Tales from Mom (1), The Chicken Feathers

By Trudy A. Martinez

As darkness dissipates the rooster crows, Nellie Mae awakes. She raises her head from an overstuffed pillow, one she personally fills with chicken feathers in her earlier years. Ma said when she is only four, “Nellie, you is old enough to do the chores. Get the basket yonder and come with your mama.”

Tagging after Ma, she watches and learns to gather the eggs for the morning meal. Next to an egg, she discovers her first feather. It is different, not a typical chicken feather, consisting of a hard tube like quill; instead, the quill is underdeveloped and soft; and the feathery portion is white, light, and airy. Holding the feathery fluff up to admire its beauty, its shimmer and shine, it dances out of her hand into the cool morning breeze. Quickly, she seizes the airy fluff from its flight and stuffs it in her pinafore pocket, placing it later in her secret place.

Each day’s journey to the chicken pen produces more. Although her chores involve plucking feathers from the dinner chickens, per-snicker- y as she is, she expresses no interest in them; only the little ones she unveils with the eggs catch her fancy. Perhaps the disinterest in the plucked feathers is why it surprises Ma to learn of her collection.

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(Nellie Mae is the light hair little girl standing next to Pa. Pa is sitting holding her younger brother (at that time). Behind Pa is Grandma Ida. Next are Nellie’s older sister and two other brothers. That is Ma sitting in the chair)

Ma is not snooping in Nellie Mae’s things as you might think; she is cleaning when, knocking over a box, feathers suddenly fly all over the room.

Watching Ma reaching to capture the tiny feathers as they take flight above her head and then float downward like snowflakes on a frosty winter morn is quite a sight. The thrust of her hand, like a burst of wind, sends the tiny feathers scurrying in the opposite direction as she attempts to snatch them from midair.

Catching a few, she vies to put them back; unfortunately, each time she raises the lid as many feathers leave as are put in. Ma, growing weary of the process, leaves the room, snatches an empty flour sack, and yells for Nellie’s help; and they both stuff all the feathers into the flower print sack. A piece of that sack survives in a quilt Nellie later makes.

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Grama’s Birthday

Posted on October 7, 2007

by Trudy A. Martinez

Today is not my birthday: that day passed weeks ago but here stands Elijah and Charity, wishing me happy birthday, handing me a present, asking me to open it, gleaming with joy from anticipation.

The package they hand me is a work of art:  personality spills from its hand painting design; each stroke tells a story, filling my heart with joy; each color depicts a mood, an emotion springs from it, leaping at my heartstrings.

There is a cake waiting for us to eat so I need to get along with my story.

“I painted this!”  Elijah exclaims, smiling as he points to his design.  “Charity painted this,” he continues as his words spring to life in the ears of his little sister standing next to him, waiting her turn to speak.

“Open it Grama!” her words ring out, sprinkling the air with the soft tones of her voice.

“Do you know what it is?”  Elijah queries.

“No,” I reply, “Can you tell me?”

“Can’t tell. Can’t tell, Grama, Elijah!”  Charity’s reprimanding voice rings out.

“No-O-O-O-O-O.”  Elijah answers, dragging out the one syllable word, lingering it in the air momentarily before he adds, “You need to open it, Grama”.

My fingers already begin to carefully undue the paper from one of the packages.  The paper is unique as it is homemade; the designs are drawings Elijah and Charity make.  The pictures will make a perfect addition to my refrigerator door that houses and adorns such treasures.

My two-prize possessions hang from a loop chain attached to a magnet on that door:  pacifiers, one blue one and one pink one.  The blue one Elijah gave me a few years back.  The pink one Charity reluctantly gave up on her second birthday.  She was not forced to give it up; she did so willingly, but it is a difficult decision for her to make.  I remember.  She stood at a distance from me, covering her eyes.  She knew it is her birthday; she knew she is going to give up her infancy with the passing of her prize possession to my refrigerator door and thereafter, ‘patsy’ will be my prize possession.  My thoughts are suddenly brought back to the present with the sounds of voices:

“Come on, Grama, hurry up–Open it”, Elijah says.

“Open it,” repeats Charity.

“Here,” Elijah adds, reaching for the other end of the package, ripping the paper off quickly.  Charity in the meantime, picks up the other package and quickly opens it for me.

“Here, Grama, here’s your present.”

“Thanks honey that is a pretty cup.  Why, that is my name on it:  Grama.  It’s a Grama cup.”

