The sky casts a sheet-metal pall over the backyard this morning. We knew it would come, this first cold front of the season, but the sudden whirl surprised us, none the less.
A fan of yellow beside the neighbor’s house announces one tree’s leap into autumn.
The news says there’s a foot of snow in Harrison, Nebraska. Likely they weren’t quite ready for that even with a lifetime spent in the upper and unpredictable High Plains. Snow. In early October. A trace, maybe. Yeah, they could expect that. But a foot?
The cold crumpled my shoulders and a musty sigh, mourning my absence, escaped from the storage closet as I pulled out my red fleece shawl, its first morning in nearly eight months since spring came early and warm. A good friend, it comforts my shoulders during morning musings and waits across the chair back, arms wide and welcoming, whenever I return throughout the day.
Last week, we saw the first red splash of maple leaves, a bell-rung harbinger of fall. After a summer of drought, and scarce rain after, the vision signing the normal turn of earth and seasons felt comforting.
Just now, the wind lifts the top oak branches outside my window, a delicate lift like a ballerina’s plié, then drifts off to find some other, more willing tree to trouble. From my childhood’s memory, I hear Joe Kenney, the weatherman in Lincoln, Nebraska say “variable winds,” but I prefer ballerinas, dancing a minuet, played by a harpsichord.
We always know these changes are coming and yet, when they do, we are surprised, and lift our heads like school children, popping up, alarmed. Did we wait too long, too long?
I still have a backyard to clean, the garden needs putting to bed, and the last of the tomatoes picked. After the heat of summer, they picked up troubled heads, unwilling to leave all their promise unfulfilled, and put on more – handfuls of grape tomatoes that reached enough ripeness to use and some hard green tennis balls that may never ripen, even wrapped in newspaper, relegated to one more batch of fried green tomatoes. My son will be pleased.
In the latest office move and resultant clearing out and tossing, I’ve found saved treasurers that, taken together, may become a series: ergo the title. And like all saved gems, regardless of the makeup (glass, plastic, paper, pottery), they have a story. This story is The Tale That Wouldn’t Stop Wagging. And yes, I’ve used “tale” and not “tail.”
The tale really begins with my older sister Judy and me and sixty plus years of experiences, fighting as two sisters often do, and taking care, as sisters also tend to do.
The first time we each married, we married within two years of each other. Our children are stair-stepped in ages and the oldest grandchildren in the family. We both tended children and homes for a good many years and we both divorced. And then we each remained single for a good many more years. The last time we each married, the timing also ran to about two years apart, but until then we spent a lot of time taking care of each other in one way or another.
The Tale That Wouldn’t Stop Wagging is one of the reminders of that care taking.
The way we are different is also predictable: Judy, as oldest is remarkably responsible: a good employee; I, as second child, am remarkably irresponsible, never holding down a full-time job with benefits job in my life. We’ve both moved a lot, but my moves have tended toward the extreme while hers have remained in the Continental United States. This is minor, but figures into the tale of tails.
In the early 1980s, I lived in New York City for a few years. I can’t remember how or why I became a member of the Humane Society of New York, but I did. I had a cat, but she’d come to New York from New Orleans, so it wasn’t as if I used their services much. But I became a member.
And then, in the late 1980s, I moved to Mexico City. The cat lived with friends, and I left a forwarding address of Bellingham, WA, which is where my sister, her last name also Sunderland, lived at the time. Judy received the newsletters from the humane society. And then she moved from one address in Bellingham to another, and of course, the humane society was able to track that.
And then, she became Sunderland-Yorkey, and the humane society took note. Every once in a while, she’d receive another newsletter. And then she moved, with her husband, to Spring Texas. But still in the Continental United States with no gaps in addresses.
In about 2007, years after she moved, and years after I’d moved to Kansas City, and years after getting the last Humane Society of New York newsletter back in Bellingham, the above envelope arrived, replete with printed tails. She called and told me and we laughed long and hard, and then she sent it to me, and I wrote, “The tale that wouldn’t stop wagging” on it, and put it in a file, thinking it would be a good story someday. And then I responsibly cleaned out the file, found it again, and it is a good story.
That’s the problem with being responsible. Things find you.
Now she’s moved again but I’m still in Kansas City, a hyphenated-name in the files of the Humane Society of New York. But a few years have passed. Time enough for return envelopes to return and a new address begun. Eventually, another envelope will wend its way to where she is.
The tale to be continued, in one way or another, or as Judy puts it, “I’ve no doubt that when/if I get to Heaven, within a couple of weeks I will have mail from the NY H. S. addressed to “Janet Sunderland-Yorkey!”
