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Sunday, May 1, 2016

Gray Matter:Those wonderful spring memories

Monday, May 1, 2006

Recently I was with several friends, all about my age, when we started reminiscing. Spring seemed to claim most of our attention, probably because it has been so reluctant to put in its appearance this year. It was such fun that I decided to share some of the memories I dredged up with all of you.

First, there was the mud which I must say evoked mixed emotions. Getting from Point A to Point B in early-day autos, before most rural roads were graveled, was a bit of a challenge. I can still recall Dad resorting to horses and the farm wagon, to get us where we needed to be, on several occasions. But mud was fun to splash around in so long as your heavy overshoes stayed on and you didn't get stuck and fall down in it. That, I will admit from experience, was another matter !

Then there was Mother's garden. I was always intrigued with the things that emerged which had seemed to be hopelessly dead under the winter snow. The first garden produce to appear on our supper table was horseradish. It came even earlier than the freshly sprouting winter onions. I don't recall seeing anyone digging it, and I can't remember what the plants looked like while growing, but there it was.

The roots Mother put through the food grinder did vaguely resembled radishes, and they were surely big enough to satisfy a horse. (Tell me if I'm wrong, but I always assumed that was the source of the name). After the grinding, she added salt, vinegar, and I'm not sure what else, to prepare this condiment which was served at supper time with whatever meat was on the table, and the ubiquitous fried potatoes. At my parents' urging, I always bravely tried a bit, and each time I swear my sinuses nearly exploded. I didn't appreciate the stuff, but it was clear evidence that spring had officially arrived.

Outdoor pastimes took on a whole new complexion. I always loved to explore the grove of trees. Then before long, from my perch on a high board fence, I could admire pens-full of baby pigs with their lumbering, frightening mamas. Nearby, was the pile of rocks my dad had brought in from the fields which I could clamber over, imagining they were anything from a queen's castle to a pirate's den. We lived in that part of central Iowa where the last glacier melted, leaving the rocks embedded in the rich soil it had scraped along on its slow journey. There was so much for an inquisitive little girl to look at and puzzled over.

Spring meant kites. We didn't have them at our house. They apparently hadn't been a part of our parents' growing-up stories. However, we often played with neighbor girls, whose dad was a master kite-maker. His wondrous devices were fashioned of newspapers secured to two sticks carefully selected from their willow tree. The kite tail, rags tied together, was tailored to his exacting requirements so, when the breeze was just right, he could perform magical maneuvers. I don't remember my sister and I, or even his own daughters, doing much of the navigating. We just watched in awe as that amazing creation wafted on the wind. I vow those were every bit as enchanting as the colorful extravaganzas available in today's toy stores!

I sometimes wonder what might happen if the shops were all closed for a few seasons so today's youngsters and their parents would have to depend on their own ingenuity for their amusement. I have some theories about that, but there I go exposing my "fuddy-duddy" side again! Forgive me.

Actually, I'm barely getting started, but I won't risk boring you by going further. Instead, I will encourage you oldsters to probe your own memories for cherished nuggets stored there. If you are one of the younger folks, I think you should approach someone whose recollections go back a good bit farther than your own and ask them to share some with you. I'm almost certain you would enjoy it and I am absolutely sure that they would.