  Elijah just finishing the unwrapping of the other present proudly holds it up for me to admire. “Do you know what it is, Grama?”

I look it over.  It looks like a milk carton, but windows are cut out of each side.  There are also two small holes in each side.  In addition, it has been painted all over with paint, different colors of paint.  There is a separate stick that goes with it.  On the top of the structure, a rope like twine is attached to it on both sides.  “Hm mm,” I think, “I wonder what this beautiful creation is?”  Elijah and Charity eagerly wait for a reply.  I was taking too long to guess and they are extremely anxious to tell me.

“It’s a bird feeder, Grama!”  Charity exclaims.

“You put seed in here,” Elijah explains“, and then you put the stick through here,” he continues, “And the birds come and eat the seed”.

“They come and eat the seed.”  Charity echoes, smiling.

“It is beautiful”, I say, “I know just the place to hang it.”  We go to the patio, hang the bird feeder, and then, come back inside to watch and wait, but no birds come.

“They’ll come”, Elijah and Charity assure me.  Nevertheless, the birds did not come and Elijah and Charity went home.

A few days later, Kit, my cat, starts jumping, running, and acting real crazy.  She sits at the patio door, swinging her tail back and forth, faster and faster her tail goes back and forth.  She’s trying to get my attention so I will let her outside.  I open the blinds and see there is a bunch of little visitors in my backyard:  birds perch on the bird feeder on the little stick that sticks out from the side.  Birds are walking on the ground, pecking at the seed their friends up above drop on the ground from the pretty bird feeder Elijah and Charity made for me.

I immediately call Elijah and Charity on the telephone to tell them about the little visitors.  They are not home.  I leave a message.  Here is what I say:

“That beautiful bird feeder you gave me for my birthday is bringing joy. There are lots of birds in my backyard where before there was none.  The birds are eating the seed. I keep filling it up with more and more seed because they are very, very, hungry.  Need to go now–just want you to know–love you.

Oh yeah, Kit likes it too. She likes it so much. She jumps, runs, and acts real crazy.  She wants to go outside with the birds.  She wants to catch them, but they fly away when they see she is coming out.  Love you–Bye.”

No Where to Run

Posted on December 4, 2006

By Trudy A. Martinez

Reassuringly, little voices whisper dramatically, “It’s okay, Kit, we’re not going to hurt you.”

Kit, my flame point white Siamese cat, is asleep when the two young children surround her with the intent of making friends.  Normally, she runs at the sight of them.  Now she is unknowingly in a corner surrounded by them with nowhere to run.

When the words, “It’s Okay — we’re not going to hurt you.” are repeated in unison, Kit’s eyes open.  Obviously, she is not sure what to make of them:  Her ears move from their normal stance, when their hands reach out for her, to a stress slick back position.

They pet her, gently.  Kit’s ears remain down.  “It’s okay,” they reassure her.  Their words did nothing to change her countenance.  She is stiff and looking for a way to run.

Perhaps she recalls the day before, being in the corner and her tail pulled.  The perpetrator of that incident is now gently running her hand from the top of Kit’s head slowly over her thick winter fur to the tip of her tail without tugging.  The question now is:  Is Kit going to relax and take advantage of this freely given affection?

The children continue to assure her they mean well with each movement of their hands over her body.  It is a slow process, a persuasive process, a winning process.  Kit’s ears relax, finally relinquishing their stress.

Smiling the children exclaim, “She likes me!  She’s purring,” They add, “She likes me.” With excitement, “She’s purr-r-ring.”

Armed with Feathers

Posted on June 19, 2006

By Trudy A. Martinez

I came up pillow in hand.  Resounding agitations arouse not only me but also my anger.  With a fury, I hurl the pillow in the direction of the origination of the noise.  Kit knows not to scratch the chair; that cat knows better. The racket her nails make, protruding inward, pulling outward, creates a reverberating, irritating, and displeasing noise. The noise awakes not only me but also a demon who seeks her out.

“It’s only 4:00 A.M…” I scream.  “Leave me alone. I want to sleep.”  And then I exclaim with dramatic emphasis, shaking a finger at her while I speak.  “Don’t you dare touch that chair again with your nails?”

Her body stretches out and moves upward while her nails position themselves in the chair ready to scratch.   When the sound of my angry voice reaches her ears, she stops. She glares at me. She tests my patience.

I stare back.  She releases her nails from the upholstery. She then slowly moves away in defeat.  “Now get out of here!” I exclaim as I hurl another pillow as she exits.

