PB and J Memories

It’s funny how memories come back at the strangest of times.

I love peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.  I really do.  

I normally make them on some sort of wheat bread, one those large, soft loaves you buy from the store.  I love homemade bread when I can get it, and sometimes–as a treat–I’ll go with sourdough.  

This afternoon for lunch, I ate a few leftovers (mostly vegetables), then decided I needed a sandwich as well.

Two slices of bread, a healthy slathering of peanut butter (crunchy…it’s almost always crunchy) on one piece of bread, and a significant dollop of strawberry jelly smeared on the other: that’s a good sandwich.  I picked up the knife to slice it in two, and a memory hit me.

Well over 40 summers ago during my early teenage years, I was involved in some sort of activity that had me out of the house during the day.  I don’t remember what it was, nor do I remember the circumstances in which my mom packed my lunch one of those days. Honestly, I don’t think she always packed my lunch, but that one particular day she did.

For whatever reason, a friend of hers was over at the house that morning, and she was in the kitchen with my mom.

It’s funny how the details are blurred.  Be assured, though, if I can’t remember them exactly, I’ll embellish them the best that I can.

Anyway, she–the friend–asked me if I wanted my sandwich cut in half.

I don’t think “snarky” was a word back then, but apparently my response to her question struck her a certain way.

“Of course I want it cut,” I must have said.  Or something along those lines. I don’t believe I was rude, but I think I already mentioned I was a teenager.

Some hours later, my ravenous teenage self opened a Tupperware container to find my peanut butter sandwich cut in half.  Those halves were cut in half, those cut again, and probably another few times after that.

My sandwich was cubed, at best.

I survived that day, and I enjoyed my sandwich this day.  Not nearly as much as the memory, though.

 

Books

Books.

Um, I might have a problem (I say to the choir).

Just the other day, I wrote a slice about blowing the dust off a book that I needed to help my granddaughter with her reading.  Wow, was I glad I had that book.

That said, I still might have a problem.

I have bookshelves in nearly every room of the house, and I still have…well, I still have stacks.  Not large stacks, but what I call working stacks.  You know: I’m working with these, or these are what I’m currently reading.

The problem, you see, is that I don’t have room on the shelves should I not want to have working stacks in my house.

I looked in my shop this morning, and I have the wood I need to make more shelves.  

Whew.

 

I Wonder What Will Happen Next

I don’t have a place where I write.  Sometimes it’s at a desk, sometimes the couch, and sometimes I’ll just speak into my phone while I’m walking and clean things up later when I get to a computer.  

This week, for whatever reason, I’ve been doing most of my writing sitting at my kitchen table. My kitchen table is, well, in my kitchen, and it sits in front of a large bay window overlooking my back yard.  

It’s been interesting, looking out over these past few days, to see the same thing, and then again, to see something totally different each time I sit down.  The butterfly bush is always there, but yesterday there was a wren, methodically walking the branches looking for insects too small for me to see.

The oak tree is there, but sometimes the squirrel is and sometimes it’s not.  My dog is pretty good at letting me know when I can see it.  

This being springtime in north Alabama, sometimes the sky is a beautiful blue, and sometimes it’s like it is today: a uniform light shade of grey stretching from horizon to horizon.  

Today’s surprise was a northern cardinal. He was a stocky male, his plumage an impossibly bright orangish-red.  He hit a branch on the bush hard, and instantly looked around to be sure of his surroundings.  

Apparently feeling secure, he turned his gaze toward the center of the bush.  While the previous day’s wren felt the need to walk the branches, today’s cardinal simply scanned them.  Separated by a pane of glass that reflected the brighter outdoors, I was invisible to him as he sat just four or five feet from me, his dark eyes gazing out from above his stocky beak.

He landed, he scanned, and then he was gone.

I think I’ll get another cup of coffee and settle in, waiting to see what happens next.

 

Too Good to Pass Up

I surprised myself twice this morning.  Before 9:00 in the morning, if you can believe that.  Gosh, who knows what the rest of the day will bring?

I started the morning having coffee with my wife before she headed off to work, then finished a second cup during a call to my parents up in Ohio.  

I remember the days of “x number of cents per minute” calling, but thank goodness that’s in the past.  Now we just pick up the phone and call. Or Facetime. I love technology when it works, and I’m happy to say it works pretty often.  That’s cool.

Where was I?  Oh, surprising myself.

I hung up with my folks, and decided that…here comes the first surprise…I needed to take a walk.  Seriously.

I’m one of those people who (ahem) doesn’t have time to exercise regularly.  I need to do this. That project over there is calling me. Let me do this first.  What’s the weather look like? Blah, blah, blah.  

