Monday, May 16, 2016

Starting Over One More Time

            Starting Over One More Time
            “I need a wife,” Ellie wrote. I grinned. I don’t know how many times over the years I’ve been a single Mom and then later on, simply single, that I said those same words. We women keep an on-going conversation, email obliterating the separation of miles, borders and even an ocean.

            It means a lot to us that we know one another’s hard times, strengths and weaknesses, joys and sorrows. Sometimes a person simply likes for another to acknowledge that they see you; they know what you’re going through. It’s almost as good as a person holding your hand.

            I’ve been reading a compilation of oral history of several Montana pioneer women, women born in the latter 1800’s and early 1900’s. They could be our grandmothers, great-grandmothers, and even mothers.

            Fortunate or unfortunate, who can judge, many of us can look back on the tail-end of similar experiences. Most of my early years we never had running water or indoor plumbing. When I got married in 1963, fresh from graduating high-school, I lived in a primitive house constructed by shoving three small storage sheds together and tacking on a roof. I learned to cook on a wood stove. The facility was down the path out back.

I carried water from the yard pump for the cattle into the house in pails. We had a washstand on which to set the bucket of drinking water, a dipper hanging handy from which everyone drank. Oh, I know. We never thought a thing of it.

Wash day was a nightmare of lugging water, heating it in boilers on the wood stove, pouring into tubs, scrubbing and rinsing. Then I carried the dirty water out to dump over the hill after the work clothes were washed. But I did it.

We had electricity. I know neighbors who didn’t have that luxury.

            My father-in-law was a true skin-flint. We lived on $125.00 a month salary and deer meat. This was 1963 to 1967, enlightened times.

When I had saved enough to buy paint, I proudly invited my neighbor Doris over to see the results, her first visit to my home. It took me looking back years later to understand the look on her face. My friends didn’t judge me but family tongues certainly wagged.

            My experiences don’t compare to those of the true pioneer women. Mine were just a taste. We had so much more.

            Certainly I never thought I’d be starting over, making a new life, a kind of pioneering. But here I am, on the edge of a farm village in the foothills of the mountains in central Mexico. I thought my quiet little life in my quiet little apartment in Mazatlan was it, the rest of my days.

            Suddenly I am working with a local craftsman, designing kitchen cabinets to suit my needs. Or pruning in my overgrown jungle of a yard. I don’t know the names of many of my plants but I know they will benefit from a severe “haircut”. Or shopping in the local tiendas for paint or lighting or tiles.

            What I do know is this move has given me a surprising infusion of energy. I’m slower than I used to be. I’m patient. But inside me perks a bubbling cauldron of new life.

            My friends eagerly await news of on-going progress. They “hold my hands” through the dips and troughs. I’m not alone. Lovely young neighbors watch out for me. Leo comes several days a week to help me with chores and gardening. For today, I don’t feel like I “need a wife”.

            Hummingbirds and gold finches gather nectar from grapefruit blossoms outside the window where I sit at my keyboard. Canaries nest near-by, perhaps in the Leticia draping over my brick wall, where I watch them flit in the morning sunshine. Often scent of orange blossoms nearly overwhelms me. I had my eye on the coffee bush in back but it is too late this year. Next year I’ll know how to recognize when the beans are ready to harvest.

            Excuse me, please. I need to pluck a couple avocados to make guacamole for dinner with Lani and Ariel, Jody and Theresa.

Sondra Ashton
HDN: Looking out my back door

March 24, 2016

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