The Mighty Lady Slipper

I loved spring in Greenwood Center, Maine. The winds had left with their icy whips and the ground was bare…oh, for it to be warm again to feel the grass between my toes. But for right now, there were puddles of mud, not unlike chocolate pudding, that I jumped over or around  to protect the once a year purchase of school shoes.

There was an aroma in the air…so hard to describe, but Ma had taught me how to tell if it was going to rain. “You can smell it coming,” she told me over and over. “Just stick your nose up in the air and you can smell a soft, sweet tinge to the air.” Well, you know, at first I didn’t believe her, but as I grew older, I came to realize she was right and before long, I could see the rain drops hit the far side of Twitchell Pond and come closer and closer until it hit our front yard and we all ran inside….well, that is, unless it was a really hot day and then we might let a few of those rain drops cool us off!

Ma was of Native American heritage and to this day I am not sure how much and all the details but she was passionate about flowers and all that went with the earth. One of the very first things I remember her saying was, “Don’t pick the lady slippers.” “If you see a yellow lady slipper, they are very rare. Walk way around it.” Well, every time I picked up my alder fishing pole to  go down behind Wagner’s camp, she picked it right up on her radar. “Don’t you go picking those lady slippers, now.” I would no more thought of picking a lady slipper than I would have robbed a bank. That has stayed with me to this day.

Trilliums were fair game and the white with the blood red centers were abundant on the path to my cousins’ home. I often picked a bouquet and Ma would put them in a jam jar on the kitchen table. However, there was one bouquet she did not appreciate. It seems it was my turn to wipe the dishes and being me, I managed to disappear. Ma was not amused and I knew it…it was in the air. I went up the path and there, amongst the white trilliums, were loads of wine colored trilliums. I picked the biggest bouquet in the hopes of gaining Ma’s favor. Back I came, bouquet in hand, and she took the flowers without saying a word and into the jam jar they went. Dad came in a few minutes later, took one look and asked, “Where did you get those Stinkin’ Benjamins?” Well, had I bent my head a little more, I would have noticed the awful smell, but the color was so pretty I figured that was all that mattered!

About this time, Gram Martin’s lilacs opened and hung over the ditch by the side of the road. Oh, the perfume in the air when we walked by. We did not touch her lilac bush , simply because it belonged to Gram and we had never asked permission. That, however, did not stop a summer resident who left with an armful one late spring day and my Gram  sputtering on the porch just about as loud as I had ever heard her!! She thought that was pretty “nervy” but had that person asked, Gram would probably helped fill her arms full. It was a matter of principle!!

Time for Uncle Louis to ready his row boat for the season. It sat upside down on blocks during the winter months and now one could hear as he scraped…scraped..scraped the old paint off and applied new green paint for the season. When it was absolutely, perfectly, pristine in his eyes, the boat was launched.  He shared it with Dad in their fishing pursuits and it was duly noted that the boat was as clean when it was brought back to shore as it was when it left.

Usually one day in spring, my Uncle Louis would bring a sack of things to be thrown on “our dump.”  Back then, most houses had their own dump set back in the woods away from the main house and there the tin cans went and other throw aways. I knew that Gram did not have a dump but marveled at Uncle Louis having just one sack of things each year to be tossed!

Spring was a magic time . We played out later at night..marbles in the ditch by the road, jumping rope with a piece of Ma’s left over clothes line, rolling tires on the tarred road. We were always tired enough to sleep once Ma called from the doorway.

Best of all, Rex and I hooked up the old Philco and many an afternoon, sat on the doorsteps and marveled as Curt Gowdy described another Red Sox game. Johnny Pesky, Ted Williams, Bobby Doerr and all the other greats. That was the beginning of my love for baseball which has never left.

I miss it all …well, let’s be honest. I don’t miss the old outhouse at the edge of the woods. The best part was that in the spring, there was no path to shovel to get to it.

Memories. Another box opened this morning.

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