I grew up in the 1950s and 1960s about halfway between Hutchinson and Nickerson, Kansas, in a half Cape Cod house built by two brothers in 1929 for their country home. The brothers, lifelong bachelors, had carved out five acres of farmland to go with the house. We – Mother, Daddy, two older sisters, me, and our younger brother – were surrounded on all sides by fields, mostly grain crops, dotted with the occasional barn, outbuilding, livestock operation, and prairie gothic farmhouse. Our neighbors – farmers on tractors – in turn plowed, disced, springtoothed, planted, fertilized, harvested, and burned stubble, season after season, year after year.
A dirt road went by our house, and our address was RFD 3, just like the families living around us for miles and miles. Mail was delivered according to the name painted on your mailbox.
Daddy had a white-collar job in town, and Mother worked at home. She wanted our house to look like a house in a magazine about beautiful houses, and it did.
When I was in my late twenties I told a social worker that my childhood had been pure bliss, and in a way that was true. For one thing, as a child I loved dirt. I would lie on my back in a plowed field, dust billowing all around me, and I would gaze at the sky and be moved to tears, it was so beautiful and everything smelled so good, and the dirt on the backs of my arms and legs felt pillowy and real in a way that made me believe I would live forever. We kids raised fat lambs and chickens for 4-H projects. Mother always planted a big garden, and in the July and August heat we canned green beans and made sweet bread-and-butter pickles and spicy-sweet lime pickles. Mother had strawberry and asparagus beds. I remember the year she made ketchup, which none of us would eat, and apple butter, which I used to sneak out of the jar using my index finger. (The same with unsweetened Kool-Aid powder. It seemed as if my pointer finger was always purple.) Continue reading “Betwixt and Between by Elizabeth Hardinger”