The dogs, the rabbits and the cats are all draped around the furniture napping. (Except the rabbits, who are actually snugged away in their secret corner and I have no idea what it looks like back there because I respect the privacy of their hutch-space. No doubt when we build their outdoor hutch and I clear out that back corner I shall be appalled.)
In the kitchen below me there's citrus peel gently simmering for a batch of mixed citrus marmalade. The warm summery smell is coming up to me between the floor boards.
One of the things I love best about this loft is the floor.
The Manimal built this house twenty-some years ago and slapped a quick "temporary" coat of protective paint on the upstairs floors. Somehow "proper" flooring never got to the top of the priority list or fit into the household budget. No carpet, no linoleum, no tile or parquet flooring. None of the things he and his then-wife dreamed of doing. All we have up here in my big room that was once the two family bedrooms is the long boards original to the build. They have a 20 year old coat of paint on them, plus everything that has happened up here floor-wise in two decades, so they look like this:
|Two different colors of paint and the jucture where the common wall and the doorway between the rooms used to be.|
Having grown up in the hippie era The Manimal is both allergic to formal clothing and quite fond of patches, so I don't have to try to find matching bits of cloth or exact matches of thread for the hundred grey tones the fabric devolves into with time. In fact his color preference for patches is "the more the merrier, but no pink."
This is a pleasant thing for me as I was raised by a large matriarchal tribe of stitching women, and nothing pleases me more than a bit of freespirited darning and patchworking.
I do not remember ever visiting any of my aunties houses without there being some bit of sewing going on, whether it was pillowcases being embroidered for a church bazaar or a wedding present (it was always His and Hers in those days), a dress being made, a blouse yoke being crocheted or a pair of dungarees being mended. At Mamaw's house most often it was a quilt top being patchworked or appliqued or else the quilt frame was up and a half dozen women were gathered for a quilting bee.
This matriarchy of my grandmothers, mother, aunties and adult cousins were mostly married with children. They loved their menfolk dearly, but it was quite clear to me that the men were not the center of anyone's existence. Despite the theoretical patriarchal structure of our churches the women and men lived in separate but slightly overlapping worlds, and regardless of physical geography the women's realm was the larger one. As a child and most especially a girl child, I was part of the women's world.
Men allegedly ran the world in those days I am told, but they weren't running the world I lived in. There were Big Men In Washington who did something or other. Men In Town did important things too, although important is a very subjective term and cousin Charlie the candy-maker in town had a far more elevated place in my child mind than the mayor, the president of the country or the bishop of the church.
My uncles and grown-men cousins were variously sailors and truck drivers who were at home sometimes but often gone. My Papaw was retired from the coal mines and was usually outside, tending the garden and orchard, building things, teaching my brother and boy cousins.
Papaw had built the house itself a long time ago, and added on rooms as the children were born. One by one as his daughters married he built houses for them on his land. I beleive there was not one level floor in any of the houses. They did however have charm.
The whole unpaved road in front of Mamaw's house led uphill past aunties' houses straight to my cousin Pattycake, who aside from flaming red hair and an adventurous spirit had the added virtue of being my age.
By 'my age' I mean just younger than me.
The cousins older than me were sort of lumped together in a groups, as we'd all managed to be born in something almost like litters. When I was four or so there was a batch of cousins all grown up and moved to town or further, several more of high school age, a handful of not yet teens and a handful of gradeschoolers. Since there was a 4 year gap between me and my brother I qualified as "little". Those my brother's age saw me primarily as a little pest to be avoided. Being OLDER is a big deal in childhood, although not for any good reason that I could see. My parents were both the youngest children of large families, so as their baby I was forever destined to be one of "the little cousins".
There were three of us, all girls. Me-the Chatterbox with my lank sandy dishwater hair, Pattycake who was named after my red-haired mama, and Merrycat with her thick dark tresses who was the youngest (I think) and also very much the prettiest. We three were the end of the cousin line. Younger than us there would be no more first cousins, only second and third cousins, which is something else indeed. You could marry second and third cousins, although I could not see why anyone would want to.
(Let us take a moment here to ponder the myseries of genetics. My mother was a redhead as were two of her older sisters. The rest of her sisters and all her brothers had black hair. My father's hair was black, like most of his siblings, one of his sisters was a redhead, all his nieces and nephews had black hair.
My brother and I, with our ash-blonde hair looked suspiciously like we'd been heisted from a passing baby carriage. Why did we not get red hair or black? I have no explanation for this. Life is a mystery. My black-haired father had been born white-blonde but as he grew his hair slowly darkened. I waited hopefully for years for my hair to darken to glossy black like his. I am still waiting.)
My Uncle Dick had a garage across the lane from Mamaw and Papaw's house where he fixed big trucks. He would stop in to see if Mamaw needed anything, so he was the most present and most 'real' of my uncles.
Daddy was the glass tank specialist in town, where they made liquid glass from sand then poured it out and cooled it and cut it into windows. He liked to tell stories to us children, and when he was with us at Mamaw's house cousins would pile on the couch around him to listen to the stories he made up about us. They were impromptu serial stories, our favorite themes being The Deep Dark Jungle, Homesteading in Alaska, Meanwhile Back on the Ranch, and Outer Space. The cast of characters would be whichever of the cousins were present for the telling, and the themes overlapped so that Pattycake might be landing her spaceship to visit Merrycat and Chatterbox on their ranch, and she would bring strange and delicious exotic foods from far off worlds.
It occurs to me that the one thing all the men of my family had in common was an extraordinary fondness for children. As young couples they double-dated with their young wives and brought their babies along just to add to the fun. Truly, what could be more fun than taking the whole extended family to the Frost-Top for hot dogs and root beer? What could make the evening memorable more than a slightly feverish baby projectile hurling up his rootbeer in an arc across all those lucky enough to be sitting in the back seat with him?
In our era parents did not waft about throwing out "I Love You"s like they do now, but they were present and attentive parents, happy to have us about, pleased to teach us about life, and we knew without a doubt that we were loved. There were no "career oriented" adults in my family. I don't remember even hearing the term. People we knew did not work to prove they were special, or to be wealthy, or to change the world. They worked to make a living so that they could have a home and children and grandchildren. Family was the point of life, and what we little cousins wanted from life was to grow up and have more family.
In this day and age I suppose that sounds really odd. Back then it just sounded happy and fun.
Somewhere in my addled little brain I think I thought my life would be much like Mamaw's. I'd have a house full of children, and they would have lots of babies. They would all live around me, and we'd visit back and forth and have huge Sunday dinners together. As it happened I got four dandy offspring (one ash blonde like me and three redheads if you're wondering) and 75% of them live far away. The Manimal and I get periodic visits from my Oldest child, who lives closest and has 1.3 children,.
We have occasional visits from my others, Middle Child in particular can be counted on to stop by as she and her Honeylamb move back and forth across the country. We love these visits. The Manimal's three bachelor sons stop in now and then, usually unexpectedly and on the fly. They are busy conquering the world. Our home is not (not yet?) the scene of huge family dinners as we have not (yet?) a huge family.