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All Green And Gold

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Carol Bossard

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“Outside the open window the morning air is all awash with angels.  Love calls us to things of this world.”* This totally describes a morning in June with its singing birds, dewy grasses and long hours of light.  Besides the beauty of the world around us there are all the people who give love and those who need love. June —— when graduating seniors get a bad case of “senioritis” and grade-schoolers gaze longingly out the windows of their classrooms ——when birds who flew north in March have fledglings just growing their feathers —– when gardens are showing little green rows where lettuce and spinach have been planted. To quote a line from “Oklahoma” — “June is bustin’ out all over!” It is a symphony in green and gold.

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Speaking of symphonies and other lovely things, I was reminded recently about our high school days, when Jan and I cut arms-full of garden flowers for an event at school called “Moving Up Day” at just about this time of the year.  I’m quite sure schools no longer have this sort of event with queens and courts (although they still do have prom queens).  For this annual occasion there were two attendants chosen from each class, 8-12, plus the queen, who was always a senior.  The attendants were voted on by their classes except for the attendants from the senior class and the queen.  They were voted on by the entire high school plus 8th grade., and those chosen were a closely guarded secret until The Day!  There was great pomp and ceremony as the girls moved slowly down the aisle to the tempo of “A Pretty Girl Is Like A Melody”, to take places on that flower-decked stage.  The slow beat was necessitated by the hoops beneath the skirts.  It is incredibly difficult to move in hoops, especially with the hesitation step.   Those hoops sway back and forth, and soon the wearer also begins to sway and without care, there is every possibility of falling headlong.  My respect for the agility of all those southern belles, with their big skirts, has increased since then.  For this event, there was music, there were speeches and it was the VCS attempt to make moving to the next class special; mini-graduations.  Because our mothers had large perennial gardens, Jan and I cut a large swath through their peonies, daisies, lupines and mock orange to decorate the stage. The whole concept might feel a bit outmoded now, but we, who were there, remember both the music and the much ado, with pleasure.

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With June comes Father’s Day, this year on June 19th.  I’m not sure why we separate mothers’ and father’s celebrations; parenting is supposed to be a joint venture.  Of course, what is supposed to be often isn’t.  And good parents probably do deserve at least two days of recognition.  Father-honoring has been done for many years, in eastern Europe, on March 19th — St. Joseph’s Day.  A church in W. Virginia celebrated it in 1908.  Then, in 1910, it was officially designated to be on the third Sunday in June.  It doesn’t get quite the press of Mother’s Day —- perhaps because June is such an event-filled month.

My father was probably somewhat unusual among the fathers of my contemporaries.  For one thing, he was older than most of them.  I was a late-in-life child and my father was 47 when I came along.  My grandfather (Dad’s father) died when Dad was two years old, from typhoid fever and pneumonia.  An uncle provided a male presence in his life until his mother married again, to my kindly step-grandpa.  Dad’s Uncle Fred was a kind and generous man but an exceedingly proper individual who had some very firm standards that he instilled in my father.  There was no alcohol in our house — ever.  Dad mildly disapproved of coffee too, but my mother was a Universalist of French descent, who although she cheerfully became a Presbyterian, needed her coffee.  So, there was coffee!    Dad worked hard, expected his children to be respectful, obedient and to always meet their responsibilities with their best efforts.  I imagine that, in this regard, he was occasionally disappointed.  But he never gave up trying.  He also — unfortunately for me — had no comprehension for anyone who couldn’t understand —–nay —- couldn’t take delight in algebra, geometry and trig!!

I have mentioned in prior essays that my father was a bit autocratic, highly irritable (which trait he may have passed on to me), very caring about his land and his community and a Scottish Presbyterian to his core.  So, you might guess that over the years, especially when I was a young teen, he and I might have had some disagreements and tension.  There was never any estrangement between us, but we weren’t always the best of comrades during my adolescence.  We did have some very good interaction when I became an adult, and had we lived closer, I’m sure there would have been more.  He took much delight in his grandchildren — all 16 of them.  I certainly respected my father and I know he took his responsibility as a parent very seriously and really loved his family.  When I see this quotation, I think of him — and my mother too:  “Quality — in the classic Greek sense — how to live with grace and intelligence, with bravery and mercy.”** I wish we’d had a little more time.  He died at age 72 — too early.  

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Fathers come in all varieties with many diverse ideas about how to live and how to raise children.  Some do not accept responsibility at all and are absentee fathers — which is their disgrace.  Some do not know how to love and cherish.  But so many fathers are amazing; most of my friends’ fathers were fine people.  Kerm and I were fortunate that our parenting ways complimented each other.  I wasn’t the most patient mom when our boys were toddlers, but Kerm could blocks with them and endure the splashing of their nightly baths.  When they were teens, the bedlam of the house and their highly energetic and articulate games sometimes tired him, so I was the one who stayed up, made cookies and sometimes corrected the D&D philosophies.  He endured their car engines hanging from trees and their casual attitude about his tools.  I waited up for them and kept their baseballs out of my gardens.  Together we worked well.  

Now, as we watch our sons interact with the children in their lives, we are pleased and proud that they have become adept, caring and wise in helping young people to grow up. And we empathize with their occasional discouragements.  I admire the many fathers who quietly assume responsibility and often stretch themselves thin to provide both the material, social and spiritual needs of their children and often the children of others.  So —— Happy Father’s Day!!!

June brings high school graduations, weddings, reunions; there is so much crammed into the month of June that it flies by far too fast, and suddenly it is July!  As veggies are popping up — and so are the weeds.  We have mulched the potatoes and tomatoes so that we need not weed those garden beds.  Mulching the little seedlings is harder and we haven’t been as successful with that.  But grubbing in the garden for weeds is not a bad way to spend some time.  There is something about handling the soil that works wonders on my psyche.  It provides bodily exercise, reaches the senses of smell, touch and sight, and cheers me up.  There is a whole movement now called “grounding” that encourages contact with the earth for good health.  I remember that some years ago, when I’d take the time to lie on the lawn for 15 minutes or so, my back felt quite a lot better.  I probably wouldn’t buy the available “grounding” equipment for my bed, but will ground myself outside while good weather is with us.   Being outdoors is also an antidote to the closed-in-ness of the time we spend on phones or computers.  That hunched-forward position leads to back pain, headaches and probably clogged thinking (I could comment further on the epidemic of clogged thinking!); anything we do — from gardening to walking opens up the shoulders, stretches the legs and clears the head.

Daylight is still extending itself in early June; night moves slowly from Atlantic to Pacific over a three-hour span.  There is little lovelier than a June twilight sliding into a just cool night.  I am remembering days when, at home, we brought in bales of hay all day and then sat outside when night came, enjoying the fragrance of the new hay along with a sky full of stars.   And since we had a pond close by, there was the hypnotic chunking of frogs.   The world is full of clamor and distress and yet at the same time, the world is full of quiet and beauty if we are only aware.   As one wise person said: “The gloom of the world is but ashadow; behind it yet in our reach, is joy. Take joy!”*** A happy June to you and may you find it more full of blessings than problems.

Carol writes from her home in Spencer. She may be reached at: carol42wilde@htva.net 

*Richard Wilbur—American poet and literary translator.  Associated with Amherst College and Harvard University.  1921-2017.

**Theodore H. White —American political journalist known for his reporting from China during WWII.  Also known for his “Making of a President” series.  1915-1986

***Fra Giovanni—Belonged to the Order of Friars Minor.  Was an Italian friar, architect, antiquary, archaeologist and classical scholar.  1433-1515.

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