Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Breaking Ice

       
       Large animals drink a lot of water. On our place in Maryland it was not as evident, because we had a well. But here on the Abbey Farm there are two automatic horse waterers hooked up to city water, and a pond, each in different pastures. The more the horses can drink from the pond, the less the cost. We do rotate pastures though, and once or twice a winter the waterers need to be thawed, and it's a chore. So far this winter--so good; however, the pond recently froze over, the four horses were not easily moved, so I went out and broke a hole in the pond yesterday. It took throwing a very large rock down hard, repeatedly, to open a five foot by one foot trench. The horses came down and drank. I could only imagine the brain-freeze!




       They were happy and followed me back up the hill for hay. It was opening the bale that I realized I'd done something to my back. Something more, that is. It always hurts these days, but I must have pinched a disc. I hobbled to the pony barn and threw some hay out for them as well. I must have looked like the old Dowager Countess trying to throw the hay out the back of the barn, but our animals need us in the winter and I would not let them down. I think I'll invest in a chic, silver-topped cane, though.




       So now I sit with a homemade mocha (I added cardamom, a bit of cinnamon and vanilla--it's delicious!) and write. It is gorgeous outside. All of the children are back to school today and though the list of things that should be done is endless, I really can only sit and wait for my back to heal.

       Mary Pat's caseworker just called on the phone and told me that she looks on times like mine as mandates to rest. Sad as it is that we need to be sick or injured in order to take time, it reminds me that it is important to enjoy down-time when one can enjoy it the most. But I won't lament further. I'm secretly enjoying the day. And my time to write. It's been a long time since posting any of my Renata story. Here's the next chapter. Brew some coffee or heat up some chocolate to drink. And remember to try a pinch of cardamom!

