Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Stale Stories - Day One

As you probably know, the Farmer and I will split on Friday out for parts unknown in an attempt to clear our minds before our next challenge.

It's not my intention to leave you high and dry during our absence and therefore I've decided to post a story from my archives every day while we are gone. I'd love to be providing you with new materials but part of the purpose of this absence is to recharge my creative batteries.

A little math shows me that combining my photoblog The Farmer's Wife and this blog, I've published 1,375 posts. That's crazy and that number of posts tends to drain the creative pool.

For today's Stale Story, I give you "Oranges in Winter", originally published on December 22, 2007.


This is a cautionary tale against longing for the good old days when things were simpler. Every time I wander into this territory my elderly friend Margie pulls me back into reality.

"Things were not go good back then," she cautioned.

"In fact things were very, very difficult. Have you got a taste for strawberry jam in January? You better hope you planted strawberries, tended them and harvested the berries. Did you remember to get enough sugar for the canning process?" she asked.

Even the simplest tasks required an incredible amount of planning and work. Laundry? You've got to render the fat and make the soap first.

My friend was raised on a farm in the remotest part of North Dakota. Her parents were immigrants who worked the land as tenant farmers. It was a life of subsistance and unfortunately a lonely childhood devoid of emotional support and joy.

Her father was a strict disciplinarian who believed that children were to be seen and not heard. The mother bore children over a great time span as the family needed a new source of free labor as the older children left for the city. Even they couldn't escape completely as they were expected to send money home to the farm. There were no toys, they were considered frivolous and my friend never owned a doll. Any free time was spent daydreaming in the apple orchard.

Their mother prepared a special dinner on Christmas eve but there were no gifts and one Christmas her father presented the children with coal, as if to emphasize his point of view, that life was a never ending cycle of grueling work with no hope for a bit of magic.

One year her older sister Laura and husband Tom returned to North Dakota for Christmas. Before they left Wisconsin they stopped into a green grocer's in Milwaukee and made a surprising purchase, a fresh orange for each child. It doesn't sounds like much does it? Fresh oranges at any time of the year were a great extravagance but an orange in winter was akin to finding precious rubies from Mars in your Christmas stocking.

It's nothing in this world of global markets to have oranges in winter and asparagus in January because everything is in season somewhere in this world. But in those days people and goods were separated by vast distances without any chance of connecting.

Laura and Tom arrived at the farmhouse and later that night after the children had gone to bed they laid out the oranges on the farmhouse table. When my friend woke up in the morning she could smell the aroma of the fresh oranges. It was an impossiblity, but there they were, the beautiful fruit lined up on the kitchen table. In that single moment she believed....there truly must be a Santa Claus. Who else could work such a miracle as oranges in winter?

NOTE: Unfortunately a childhood devoid of hope, focused only on hard work can create an adult who has difficulty engaging in play and their life becomes a never-ending cycle of tasks.


Anonymous said...

Your note makes me quite sad, to think that there are most likely people in this world who actually fit that description. I think some of them are called CEO's today. Poor souls.

Snappy Di

Kitty said...

Someone I know grew up in similar circumstances, only her father died when she was 10. Childhood wasn't much fun and there was always concern over finances. Work was expected out of all the children in the family and to this day I don't think she knows how to have fun. Sad, but the results of living in "the good ol' days". Not that I'm saying there weren't "good old days" for some people. Hard times don't always mean bad lives.

Enjoyed the replay--I don't think I was reading your blog back then. I'm trying to remember how I found it in the first place...

Karen Deborah said...

Some where in the middle, I think. What a contrast to Laura Ingalls Life with her happy parents and singing father. Some of those hardships were not because of the life style but of the father who had no joy in his heart. Sad.

Cherrie said...

My mother was the oldest of 18 children. She told me many times of getting apples and nuts for Christmas from "the church people" All the kids were so excited!

Jody Blue said...

Saddens me to the bottom of my heart.