose us instead of us choosing them.

Once there was a stray cat we named Kitten Little. We named her that likely because she was very small and looked young, but shortly after arriving had a batch of kittens of her own. I remember very little about Kitten Little except that she became my sisters’ cat and she wasn’t with us long. I think she was hit by a car shortly after having her kittens, and we ended up raising them. Imagine that, three girls and a batch of kittens. That has never happened before! We kept one, the baby that looked like Kitten Little and much like the cat that now lives under my wood pile.

I am in no great hurry to make friends with this cat. I have no desire to pat her or allow her furry body into the house. But she was a hungry cat so I went straight to the store and bought a bag of food. I could tell by the desperate look and pained meow and there is something else about her too, in the way her belly hangs loose and soft.

She is living on instinct right now and her daily routine is a pattern I recognize. She comes out in the morning and eats the morsels I leave for her, then goes back under the wood pile. She emerges an hour or so later and stays out for a few hours, never venturing far from the opening. If I go close, she scoots back under, even though she recognizes me as the lady who brings food.

Tempting as it is, I’ve resisted getting too close. I know what will happen if I do. She will move her nest and only come back to see me when she wants something to eat. If I am patient, soon little heads will begin poking out and a few days after that, the heads will be followed by fuzzy little bodies that will begin playing in the grass. I’m already wondering what colours they will be.

Occupants for the playhouse after all.