I also struggle with the need to get myself in shape before I go to the gym, but that’s another story.  

Anyway, I pulled on a pair of shorts and a t-shirt (it’s a wonderful 68 degrees here in north Alabama this morning), tied my shoes, and headed out.

There was a light mist in the air, but nothing serious, and the sky didn’t look threatening.  As it turned out, I got home just fine. Getting soaked wasn’t the second surprise.

No, that came as I rounded the last corner while headed for home.  

Now, here in my community, we collect garbage two ways.  The first is weekly, and it involves a garbage can from one’s house and a truck from the landfill.  Pretty standard stuff. The second, though, is what my family calls, “Big Garbage.”  

People put stuff on the curb, and a small caravan comes by once a month to collect it.  The “stuff” might be tree trimmings, old furniture, broken small appliances, or bagged yard waste.  There are a few restrictions, but not many. The caravan involves a truck with a scooper (okay, I don’t know what it’s called; it’s one of those claw things) followed by another truck or two that actually transports the junk.

Needless to say (yet he says it anyway), sometimes people throw away some pretty cool stuff.

Back to my walk. I was nearly home, rounding the last curve, when I saw it: A Croquet Set.  Right there by the side of the road! Clearly it had seen little use, but also clear was the fact that it hadn’t been stored well.  There were only two mallets with the set, but all four balls were there. The wickets were still shiny white, but some were badly bent in strange ways.  The stand thingy was broken, but it’s not part of the game so that’s not too bad.

I wanted it.  I needed it.  

I could picture the scene.  My wife and I, probably with our granddaughters, would be playing a game of croquet on the lawn.  My daughters and their husbands would be sitting nearby on the patio, sipping tea as they waited their turn for a pass through the wickets.  The birds would be chirping, the breeze would be blowing, and the evening sun would be filtered through the trees, throwing a dappled pattern of light and shade across the grass.

I wanted it.  I needed it.

And I left it.  Sometimes–just sometimes–I really do surprise myself.

 

I Might Need This Some Day

Fully realizing I might be the only one who’s like this, I have a confession to make: Sometimes I buy professional books that I don’t really need at the time.

I can help it, but I usually don’t want to.  I’ve spent most of my career as a third-grade teacher, but perusing my library reveals all sorts of material for both early childhood and upper-grade teachers.

Ha!  Over the last few days, though, that stuff has come in handy!

Because of self-quarantining, I’m spending a lot of time with my granddaughters, both of them emergent pre-readers.  One is in kindergarten, the other pre-K. Not exactly my typical students, but hey–my certificate says I’m supposed to know how to work with them.

I hear kindergarten teachers everywhere rolling their eyes and saying, “Riiiiight.” 

After a few days of stumbling through some okay lessons, I remembered that I have a professional library just waiting for a time like this!  This morning I blew off the dust, did just a bit of digging, and lessons from years ago when I was in college came rolling back. Hey, I can do this.  Maybe not with more than two kids at a time, but I can do this.

How do I know?  Because this afternoon before she left, my oldest granddaughter said, “Grandpa, you’re a pretty good teacher!”

Yeah.  I melted.

 

The Post Not Taken

On occasion–rarely, really–my sense of humor gets me into trouble.  

Well, okay, we’ll go with “occasionally.”

Truth be told, sometimes it seems as if I kind of like it that way.  Every once in a while, though, I do what’s probably for the best and just keep things to myself.

Let’s call this post a compromise.  I’m not getting myself into trouble if I’m able to talk, well, write, my way out of it.

Like so many people right now, my daughter is in the position of being a temporary homeschool teacher.  She’s got two daughters, six and five, and they’re both at home, just as she and her husband are.  

Unlike most people, however, she’s got a father herself–me–who is an elementary school teacher.  Who, it so happens, has some time on his hands.

My oldest granddaughter is in kindergarten and the youngest in preschool.  Given the circumstances, I said, “Sure, I’ll do what I can to help them move forward with their learning.”

Over the last few days, we’ve had a few hours together.  It’s a quiet house, the kids are happy to be with me (my wife is still working out of the house), and we’re doing okay with our studies.

My sense of humor not getting me into trouble this time?  Well, here’s the Facebook post I haven’t made:

I spent a quiet afternoon with my granddaughter today, just the two of us.  In between coffee and cocoa breaks, we worked with some of the material that her teacher was able to send home.  Honestly, this kindergarten teacher thing doesn’t really seem all that hard!

I think my kinder friends would get the joke, don’t you?

 

Peep

Today, I had to run two errands.  To be sure, I’m limiting my travel to that which is essential, at least in my mind.  I went to get some cold medicine (bummer time to have a “normal” illness–my mind tends to grab it and run), and I had to get some supplies for our chickens.