“She’ll be back.” I think. “Maybe, just maybe I can grab a few winks before then.”

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I’ll be on Top!

Posted on June 18, 2006

By Trudy A. Martinez

Half asleep my eyes open.  A rolling motion startles and awakes me.  Looking at the clock, I note the time: 4:35 A. M. (Or there about; I always set it ahead of the actual time). The room is swaying, rolling.   My imagination runs wild, thinking, imagining, wondering if the second floor will fall upon the first.  A voice inside me rings out: “Get up!  Get in a door way!”

Common sense tells me, “Stay where you are.”  I know my knees are weak and I will fall before I make it to a doorway even if I try.  If this is the big one, prayers are my only avenue of escape.  I stay put.  An eternity seems to pass.   When in actuality, only a few seconds go by.

I look around, stopping when Kit’s eyes meet mine.  Her expression says, “Why are you shaking the bed?”  Usually in the morning when I want to sleep, she wakes me.  Now this little cat is thinks, I am the perpetrator.

“I am not doing it.”  I assure her in a calming tone.

The rolling motion continues, building momentum.  My inner voice regurgitates and reasons: “You’re better off where you are.”

I remember experiencing such a long rolling earthquake once before.  Then in a compromising position, I am balancing myself (stark naked) on the edge of my whirlpool spa in a glass house, a glass enclosed patio.  I let another convince me if I go in naked no one will see me; she assures me struggling with a wet bathing suit each time I go in is not only unnecessary but also ridiculous.

Of course, who knew an earthquake would hit just at the moment I straddle the edge of the whirlpool, naked, with one leg in and one leg out.  I question my decision, after the fact, when the earthquake hit as I balance myself on the edge of the spa.  My imagination runs wild. I see myself at the bottom of the pool of water naked. Dead.  “How embarrassing to be found in such a state,” I think.

Now here I am again, telling myself, “You’re better off where you are.”  Reasoning:  If the roof falls, the headboard and the footboard will stop it.  If you go down stairs, the second story will fall on you–you’ll be crushed, mashed, trapped on bottom.  If you stay where you are, you’ll be on top of the rubble, not on bottom.  Besides, there is a soft mattress under you, a blanket over you, and it’s warm.  What would it be like if you move?  “Stay where you are–stay, stay.”

The movement recedes and then, the quake stops almost as abruptly as it began.  Only 45 seconds elapses but yet, an eternity seems to pass, nothing fell, not even me.

Kit stands, stretches, and then lies back down, digs her head into the soft comforter before she again closes her eyes.  It didn’t even faze her.  How can she go back to sleep?  Wasn’t the earthquake a wake-up call from Heaven?  It wasn’t me as she thought.

I shake the bed, unable to resist the temptation to show her the difference.  One eye opens, and then quickly closing once she sees it is only me.

 

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Next time. Next time, we may not be as fortunate.

Let me introduce a character in my life.

The Poppy Master
Lancaster, CA 2010 Poppy Fields

This is Sparky.  I call him the “The Poppy Field Master”.    Sparky is such a beautiful dog. He looks so regal.  His black fur glistens from the refection off the golden poppies. He is quite a character.  He follows me around during the day occasionally stopping me dead in my tracts.  He will not move until I say, “Excuse me”.  I am on a short lease, so to speak.  He is in control; I am not.  All he has to do is step on the leash (the oxygen cord) and I am toast!  Being stubborn does not help, I must speak on his command–or die because when he steps on the cord, the air stops too!  He is too big to pick up and move.  If I try, he just looks up like Eeyore (Poo’s donkey friend) as if to say with his expression, “Do I have to?”  It is so much easier to just relent and say, “Excuse Me!”  He moves and only then.  You just got to love him.

I dreamt of vine ripe tomatoes, so I planted a pot garden this year.

A Tomato Plant
The Pot Garden

I love tomatoes and so does Sparky.  Perhaps, Sparky loves them a little too much.  As soon as the tomatoes start to turn red, it is a fight to get them before he does.  It is my fault he loves them so much.  I give them to him in exchange for tricks, a trick for treat.   On taller vines, I thought, “I will succeed.”  That was until a big black crow dove down and plucked a tomato from the vine.  Sparky let him do it! Dogs are watch dogs.  Right?  Sparky is literally a watch dog.  He watched.  He didn’t even bark!  Each of us has our fears.  I think Sparky fears those crows, because he goes the other way when they coame near.