Oh, lately nothing has ministered to me as much as looking out my side screen door. It’s right behind me as I write. That old black screen door is maybe 50 years old at least. It’s wooden and has an old screen in it on the outside and then a strong one on the inside. I imagine in the old days, the children kept breaking it out and a Daddy nailed a stronger screen on the inside. Anyway, between the screens I have placed flowers that I have dried.
Johnny mowed just lately but the grass was getting pretty high out the side yard and I loved it. Oh, it looked so old fashioned with Dixie’s windmill out there and the gourds growing around it. See, Iowa became a state in about 1850 something I think. So the house I live in is one of the first ones built in Iowa. I let my wild herbs grow in my yard as to take the land back to the way it once was. I have old fashioned flowers, too, that come up each year. The flowers I am enjoying right now are the morning glories. In the fall, these glories cover everything. They have blue flowers and purple, white and pink. They grow up the house and all over. Many people hate them as they intertwine everything but I love them. If I could, I would just let the grass grow in certain areas of my yard. I love the tall grass and old kinds of flowers as they sway in the summer breeze.
I am so happy here with my home as Papa had it. Jim loved nature and back to the land things. Papa wasn’t much with words. I never got into a word war with Jim as I knew I would win. I mean without really winning? But, oh, we connected in many ways. Mostly over homemade bread or a fresh apple pie.
Papa ran after me in his heart, always afraid of losing me to something. One time, he wrote about how glad he was, as I had told him that I had abandoned myself to him and our children. Jim wanted all of me and didn’t want to share me. It was a sacrifice to him to give me up as a writer. It was a sacrifice to me, too. All I ever wanted was Jim and the children and our home. I wanted to have children through my 50s. But Jim used to tell folks that one of the reasons he ran away from his family in the old days is because he had put me on such a pedestal and didn’t think he could keep up with me. Often I told him I loved him and only him. But in the early years he would say, “You only love me because God told you to.” Little did he know that I truly loved him with or without God.
When I first met Jim, I just loved him right off the bat. I ate bullets for breakfast and nothing less than Jim would do. I still remember how he held me as we danced our first slow dance together. The other day, as I had gone to the store, I heard a song on the radio. I had to listen to it in the car before I went in the store. The singer was a son asking God to let his Mom dance one more time with his father who had died. Well, Papa and me will dance again with golden slippers on golden streets.
But as I write this morning, I can feel Papa’s spirit as I feel the cool breeze coming through the old screen door behind me. And I hear locusts and the crickets chirp. “Oh, Papa, yes, I will pick the apples this morning. I picked the wild plums yesterday.” Jim always called me away from my daydreaming and writing to the Prairie Land and to the works of righteousness. Papa was a dreamer, too — a visionary. But he didn’t know how to tell me what he had dreamed.
I talked to Danny, our son age 24, last week. He went to NYC to find himself and to get discovered as a musician. Feeling kinda like a failure as a mom, I said to Dan (my fifth child), “Danny, did Dad and I do anything right raising you kids?” He said, “Oh, Mom, you and Dad did everything right. Us kid had a ball growing up. We learned to be creative and to do things on our own.” But I said, “Danny, do ya still love the Lord? And what is the best thing Dad and I taught you personally?” Danny said the best and most important thing we taught him was that he could make it one way or the other. That nothing could take him down. I asked Dan if he liked NYC and he said that he missed home and the garden and the fruit trees. He misses Papa, as we all do. But the City is mostly concrete and he misses the wild flowers and what he grew up with.
I haven’t made a loaf of bread since I lost my Jim. My heart land has not rained and my heart has been dry and covered with sand. But it will bloom again I see it in my visions. I see specks of dreams that I am going on — as Dan says, “Mom, you and Dad taught us to never give up.”
Danny and I laughed about the year the gas bill got so high. And how we turned the heat off altogether and wore our coats in the house. The bill went to 25 bucks after being 500 and some dollars. Our outside dog would cry by the kerosene burner but I wouldn’t turn it on until just before the family was up for breakfast. We laugh about how Mom outlasted the dog. I would tell the dog that if I could make it without fur, then she could make it, too. Even our dog was a survivor. She lived to be 15 years old. The only time she saw a vet was when we took her to have her put down. She was old and had pneumonia.
I guess we just didn’t have much money to take us through and we refused to give up on anything. As I write, I look at my family table still set for 7 or 8 people. Oh, the stories I could tell. Stories of just plain not givin’ up. Papa and me would just say, “Well, we will just make it somehow.” Then Jim would smile and pretend to tip his hat. “We always do.”
But ya know a lot of it had to do with going back to the land. Going back to basics. There is a secret there. The Depression era Mothers did the same thing when they lost everything. They went back to the land and made a home. This old home of mine went through the Depression era and stood tall and strong and I will, too. And in my desert, I will bloom as the desert rose. And as I tip my hat to Papa in heaven, I say, “And, yes, Papa we will make it as we always do.”
* Order Connie's book, "Dear Kitchen Saints," available on Amazon. It is autobiographical and tells the beautiful story of her marriage testimony!*