My friend Teresa has a blog called CRAZIE TOWN. She writes funny stories about her family. Lately, she’s also been writing about cleaning out her office. Mostly, she writes funny stories. I never write funny but I’d like to. So Theresa, you’ve prodded me. Here’s MY cleaning office story. I’d also like to steal her title and use it for my life right now, but she already has it. So I could say crazy family or crazy house or Just Crazy, which, given my life over the past month or two, seems the most appropriate.It began in the spring with Youngest Son talking about the necessity of leaving San Diego when his son, my grandson, is deployed to Japan. My daughter-in-law is working away from home right now and Youngest Son neither likes living alone nor does he like what it costs to live alone in San Diego. Could he come here if he needed to, he asked. Sure, we said. No problem.
And like a log jam caught in spring’s thawing river ice, “Sure” got things moving. Tumbling, one could even say.
When school was out, Oldest Son, who also lives with us (you will notice children remain nameless — their condition for me writing about them), flew out to San Diego to help Youngest Son move. We’d already begun cleaning and tossing in preparation for the move. It was like a giant house jigsaw puzzle. In order to make space for another bedroom, we had to move the Big Office which my husband and I share into my Writing Office, which we’ll now share, but in order to move into the Writing Office we had to move the sofa from the Writing Office to the basement, and in order to move the sofa to the basement, we had to clean the basement. Ergo. Puzzle making.
We also had to clean out the garage so the items moved from San Diego could be stored in said garage until we completed all the rest of the shifting. I made an appointment with the city for Bulky Item pickup. That was good. We needed to toss some stuff. So we cleaned and tossed and made a pile of expendable things inside the backyard gate.
Then Two Sons returned and offloaded all the stuff they brought back from San Diego into the cleaned garage and spent the night and left the next day for Florida because Youngest Son has stored household items from his move before moving to San Diego. Now we have boxes and bins and a motorcycle. And a very small garage.
So while Two Sons were gone, Husband and I cleaned more. And since the Writing Office was empty of sofa and since we hadn’t filled it back up, it seemed a perfect time to do some painting. We began with a base coat.
Notice the small rectangular shadowed spot at the bottom corner of the window. That’s a faceplate for a plug. I took said faceplate off so I could paint around it. Simple, right? A bee flew out. Okay…. That set off a flurry of activity. We shooed the bee out an opened window and put the faceplate back on and looked out the window you see here and a swarm of bees were lining up at the edge of the roof below the gutter as if it were a runway. It was. We had a wall full of bees. We could hear them if we lay an ear to the plaster wall. We hadn’t before but then who listens to a wall?
At about that time, the Two Sons returned from Florida with more stuff and with moving and layering and a big trailer and all that, we finally got around to finding a bee removal company on Monday. They came. Yes, we had a wall of bees. But they were booked (seems June is big bee time in Kansas City). They could come on Thursday. Early? Can you come early? we asked. We were leaving to fly to grandson’s wedding in San Diego on Thursday. Ah, yes, that’s an added piece of adventure. Husband and I were presiding at said wedding and since it was Younger Son’s son, well, we were all going. A friend, bless friends, came to babysit the house and the bee removers and the bees until they were finished so we could leave. For the airport. (And if you are really really interested, we have a zip file of photos the bee removers took of the process — they removed the interior wall, the bees, and about 60 pounds of honey.)
We left the house in chaos and came back to chaos (the weekend in San Diego wonderful, the wedding wonderful, and if you’re interested there are photos on my Facebook page). All the books, the ones we didn’t toss, are congregated on one wall of what is no longer the Big Office but Younger Son’s bedroom and all the file cabinets which have been cleaned and purged are stacked along the wall with the pieces of a desk, and I can’t find anything.
And we have a room that has no wall against which nothing is stacked. I’d prefer a desk with computer. But not.
But no bees. Or honey. No sons either.
Two Sons went to Las Vegas with their dad, smart men, for a vacation. They will be back in a few days and in the meantime, we are resting. What more can we do? Except I can’t find the recently purchased bag of epsom salts to soak my resting body. As I said, I can’t find anything.
Younger son is a builder and Elder Son is an electrician so he will run wiring along the bottom edge of the studs so I can have another outlet (sans bees we hope) and Younger Son will put up sheet rock and paint and so mostly right now Husband and I are resting and searching for things. You don’t even want to see all the stuff stacked in our bedroom. I’ll spare you that shot.
We dragged all the unnecessary items stacked against the backyard gate out to curbside and Bulky Item Pickup picked up today. That’s done. And since I don’t have anything else to do, I mean how much resting can you do?? this seemed the perfect time to re-finish the old desk for the Writing Office. Might as well. It’s already on the back porch.
So while we wait, I’ll just be crazy. Might as well. It passes the time. .
When I remember summer from my Kansas childhood, I remember the glories of hollyhocks. I’m not sure why, except the color in the hot of summer is glory, in itself. It’s taken me a few years to make a Kansas garden here in our backyard of Kansas City. I’ve planted iris that smelled like my childhood grape pop and roses and day lilies, but hollyhocks waited until the right moment (or something). Last year’s hollyhock seed planting has, this year, brought forth booms. Below are summer hollyhocks, a simple flower, really, but filled with glory and light.