Sunday, October 16, 2005
houseboat in the pussywillow
Children have built a houseboat, they tell me, in the pussywillow tree. Their busy laughter has charmed me for hours, the past few afternoons of clear skies. I peek out to find they have strung watering cans and baskets and sand shovels onto yellow yarn, dangling each from tree branches. They are checking to see if their "traps" have any lobsters, good New England fisher-folk. I see a plastic rake up there. I don't ask questions. They are happy, in the fresh air, making a world of their own choosing and their voices are the kind of music one imagines with the words "happy childhood."
Yard sale today at our church, and my take is a giant bag of treasures: three barely worn pair of boy’s sneakers (50 cents each), two quilted pillowcases that will make lovely doll blankets, a well-built hole-punch, a skateboarding helmet. Two high quality baskets, a stack of saucers, a water-filter pitcher in much better shape than our current one, a “salsa maker” that doubles as a child-sized salad spinner. A glass butter dish, an alternative to our everyday Tupperware butter dish. Two great picture books. A child-sized teapot. Extra-bulky wool yarn in blue, the color I always neglect. A wire basket for fruit. Everything in the giant bag seems letter-perfect for our needs. I even found a book I was wanting in the dollar pile. “Oh, that’s marked down to a quarter now,” the saleslady said. I pay my Sunday school girls twelve dollars for the lot, two happy hours pass. I am surprised the children have followed my instructions and have not removed the salad spinner to the yard with the other houseboat needs.
The big frost will come soon. Yesterday I spirited children outside in order to plant the rhubarb starts, the anniversary gift hydrangea and foxglove, the wildflower seed. I weeded for two hours, trimmed perennials, mowed one last time and moved a few strategic plants—no use trying to keep anything alive where the children jump out of the tree. I potted some more delicate herbs and brought them to the porch. I potted two wayward tomato seedlings complete with tiny tomatoes on them, hoping. I am a sporadic gardener, but I hate to lose anything good. The boy was completely absorbed in sifting one shovelful of compost, then he left the other twenty shovelfuls where they spent the entire summer—I understand that. That’s how I garden, too.
The clocks will change soon, but already the children are ready for sleep when the skies turn dark, pleasantly early. We need candles for dinner, and we watch the sunrise at seven a.m., late.
In this October full of hurricanes (they visit here, too, though we have escaped the devastation, for the most part), our little three rooms with a fabulous view seems like a houseboat of sorts, too. Some days I have wondered if we would float away with the rain, after the long, sunny September. We have begun the season of soup-making and I am glad for my work at the organic grocery, where I haul home bags of slightly dated and wilty items, still delicious but no longer quite as beautiful or fresh as it needs to be.