Monday, November 07, 2011

All Saints Eve Stories Told Very Late

A friend came over the other day to hang out with E and talk about design and engineering problems that haunt the world and must be solved. Since they are both so inclined to be frustrated with how things—actual things, as in machines—work, and since they are both the type who will spend many hours of unpaid work attempting to solve these problems, they spend a lot of time talking about such things. (Another friend teases my husband with the snack packets one can purchase on long airplane flights: "Why is the cracker a hexagon and the cheese a rectangle? They don't match. How hard is it to make rectangular crackers that fit the cheese? C'mon people.")

Between the solving of one problem and another, E and T took Indiana for a walk. I met them in the front yard when they returned.

Indiana sprawled across E's feet as we talked. Little orange oragami-winged moths flitted over the lantana on the north side of the property.

T pointed to the moths. Then he told me a story.
When I was a kid, we had a whole hedge of lantana across the yard. My brother and I figured out that, if we were gentle and grasped the body carefully, we could catch the orange moths. And because I was curious, I tried placing one of the moths on my tongue. Attracted by the moisture, it stayed there. So I caught more and placed one after the other on my tongue. I closed my mouth.

I found my mom in the kitchen and pulled on her sleeve until she turned around to look at me. I looked at her and yelled, mouth open wide, "MOOOOOOOOOTHS!" As I yelled, they all flew out of my mouth.
He didn't use these words, but I will. He scared the shit out of her.

This year, I tried an experiment. In August, when I started my broccolis, kales, and cabbages from seed in six-pack containers, I also started my rutabagas. In the past, I had always direct seeded rutabagas at the same time I planted out my other brassicas in early October. I would get a good crop, but with the short days of winter, I wouldn't have that crop until early spring. Spring is not when I want rutabagas: deep winter is when I want rutabagas. So far, my new strategy seems to be working. The largest of my rutabagas are already well-swollen and poking their bellies above the soil.

I've read that the first jack-o-lanterns were large, hollowed out turnips and rutabagas. My rutabagas may be growing well, but they're nowhere near jack-o-lantern dimensions yet.

Our first Halloween in Minnesota, it snowed so heavily that our school shut down and sent us home early. I hunkered down in the warm house for the evening, but snow could not hold my brother back. That year, he wore one of my father's old flight suits, a flight helmet, and he tied one of his stunt kites on his back to give himself wings. He strapped on cross-country skis, and took off to trick-or-treat. Needless to say, on a snowy, empty Halloween evening, my brother the determined flying skier, earned his weight in candy.


Robert Brenchley said...

You're quite right about people making lanterns out of swedes (can't get used to 'rutabaga', it's a right mouthful). They're a traditional European crop, pumpkins aren't.

Anonymous said...

I love the engineer mind -- everything is so orderly in there, you can just picture all the thoughts and ideas filed tidily and alphabetically and according to size and date. There is a pattern for everything, whether the universe agrees or not.

Jennifer said...

Your writing makes me happy. And sitting in this tiny hospital sofa, next to my tiny boy in his tiny hospital bed managing his man-sized pain, that is no small feat. Thank you.

Christina said...

Hi Robert: I can imagine the little swede lanterns glowing. They must look beautiful, golden and warm.

AH: It is a mixed blessing I tell you. Sometimes, I wish he could have the opportunity to turn it off occasionally, just for his own peace.

Jennifer: You and yours are in my prayers. I admire you.

the good soup said...

Do you ever plant Jack-o-Lantern pumpkins? I've seen them on my heritage seed list but haven't tried them yet. Or is this a very Australian question of mine with too obvious an answer?

Christina said...

TGS: That isn't a silly question. In the US, there are lots and lots of varieties that could qualify as "Jack-o-lantern" pumpkins. Anything orange, always a C. pepo, and usually not very yummy to eat . . . I haven't grown my own pumpkins to use as jack-o-lanterns because I am more interested in eating what I grow. However, I am certainly not above buying a carver from down the street each October.