My plane is airborne, headed south.
Memories march in and out of my mind–
like dogface soldiers.
I’d said goodbye to Mama, then Daddy,
who bent to hug my three year old son
not very long ago.
Emotion struck Daddy like blows.
He straightened, then turned too late
to hide moist eyes. His blue eyes had
laughed when I was my son’s age.
Youth disappears like the dandelion fuzz
on the face of the wind.
Adams Field is windy . . . but the
planes’ wheels touch the runway
in a smooth landing.
“No, son, Papa’s not here . . .
to meet us.”
Uncle Jim’s brown pickup needs washing.
“Your mama’s taking it bad, ” he tells me.
“Is the wake at the house?” I ask.
He nods. “Like your daddy wanted.”
At the doorway, someone takes my
little boy by the hand.
“The casket’s gray. I never saw Daddy
in a coat and tie before. He’s so cold-looking.
Her warm arms engulf me.
© 2017 Freeda Baker Nichols
As a child, growing up on Banner Mountain, I began writing poetry and continued writing it in high school. I loved reading poetry and hearing my teachers discuss poets and their work. Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would become a poet. And I certainly never thought that one day I would spend a night at the same Inn by the Sea where Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) had visited, where he had been inspired to write some of his masterpieces.
I visited this romantic place and stayed at this unique Emerson Inn by the Sea with my husband and part of our family a few years ago when we returned to New England to show our children where we had lived. My husband was stationed at Pease Air Force Base, Portsmouth, New Hampshire for three years. We lived in Kittery, Maine when our third child was born. What a treasure to revisit New England, see old friends, begin a new poem, and to set foot on the rocky coast where Emerson once found inspiration to write!
© Freeda Baker Nichols
Wild violets grew in the woodlands surrounding my homeplace at Banner Mountain.
Thinking of the wild violets, I remember how we children played a game using the flowers. We picked some of the violets and when we hooked two blooms together and pulled on each stem, one of the blooms snapped off its stem. We called them rooster flowers and that was a pretend rooster fight. Always a winner in that game.
Just as sure as real roosters, hens and bantam chickens were a part of our life at the homeplace, the rooster flowers were a part of our springtime. How beautiful the little blue-violet flowers were. I saw the violets and other lovely wild flowers every day when I was a child. They appeared early in spring, like magic.
I still recall the day my brother, Billy, brought home a little bantam rooster. Billy set him down in the barnyard. And right away a big rooster ran over to the little rooster and began a fight. Bill picked up a chip of wood and threw it at the big rooster. The chip of wood struck the big rooster and he fell over dead! What now? That was Mama’s big, old rooster. Oh, no! I witnessed the entire event. Looking back, it was the only way that Billy could save his little bantam. The only way. Even though I saw it all, I was never called in to testify as to what had happened to Mama’s rooster.
And now, after all these years, I don’t remember what happened to the bantam rooster either. Did he grow old and die a natural death? I guess that’s not important. Perhaps my brother remembers. Sometimes a writer’s memory is called to a task of embellishing certain experiences. But not this experience. I can tell you that the chip of wood buzzed as it whizzed toward that bullying rooster! Billy really didn’t mean to kill the big ,old rooster; he only meant to protect the little one.
© Freeda Baker Nichols
TEN CHOICES Mystery Birds
The Tomato Hole was a pool of water in a little branch that ran through our pasture and across the road a short distance from our house. The water was deep enough for us kids to swim. This swimming hole got its name from the tomato patch our dad planted each spring. While I never thought about it when I was small, we had our very own swimming pool right there at Banner Mountain. Surrounded by nature. Along with tomatoes growing nearby, delicious Muscadines hung on vines on the banks of the branch. Pines and cedars, oaks, wild cherry trees, and maples made up the forest. Privet bushes shaped like umbrellas popped up everywhere. When in bloom they were covered in tiny flowers.
Not only did we swim, we also caught “crawdads”. Frog eggs and tadpoles were abundant and exciting to find. And we loved playing with frogs.
My cousin and I once thought my younger sister was about to drown when she was trying to get away from a snake. She tried climbing up the bank and kept sliding back into the water. We reached for her hands and helped her up the bank. Heroically, we “saved” her. I don’t remember if we told our parents, and if we didn’t, it might have been because we feared they’d forbid us to ever swim again at the Tomato Hole. And that would have been a tragic end to a magical part of our childhood. For sure!
© Copyright, Freeda Baker Nichols