Time always moved more slowly there–
Too slowly . . . we were always impatient.
Come home from school and Mother’s in the garden–
Waves as the bus pulls up in a thunderhead of dust,
And later as the little white car rolls in.
Always loud inside at six–
The TV on and dishes clattering as oil sizzles.
Up at seven all summer–
Two hours in the garden,
Poor garden, that always died. . .
Throwing dirt clods at angry sisters,
Singing when we weren’t fighting.
Shucking corn around the washtub with Grandma,
Crickets and locusts make you shout over top.
Cherry-picking in June–
Who gets to sit in the loader bucket?–
Eric whirling the pail in circles
And all the cherries stay in.
Burning leaves on cold October nights–
Jewel-like embers on the ground;
Inside, light and noise and warmth
And hair that smells like smoke.
Harvest moon rises eerily behind the mailbox–
Huge and orange, every detail magnificent,
As though by reaching you could touch it.
Catprints on the engine hood–
Muddy, but at least they’re warm!
Litters of kittens in the haybarn,
Sitting for hours cuddling as rain patters.
Always one girl mad at the season–
If not them, then you yourself.
Phlox around the cistern
Daffodils and daisies in the garden,
Floods in the creeks,
Roaring in the quiet so you hear it at the house.
Fighting at supper and establishing rules:
Lunch belongs to Dad–
And ten minutes on the phone!
So much simpler there,
Broken hearts become bruised pride–
Hold your head up and smile.
We always strained to leave–
Except for me, who holds on to the last.
Four little girls, and one now has her own home,
And two descend for weeks or months,
And the baby rules the quiet roost.
And always in deepest hurt or stress
It is home we long for,
The place where the walls close out the world
And four miles insulate the haven
Time moves too fast now–
A flying visit is gone in the blink of an eye
And home isn’t quite home anymore
To we who are in transition.
Leaf-burning time slips by
And we miss most of the daffodils,
But it’s still loud inside at six
And all the old yearly landmarks are still there,
And once in a while we still glimpse them–
When God is willing and we’re lucky.
And there is always the forgiving memory,
Which glosses over all the uglies,
And smooths over rough edges.
How can I conclude, when the memories pour in?
May my home be as happy–
My children as reluctant to leave.
–4 March 1996, revised May 12, 1999