Renata


Chapter 7
       It was Thursday and time to head home after a long day. Ernesto threw his things into the El Camino and climbed in. Starting the engine and radio, he turned his head just in time to see Claire drive off in a RAV4.
It fits her, he thought. Young, modern, athletic. He watched as she turned the opposite direction that he would to go home. She said she lived in Kansas City. Her eyes had sparkled as she talked about it. They’d met, just an hour before to begin their weekly dialogue about the progress of the parking addition. It was an easy conversation. Construction was on target, most everything was running smoothly.
Claire was holding a latte with both hands, the breeze in May still slightly chilly at times. Her long blond bangs purposefully tucked into a chestnut headband escaped and waved into her eyes as she squinted in the sun to look at the structure he was telling her about.
She was attentive and smart. Her questions indicated that she wasn’t just good at relating to people—important in a human relations position—but she knew more than the average person about construction. She was able to see ahead to possible traffic-flow problems and he felt energized by their conversation. 
The realization that he was attracted to her was not a surprise. She was cute, almost pretty. He was never one to put a lot into looks. Perhaps that was what it was. He realized that he was somewhat a snob to be surprised that both could co-exist so naturally. Claire was natural. He was a confident man, he knew himself and knew he had much to offer to a partner one day. But would this woman want those things?
Ernesto tuned in an oldies station, music he was quite familiar with because of his Dad’s tastes. As he pulled out of the city north onto I29, windows down, he joined Jim Kerr of Simple Minds in a loud and haunting, “Don’t_you…forget about me! Don’t, don’t, don’t, don’t...”
He smiled; the stresses of the day were picked up by the strong breeze, destroyed in the whirling about the car and carried powerless out through the windows.
Fifty miles later he pulled into the familiar gravel drive, the crunch of the tires kicking up stones completing his process of relaxation. As he walked up the path to the house he heard a familiar putt-putt of the two-cylinder tractor out back. He stopped at the front door to kick his boots and loosen them when the door swung open revealing his teenage sister, Helen.
“Hey! You’re home!” She reached down the front steps to give him a hug. "Granny needs some help with the tractor. I was going to head out, but could you now?”
Ernesto smiled, the thought crossing his mind of work never done, but he answered easily, “Sure, I’m just going to say hi to Mom and Dad and grab a drink or something. Would you tell her I’ll be out in a few minutes?”
“Ok!” Helen jumped down the steps to run around back where her grandmother lived in the old caretaker house. Her red curls bounced on her shoulders imitating her bright, energetic mood.
Ernesto took his boots off and placed them inside the front door before walking back to the kitchen. His Mom was there stirring something on the huge stove. He almost startled her with his hand on her back.
“Oh! Hey, Sweetie!” She leaned up to kiss his cheek. “How was your day?”
“Great! Thanks. What’re you making? It smells amazing.”
“Just stew--and it's not “Dinty Moore!”
Ernesto laughed. His Mom was long-irked by the fact that the younger ones loved the default meal of canned stew, bread and butter when she was unable to get a meal made some days. She usually reminded them when serving an authentic meal, just how much better it really was. The same preface was made before serving a homemade mac-and-cheese.
“I can’t wait, Mom. Is there time to help Granny? Helen said she needs me.”
“Of course. Say hi to your Dad first, he’s in the family room. Then tell Granny she and Bruce are welcome to dinner. There’s plenty.”
Ernesto headed back through the old butler’s pantry and down the hall to the family room. His father was watching a cooking show.
“Helping Mom by getting tips?”
Ben jerked around, away from a plate of cookies Linda baked earlier, and laughed. “Hi Son!” He held up the plate of cookies and Ernesto took one. “Well, yes, of course she needs all the help she can get.” He was sarcastic. Both knew Linda was an amazing cook, among so many other things. She turned down an engineering position with Black and Veech to marry her high school sweetheart and become a farmer’s wife. She’d graduated Suma Cum Laude from KU's Mechanical Engineering school, and in truth, managed the business end of the farm. Ben would forever thank the heavens for such a woman. The love of his adult life.
“Dad, the job’s going really well. It’s almost scary how well.” He looked at the cookie incredulously,  it was so delicious. He reached for a second.
“Ernesto, that’s great. You know well enough how uncommon it is not to have some glitches and setbacks. Enjoy it. I’m proud of you. Are the people working out well, then?”
“Sure. I got the typical looks at the start, whatever they were…he’s too young, or, he’s a Mexican. But I’ve gained respect.”
“I’m not surprised. About either.”
Ernesto thought to say something about Claire but decided against it.
“I’m going out back to help Granny with the tractor. Mom said to tell her about the stew, so maybe she and Bruce will be over for dinner.”
He walked out and Ben turned back to his show. He reached for a cookie but they were all gone. He stared at the plate for a few seconds, irritated, then softened. His gaze shifted up to the wall covered in framed photographs. From one to the next it was almost a history of his family. There were the toothless and toothy grade school photos, and the candid shots of family. He looked at one from when he was about twelve, the family picnicking at State Lake. Renata was facing the camera, smiling broadly. Ben noticed most of the family looking into the camera as well. His own young eyes, however, were focused on Renata. Ben smiled to himself, returning his gaze to the empty cookie plate. His thoughts were no longer about cookies, but of a time long ago.
***
1985
Renata awoke to hear the clattering of pans in her kitchen. She hurriedly dressed and opened her bedroom door to the smell of somewhat overcooked eggs.
“You’re making breakfast! You found things?”
Ben laughed, “Well, if you’ll call it breakfast. I wanted to surprise you—I’m so used to getting up early. I didn’t want to wake you.”
“I’m sorry. I should have been up before you. You are my guest.”
Ben insisted, “Please don’t think of me as a guest. We’re family, Renata. Right? I’m so grateful you’re letting me stay." 
She hugged him hard. "What should we do today?” 
He slid the eggs onto a plate and topped it with a piece of some kind of bread he’d found and sliced. There was nothing in the small refrigerator to drink, so he’d heated water in a pot. “Tea?”
“Oh,” Renata smiled, “Yes!”
“Uh, no, I mean, do you have any? I couldn’t find it. Or do you have instant coffee?”
Renata laughed. “I don’t know if I have tea! I do have coffee.” She opened a small cupboard, grabbed a jar of coffee granules and handed it to him. “It’s probaby not what you expect... NesCafe!”
Ben took it happily, “It’s great.”
They had quite a morning. After Ben’s breakfast they got into Renata’s tiny old car and she drove out of town to show him a relative’s farm. The ag' major in him loved it. He’d never travelled so far, and the sights of the countryside enthralled him. At a time when the U.S. considered its farming practices the most advanced, he was amazed to see the culturally unique methods that still worked for less developed countries. 

The week flew by, each day’s activities alternately relaxing and exciting. A few nights they went out dancing and Renata taught him how to salsa. He felt more and more comfortable with her as he acclimated to relating to her as an adult. The little boy inside of him was still in love, but the young man knew it could never work. Too many years, too many miles. Still, his love grew. 

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