Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Happy Birthday to My Brother

My only brother's birthday is today. Many times I have been proud of him over the years, but I am more proud of him than ever for his positive attitude as he awaits a double lung transplant. For his birthday, I tried to remember a few of the highlights of our relationship.

Happy Birthday to My Brother

You have been there for me since the day I was born,
Even though you said, “I told Mom I wanted a boy!”
I remember the first time driving the tractor, while you picked up hay,
Daddy explained how to give it gas and put it in gear,
When he yelled, “Whoa” was the moment I realized he neglected to tell me how.
You ran alongside, jumped on the tractor, pulled back the clutch and demonstrated how to stop.
I remember driving home with you in your Chevy, taking the bridge too fast so we could jump a little on the end. (Our little secret, of course.)
I remember you carrying me to the car when my I had appendicitis, because it hurt too much for me to walk,
And feeling honored when you and Freda chose me to light the candles at your wedding.
I remember being scared, but so proud of you for fighting in service of our country,
And the joy the day you brought home that little red-haired baby.
Although they were sad times, I treasure the closeness we all felt as we were together to say goodbye to our parents for the last time.
You are my big brother, and I will love you and treasure the memories we share forever.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Winter in the Country

Today the six inches of snow on the ground mirrors that of the snow and ice in my china hutch – on my plates, that is. They are blue and white Currier and Ives plates, first manufactured in the 1950s by the Royal China Company (according to the Currier and Ives “official” website). Currier and Ives were lithographers in the 19th century, who manufactured many prints depicting life in America. The prints on the plates are mostly from the series “Winter in the Country”. When setting the table for any company Sunday dinner when I was growing up, I asked my mother if I could use these plates. As a wedding gift, my parents bought me my own set of the beautiful blue dishes. I have used them for years, and yet my research today taught me new information about them. For example, the 7-inch salad plate is called “Washington’s Birthplace” with George Washington’s two-story home on the banks of Pope’s Creek. I wonder if my mother knew that, since her father’s name was George Washington Downey. The dinner plate is called “Old Gristmill”, and includes a horse and wagon, as well as a pair of oxen in front of the snow-covered mill. A creek and bare trees are in the foreground. I discovered the cereal bowls are called “Old Schoolhouse – Winter”, with a man driving a horse-drawn sleigh passing by a school where the children are obviously enjoying recess. The younger children are sledding and running while the older ones huddle in small groups, talking. The meat platter shows men “Getting Ice”. I also have a pie plate that I could not find the official name of, but I would call it “Hauling Hay”. Three head of oxen or cattle are sheltered in a lean-to, and a man hauls a bundle of hay on a pitchfork on his back. The message of these images to me is that life in the country was a mixture of work and play, but it was good.

My husband is outside doing his chores in the biting cold right now. If I could do a lithograph of our “Winter in the Country”, it would show him carrying buckets of grain to the black cattle, puffs of air from their corn dusted nostrils clouding around their heads as they nudge each other for position at the trough. That chore has not changed much over the years. What has changed is that he will then crawl into his John Deere Tractor with the heated cab to haul the hay to cattle in the pasture. That is the image of our own 21st century “Winter in the Country,” and life is good here, too.