Mychal Wilmes: Yesterday is a vivid part of today and tomorrow
Steve, a volunteer medical technician similar to many others who are so important in rural communities, reminded me how blessed our family is.
"I remember that we came out to your place a couple times,'' he said.
One run was made after Sam decided to use a chair as a tackling dummy. The second was a life-and-death emergency after a severe asthma attack. The volunteer crew rushed him to the hospital where an oxygen tent pumped life back into him. We are thankful beyond measure, and now that Sam and the two girls are adults, grateful that our family survived the normal tribulations involved in the journey from diapers to adulthood.
Steve's words led to questions from Sam about what he was like as a child. It's hard to recall specifics, other than to recall what seemed at the time an endless series of ear infections that led to tubes and asthma treatments morning and night, and a boy who, more often than not, smiled rather than complained.
Now that we are empty nesters, only keepsakes maintain permanent residence. Youngsters in ball uniforms, photographs of kids sitting on the lawn surrounded by yellow-headed dandelions and walks down the dead-end driveway reside beside a good-luck horseshoe. Small hands framed in plaster hang from the kitchen wall, and a scribbled "I love you" adorns a message board. A toy Ford tractor, yellow road grader and truck and baseball cards remain in what used to be Sam's bedroom. We emptied their rooms out; one bedroom became Kathy's official office and the other left mostly as it was. A grandson — he's pushing 7 already — means that some of what was thrown out has returned. Lincoln logs and other toys have returned as the relentless energy youth brings.
I'm sometimes asked and often volunteer to talk about those things that happened 50 years or so ago, growing up as the last child in a large farming family. What I remember most is the smell of fresh-baked bread in the kitchen, baseball games played with a stick bat and corn cobs and catching bullheads and suckers in the creek on hot summer days. The best things then — as they are even now — came free. At least, in a child's mind, they came at no cost. Sacrifice in the form of bread-baking and washing days, pencil-pushing to make ends meet, cultivating and grain harvesting labor intruded only briefly in our lives.
I got to know each cow by name and personality. The lead cow with the bell around her neck was the favorite. Dad insisted I know where each butternut tree was in the pasture and report how each was laden with nuts so we could fill gunny sacks come September. Mother asked much the same for the wild berries that grew deep in the pasture's woods. Gooseberry picking began in earnest in August, when it seemed the mosquito horde was its most angry. Patience — a commodity rare these days — was learned because it took what seemed like forever to fill an ice cream pail. Gooseberry pie and sauce seemed reward enough.
These were my barefoot days, when little else mattered.
Shoes would be needed when the Le Sueur County Fair came the second half of August. The fair trip was financed from the coins kept in the sugar bowl. There wasn't much there because the hens wilted in the heat, and the new birds weren't ready to produce just yet.
Summer's end came suddenly when Mother said it was time to go to town for shoe-shopping. School clothes — two pants and two shirts — would be made on the Singer sewing machine. The clothes might not have been the latest styles, but their durability was unrivaled.
It's funny how time slips away, yet yesterdays remain as important as the tomorrows that might come.