We’ve just got a small flock in our back yard.  They don’t take a lot of work, and they’re a lot of fun.  I highly recommend them.

Anyway, Tractor Supply it was.  

I don’t know why, but this time of the year always catches me by surprise when I visit that store.  I walked through the door, returned the greeting given me by the clerk, and headed down the main aisle past the air compressors and garden tools.  

As I walked, I breathed through a variety of smells, some chemical and some organic, and then another sense took over: Hearing. 

What does one hear in a Tractor Supply this time of the year?

That’s right. Chicks!  

Lots and lots of baby chicks, enclosed in huge watering troughs, basking under the glow of the heat lamps suspended twelve inches or so above their feathery heads.

It was a quiet cacophony, but one it was as dozens and dozens of little peeps filled the air.  There was a sense of urgency in each of those precocial little creatures. Most were moving quickly around the enclosure as if they’d some place to go, and others were just sitting.  And peeping.

I stood there for a few minutes, just soaking it in.  Maybe I’ll need to run another errand sometime soon.

 

Virus

I’m not sure why, but I’ve done my best to keep the pandemic out of my writing over the last three weeks.

You can’t tell from reading it, but as I typed the previous sentence, I first wrote “current situation” instead of “pandemic,” as if that would make it easier.  It’s a pandemic, though, and it needs to be called that.

It’s not easy, though, and the uncertainty is making it even harder.

I’m writing this on Monday.  It’s early in the afternoon, and I’m sitting with my dog in my living room.  

Last Thursday, just four days ago, things were nearly normal at school.  

Friday morning, we were getting ready for possible distance learning.  Friday afternoon we were closing school after class this upcoming Wednesday.  

Saturday it was announced that student absences during the first three days of school this week would be excused.  

Sunday afternoon, schools were closed, effective immediately.

This morning, teachers went in to do things like empty refrigerators and turn off computers.  Make sure the trash was out. Make sure there wasn’t any food left in the classrooms that could be a problem with mice over an extended break.

By 10:00, I was gone, on my way home.  For an extended break.

And now, I’m still in my school clothes, sitting with my dog, writing and trying to make sense of it all. 

Tomorrow, I’m going to write about something else.

That said, who knows what tomorrow will bring?

 

Seed Catalogs

It’s not quite time to plant a shovel in the garden yet, but it’s almost past time to participate in that beloved yearly ritual: The Perusing of the Seed Catalog.

My wife and daughter sat over coffee this morning, their heads close together as they leafed through the pages displaying the offerings of a number of different companies.

I’ve done some looking myself, but mostly I’m saving my energy for the labor part of this endeavor (though my wife does more than her fair share of that, too). 

That said, I love the language of the activity. 

From just one, the Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds 23rd Annual Pure Seed Book, I find Conover’s Colossal Asparagus, Kurzers Calico Traveler Lima Beans, and the Snake of Mugla eggplant.

There’s also the Bald Head mustard and the Wild Rocket arugula, found just a few pages before the Red Ursa kale, the description of which includes absolutely no mention of a bear, red or otherwise.

Leafing on (pun intended), I find the King Tut Purple pea as well as both the Apocalypse Scorpion and Death Spiral hot peppers.  Sizzle.

The tomato listings include plenty of greens: Aunt Ruby’s German Green, the Green doctors, the Green Zebra, and the Green Giant.  There’s also the Lucky Tiger, the Mushroom Basket, and, yes, the Mortgage Lifter. True story.

Oh, and Brad’s Atomic Grape.  

Moving into the flowers, I find the Strawberry Blonde calendula and the Velouette cosmos.  Not to be passed over is the ever-popular Kiss-Me-Over-The-Garden-Gate, a favorite for obvious reasons.

Wow.  So many seeds and so little time.

Lion’s Ear mint and Lucky Tiger tomatoes and the aforementioned Red Ursa kale, oh my!  (See what I did there?)

With that, I’m going to go sharpen my shovel.

 

Just Look Down

It is an 

In-between time 

Where I live

Winter is probably over, but

Do not plant a garden since

Frost is probably not

Not for another month or so

 

Sometimes the day is cool followed by a day that is warm and

Sometimes the day is warm followed by a day that is cool

Damp

Grey

More often than not

Winds from the northeast having shifted from

Winds from the southwest

 

But there is color

Glorious color

All of it less than twelve inches off the ground

 

The daffodils–always faithful–have been here for weeks

Predictable in timing and location

 

Grape hyacinths 

Their slender stalks supporting clusters of luxurious purple

 

Early dandelions 

Hugging the ground with leaf and flower

 

So many more flowers

Their names unknown by me

So much more beauty

If one takes the time to look

 

Just look