Friday, January 9, 2009

Just for a Moment, Betty is Back On the Wagon

It's coming, people. I hope you've been able to fully prepare for Year of Grains as I am publishing the first recipe for our year-long celebration tomorrow. Are the pans out? Do you have that apron on? Could you at least run a brush through that hair of yours? Is that too much to ask?

Tomorrow's recipe will be a salute to Wheat. Betty grew up in Kansas on a farm that had acres and acres of wheat. Most of our neighbors had it as well so we were treated to quite the show from nature as it turned golden in the fields, and waved at us as we passed by. We were forbidden from running in the fields near harvest. Ah, but the temptation to run down the row with both hands out, the stalks passing by our fingers! I must confess, I gave into the temptation from time to time. Then in the middle of the field, I'd stop and just listen the the sounds of the golden cicada-like conversation all around me as the heavy heads of wheat brushed against each other, sharing their secrets.

After harvest, my dad would save some of the grain for seed for the next year's crop and bring it in from the field with the tractor in a large, narrow wagon. Normally, we were discouraged from playing in that precious wheat, but I have a vivid memory of one year when I was probably six years old or so. My father was on one side the wagon and my mother was on the other. For some reason they allowed me to climb in and bury myself in that bed of grain, pulling the gold kernels all around me. This was sheer ecstasy! I lay down and wiggled about until I was nearly buried. I could hear the kernels dancing about in my ears, singing in their own Morse code to me, once again whispering their golden stories as they settled in and about my ears. I looked up in that wide expanse of blue Kansas sky, listening to the muted voices of my parents above me. Whereas so often their speech was tense, spiked with anxiety about money, the harvest had been good, offering them hope and they stood, speaking to each other soft, genial voices. At that moment, I was rich beyond belief there in that wagon, lolling about in my treasure, my parents on either side of me, their voices arching above me in muted, happy tones, both of them optimistic about the future, if only for awhile.

Today I go to the health food store and get my wheat berries from the plastic tube dispenser in the bulk food section. I carry out that little plastic bag and can't help about childhood. One day you are surrounded by it, buried in it, feeling its richness, listening to its secrets. The years pass and one day you realize that the fields of grains no longer wave at you as you pass by. They just stand, mute and aloof. You are not privy to the conversation any longer. No longer are you surrounded by the richness of possibility, and those voices above you have faded or are gone altogether. You hang on tight to those meager bags of memories you do have, but with the knowledge that even those are perishable as the years pass.

Ah, Betty gets uncharacteristically misty-eyed here, but tomorrow it's all business once again. We head to the kitchen and the kitchen is no place for the misty-eyed, lest you confuse your finger with that bunch of carrots you are chopping with your super-sharp Komachi and draw back a nub. We don't want that now, do we? Blood stains are so hard to remove from clothing.

Thanks for reading, my faithful ones. Betty adores you.


Susan said...

Wow, your memory of being buried in that wheat, listening to your parents' voices reminds me of my favorite passages of My Antonia-- beautiful!

Bossy Betty said...

Is it the pumpkin scene? I love that.