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I wrote this poem to introduce a memory written by Angela Jackson, an author, a speaker and a member of our Mazatlan Writer’s Group!
Wish on a star
Laugh til you cry
Fly a paper airplane
Listen to the sea in a shell
Make an angel in the snow
Hold wonder in your hands
For trapped in the long shadow of“grown-up”
Is a child waiting to come out and play
Angela Jackson shares her moment of magic as written in her soon to be published book, All That Glitters. Take time!
In 1955 my mother took a summer job as cook at a ranch in the Eastern Townships. She got the job through a friend of a friend and though she had never cooked professionally, her home baked desserts and mouthwatering tender roasts won everyone over.
She found a place nearby for my younger brother Tommy and me to board, and brought us there for the summer. What freedom. What joy! We yelped around the front yard like puppies and played in a dilapidated barn with no animals but plenty of hay to foster our imagination.
I loosened yards of flaxen twine which was used to latch square bales of hay, then combed the twine and bobby pinned strands of it onto my own short bob, pretending I was doyenne of the barn.
“I’m Mary and you’re John.” I said to five year old Thomas “I’m the boss so you have to do what I say. Take this broom and clean out the stalls, then put hay down for the horses, then rake the paths outside. Get a move on before I tan your hide.” I said, echoing commands I’d had to obey.
For a week he did everything I told him in our pretend world. Then one day he came running at me with a present.
“Look what I have Mary.” He held the tail of a dead rat. I screamed and ran as fast as I could toward the house. Realizing he had an advantage, he chased after me, swinging the rat in the air and that was the end of John and Mary.
We spent six weeks at the farm together, jumping off rocks and swimming at the local waterhole, eating delicious French Canadian food prepared by the missus of the house who hardly spoke English and therefore could not tell us what to do. We didn’t understand French, so we were free to roam at will.
Saturday evenings, our hosts, the Fourniers, had visitors drop in, so out came the spoons and pans and violins and accordions. Out came the clapping of hands and foot stomping music that wafted upstairs to where we sat bug eyed and entranced, hunched over the grate, watching grownups dance and drink and sing in French below.
Fascinated by their Cajun rhythms, we drummed on the floor and stuffed ourselves with bright red cherries our mother had left until we were doubled over with pain and had to throw up in the pee pot and crawl into bed.
Mom came to visit every Sunday and brought us treats. Her Lazy daisy coconut honeyed cake was our favorite and often she would join us at the swimming hole where we thrashed in the water and showed off. Once she borrowed a van that had Lo Bar Ranch stenciled in bright blue letters along both sides.
“Get in you two; we’re going to ranch for the day.” She exclaimed, her eyes glinting with excitement.
We lingered in a real barn with horses that snorted. We patted mewing kittens and cavorting dogs. We held piglets and fed rabbits and felt indescribable joy at being there with our mom who seemed happy for the first time in years.
I thought summer would never end, that mom would stay at the ranch as cook and we would live with the Fourniers and go to a local school to learn French. In late August we befriended four little kids who lived down the road who, although they could not speak English, communicated with us in made up sign language.
One day,I decided we kids would fly from the top beam of the old barn; if Peter Pan and Wendy could do it, why not us?I don’t know why flying appealed so much to me, but I really believed we could do it if we just got up high enough. Somehow, I convinced the other kids to climb up the rickety ladder and line up on the top beam. There we were, six little kids standing in a row on the highest beam, too scared to look down at the hay way below.
“Un,deux,trois.” I called. Nobody moved. They all stood there, looking at me. Then I understood: it was my idea,so I was supposed to go first! Yikes! That was not what I had in mind. I was terrified of heights and thought we’d go together. Maybe this was not such a good idea after all, but what was I to do? I couldn’t lose face, couldn’t show my fear. So, with pounding heart, I raised both arms, perched on my toes, and took a step off the beam. For a second there was pure bliss as I soared through shafts of yellow light before crash landing in a painful heap on the hay below.
“My arm.” I writhed, dangling the broken limb.
“Pay no attention, she’s always joking.” Thomas laughed, but soon realized I was not, so he climbed down the ladder and ran for the Fourniers.
A country doctor was summoned, a craggy white haired old man, who examined my elbow, shook his head, and made a cast.
“Mademoiselle, you are one lucky girl. You could have broken your neck.” He wagged his finger at me as I sat shamefaced in the kitchen.
The Fourniers were chastened by the event and figured they better get rid of us before anything worse occurred, so my mother packed us up and we all returned to the city. Thomas to the foster home he hated, my mom to a new job, and me to her apartment for the final weeks of summer.
I was angry that I’d messed everything up and had to stay in the apartment by myself with my arm in a stiff cast. When it was removed, the elbow didn’t bend properly and my arm wouldn’t lower. Physical therapy was prescribed which meant I had to lug a bucket of water back and forth, up and down the apartment hall every day to try and ease the arm down, a routine I followed for two weeks, then, in a fit of pain and frustration, refused to continue.
My left arm was quite a bit lower, but still a good three inches shorter than the right. Though I’d screwed up our summer and my arm was the souvenir, I considered that time to be one of the best I ever had. Thomas and I never lived together again so that time was doubly precious.
Now I sat on the pine rocker and smiled at the memory, then grew sad.
Our time on Pine Island was rapidly coming to an end. Would it be the end of my time with Jesse as well?
Check out Angela’s website for news of her books and
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