Monday, May 01, 2006

Monday Morning Memories

Something new I'm going to attempt here is putting my memories down. On Mondays. Not necessarily in the mornings because I like sleeping in. Sounds cheesy right? It probably is but I'm finding that my memory ain't what it used to be & I want to write this stuff down before I end up forgetting it forever. I also want to have a record for Freyja so one day she can get to know me better & hopefully understand why her mother is such a kook. And so you too can get to know me better because I know you are all dying to. Right? Anyway, some of this will be absolute crap & some of it good but I'm hoping it'll get me writing on some type of schedule, but hey, who am I kidding? I suck at schedules.

The Crabapple Orchard
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A place out of childhood where I could escape from grown-ups, homework & sisters. I grew up on the outskirts of Winnipeg, Manitoba in an original part of town called Old Kildonan. My grandparents owned several acres of land off Main Street which at that point of its existence wasn’t really a street but rather, a four-lane highway. From the highway there was a dusty gravel road leading to our & my grandparent’s house set upon the crumbling clay banks of the mighty Red River. The road from the highway was about a third of a mile long but in winter it felt like it was about 30 miles trudging from our school bus stop home in snow up to my chest. In summer however, the road was lined on one side with overgrown honeysuckle & carraganna bushes whose flowers my sisters & I would nip off at their base & suck the sweet honey like juice out of. To the other side of the road was our field. I think my grandfather used to grow wheat or something on it but all I remember was long prairie grasses, fox tails, clover & a huge patch of daisies near a telephone pole. Wild rhubarb also grew along the edge of the field & my sisters & I would pick some each year for my mum to make rhubarb jelly which we’d spread on her fresh hot from the oven homemade bread.

On the tree-lined side of the road there was an empty lot where an old house once stood. In fact I remember when the house was there & the big day they moved it away. It was quite an event. We weren’t allowed to go & watch them tear away & lift the house off its foundation because it was too dangerous, especially for curious little kids. Once it was off the blocks on the humongous flatbed truck though I watched from the daisy patch as it rumbled slowly out of the lot & down the road, packing down the loose stones of gravel & raising enough dust to engulf us, the truck & the house so we could no longer see the highway when it finally turned off the road. After the house left the basement was filled & my sisters & I were allowed to play in the lot where the old white clapboard homestead once stood.

Since there was no longer anyone living there we could explore & play all we wanted to in this little paradise. The old garden began to get unruly & then grow out of control. Where there was once orderly flowerbeds around the house’s foundation now grew a riot of pansies & marigolds – bunches of purple & gold with splashes of pink & white splattered here & there. Within the garden proper were pale pink tea roses, large exotic spotted tiger lilies standing tall, proud & vividly orange & many, many other varieties of delicately beautiful flora. Of course along with the flowers came the weeds, the goldenrod & the prickles. If I wasn’t too careful looking where I was stepping I’d end up being viciously stung by nettle or covered in burrs.

The best part about the garden was the gnarly old crabapple trees which I could climb for hours. This was MY place. Of course I had to let my sisters up as well but being younger & smaller than me, they could not reach the upper limbs. There was one branch in one particular tree which no one else could reach, not even my older male cousin. It was set way up in the tree’s outer reaches yet strong enough to hold me. It was to this branch I’d climb with my books or my drawing paper & pencils & stay there for hours in my own little world, not knowing anything about the passage of time until I heard my mother calling from the house that dinner was ready.

To reach my branch was a feat in itself. First I had to catch the lowest main limb with both hands, then kick & swing my legs up to my hands in a gymnastics class maneuver. Once up I then had to help hoist my little sisters onto the branch as well. From here we could access the “horsey branch”. This was a large limb sprouting horizontally & finally tapering up before branching off into smaller pieces. All four (six with my cousins) could sit straddled on this branch like it was the biggest horse in the world & we could pretend we were cowboys for hours on end riding the open crabapple range.

From the horse I could climb to the highest branches until I reached my perch. There was only room enough for one so when my middle sister got big enough to be able to reach my spot I would just block her path so she had only down to go. From there on the tree was mine. I remember the feel of the dark bark scratching my bare legs as I scrambled up the tree & then its cool roughness against my skin as I sat on a branch. Sometimes I would feel a little tickle from a mite or tiny spider as it crawled along my arm making my hair stand on end & a shiver go through my spine. Or, the itchy bite from of Winnipeg’s famously huge mosquitoes early in the evening, sending me scratching furiously back to the house. Then there were the ladybugs, landing fleetingly on my hand, the cool freshness of morning dew on the leaves & the creepy paranoia of feeling a wood tick fall on my scalp ready to dig its claws & imbed its head into my skin to suck out my blood. At the end of each day of climbing we had to check ourselves from head to toe for these parasites – if a small oval bump was felt in my hair out came the tweezers, a pin & some matches. My mum would have to heat the end of the pin until it was red, stick the hot poker into the blood engorged tick to kill it & then tweeze the sucker out of my scalp. Needless to say I’m terrified today at the thought of ever finding one on my head, never mind about Lyme disease.

The tree also always had this wonderful smell of fresh earth, woody bark & pulpy leaves. It was a green & brown smell but mixed with that there was the incredibly sweet-tart aroma & taste of the crabapples themselves. From my branch I could reach the best ones, unbruised & a shiny mellow red-green, while my sisters (unless I was generous) were relegated to munching on the ones that had already fallen to the ground. Those were the ripest ones but I liked best the sour more green ones from my special place. One bite & the inside of my mouth would pucker so tight that I’d squeal with joy from the tickle on my tongue. It was like an explosion on my taste buds that loosened an almost masochistic enthrallment with the essence of crabappleness.

That crabapple tree was the essence of my childhood, instilling within me a deep respect & love for nature. It also gave me a taste of the bitter-sweetness of life to come & supplied me my special hiding place that I can always return to in my mind at least if not in body.

OK That last paragraph was a bit cheesy but hey..... I am full of smaltzy cheese. Plus it's early.


Heather said...

Wow Laura...thanks for the memories! I hope you keep writing this stuff down, because I could never be so eloquent. I loved climbing the trees too. I don't remember mum making rhubarb jam but I do remember picking crabapples for grandma to make her yummy jelly! I can't wait for next monday!

bunmaster said...

It might have been Grandma that made the rhubarb jam/jelly or maybe I'm making things up in my head. Memories are weird... you think you remember something & then poof it's gone. Or someone remembers it differently. Thanks for the comment sis. Love ya!

Maggie said...

Great idea Lala. Do you remember building the forts in the field? Not real ones, just the outlines. Good times. Good times. I remember being pushed off the tree by someone once. Was it you?
I hear ya about the memory. I remember thinking when I was younger that I would never be one of those old people who forget the names of the people they went to school with. Well here I am ... what was I just talking about?...

Jody said...

Nice memory Laura. You won't be seeing my comments for the next little bit cause I'm heading to Spain for a few days. Talk to ya after I get back (May 13). Cheers,

bunmaster said...

Woo hoo Spain! I am so jealous. Enjoy yourself girl & have a siesta for me.

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