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Spring, yes another year's growth of wildflowers and trees re-dressing themselves for Summer's shade. Honeysuckle vines growing everywhere, pushing their way into and around everything it can find to support it's weight. The first of many lawn cuttings, and the excitement of the first opening of the rose's buds. The planting of fresh garden vegetables, for dinner plate delights.

With Spring comes the renewal of all things, outside and inside. Spring cleaning has become a ritual with many of us. Our homes, our garages, utility sheds, flower beds, garden spots, dusty and wished we could forget them attics, basements, and some places that we just cannot, must not let ourselves forget, memories.

Today is the day. I arose to the sunshine forcing its way through the window above my bed, and stumbled down the hallway to the waiting hot coffee pot. I reached and took a cup from the shelf and filled it, while the aroma danced through my nostrils. It was a wonderful smell, and I mixed it with the fresh air as I began to throw open the windows to let in the morning breeze, and the songs of robins and sparrows. It was as though each of them greeted me by name. So I joined them out on the porch. Not one of them offered to fly away, for it was as though I belonged. I posed no threat to their daily routines, and they posed none to mine.

The fields were filled with grasses brightly green, with a mixture of orange paint brushes and dabbed with the vibrant treasures of Texas bluebonnets. The neighborhood squirrels were vying for their right to the many placed feeders, while the crow called all to take notice of his appearance. The cracking of dead limbs, shattered the moment beneath the body weight of the Longhorns, rustling through the brush. A mama bellowing out for her baby's whereabouts, and the bull pausing to look around at his quite impressive herd, but then returning to the choice tender sprouts he had been previously enjoying.

A movement of something closer caught my eye, as a small multicolored lizard moved into the sunshine, careful not to catch the robin's attention. I could almost hear him exhale and relax as he stretched his tiny body. I knew how he felt, for I too needed the warmth of the season to embrace me tightly. And it did. The cup I was holding was empty now, and I knew that was my cue to start my day's activities.

I'd begin with preparing breakfast and a few minutes of worldly news, the straightening of the kitchen I'd just dirtied, and then I would be off and running 'til at least dark thirty. All winter long I had promised myself the guest room closet would be my first priority. I took
a deep and exhilarating breath, opened the door and stepped inside, simultaneously flipping on the light, which for me was never bright enough, but it did serve the intended purpose.

There in thick deep piles were the household blankets, that were so thick and heavy they'd fit in no other chest or drawer. Clothes that either no longer fit anyone, or were just out of season, hung from their hangers as though they'd been forgotten. Tidbits of this and that, boxes, some empty others not so empty but filled with who knows what and why. Most of it belonged either in the garage or the utility shed, but for some unknown reason never made it that far. Maybe it had been
raining, or maybe not, but regardless, it was here and not there, so it was mine to deal with now.

It wouldn't be long before just outside the door, there were several piles beginning to explode from the floor. One pile of things to keep, another of things to get rid of, another for charity, and another for the keeping but definite relocation to various other places throughout the homestead.

I began to scold myself quite harshly for the abuse, and the neglectfulness I'd pushed on this space, and making solemn vows not to let it happen again, but I knew this time next year I'd be right back in this same cubbyhole to start over again, after all, I had been here year after year ever since I could remember. It was a ritual, and a family joke, that I could be found this time of the year, sitting on the closet floors talking to myself. Every family member knew better than to drop in for a visit, for if they did, they'd be coaxed into taking a load to the different charity organizations for me. One would think I had a red mark of death over my doorway, the way they seemed to just pass me by. They would call once in a while to make sure nothing had fallen and hurt me, or that I hadn't fallen and hurt myself, but that was as close as they dared, and they knew it. It didn't bother me though, for just as a secret between myself and myself, I rather enjoyed the time alone. I done a lot of thinking in this stale-aired closet, and it was a time that I could clean out my own mind as well.

I'd made progress in a very short time span, as I stood to realize the floor was almost vacant now, with only a very few things left. I reached and harvested several buttons, a couple of old Christmas bows flattened although they were never used on a package, two or three empty hangers, and an unfinished craft project I'd lost interest in, and tucked away for another time. It all went in the garbage bag that was now filled to the top and ready for the waiting dumpster.

Besides, it was tea time. No, not the English tea time, but iced tea time. You see, down here in the south, our tea time is almost every and any moment of the day or night. It is just...whenever. Whenever the thought strikes us, and it's not a seasonal thing either. Every season is open season for a large glass of sweetened iced tea. Brewed not boiled, and not that sun made stuff either. We're just as likely to prepare it in an old gallon pickle jar, as a store bought beverage picture, and we'll drink it from a quart canning jar as well. You see? We don't need a handle, we were raised drinking from them, and there were more of them in our cabinets than real glasses. Well that is until garden harvest time came around, after that the jars were filled with vegetables and jellies and chow-chow, green beans and new potatoes, homemade picante sauce, some hot some mild, but all was delicious.

My favorite meals as a child, and today too, was nothing but a mixture of freshly prepared vegetables straight that day from the garden, and hot buttered buttermilk biscuits with a heaping spoonful of one of Mama's jellies. Life just doesn't get better than that.

The man of the house was reclined in his chair when I found my way out of the room. He looked at me in his usual this time of year sulking manner. He had an anxious aura about him as well. He knew that the bag I was carrying was very likely to contain some of his favorite treasures. He also knew that while I was busy later and back behind those closed doors, that he would amble on out to take a look-see into that bag and rescue any and all of his prize possessions.

If I didn't know what it was or what it was for, it certainly had to be garbage. Well in my mind anyway, but to him it was something he just couldn't live without! I've thrown away the same t-shirt every year, and every year it finds its way back into his bedside drawer. My only question is, if it's so comfortable, how come I never see him in it?

I took the walk down to the end of the drive, and just as I opened the top of the waste can, I heard the honking of a passing car. I threw my hand up for acknowledgment, and turned about and headed back from where I'd came.

I stopped and took notice of the abundance of wild plums this year. There seemed to be literally thousands and thousands of the tart and tiny fruits, and just the thought made my mouth water in excitement. God was being generous, and we had learned to give thanks for these precious and tasty gifts. Suddenly I remembered the cherry tree, I spent so much time in as child, picking it's fruits all afternoon and finally going home with a belly ache. Mother didn't have to ask why I was ill, she already knew just by the dark stains around and in my mouth, and my hands were the same color.

She never hesitated to pull that thick pink liquid  cure-all from the bathroom cabinet and distribute a hearty dose. I don't know if it really helped, or it was all that time in the bathroom the rest of the day that actually relieved me, but either way, by the next afternoon I was back in the top of that tree.

My momentary memory session was altered when I caught movement out of the corner of my eye, to notice a rather nervous rabbit, wandering about the edge of the bushes. A new mother, no doubt, almost as though she were standing guard, over her newborns, and I didn't feel the need to cause her any alarm so I hurried my steps further away. She needed her space free to roam and fill her hunger, and besides, I had chores awaiting my attention.

I pulled two quart jars from the kitchen cabinet and filled them with ice and tea, took a soothing first drink as I set the other down on the coaster at my hubby's table side. I offered no conversation, and returned to my chores at hand.

Only seconds had passed by when I heard the screen door shutting quietly and I simply grinned. I knew he was on his way to dig around in what I considered to be trash. I find it odd actually that men and women have such different ideas of what is really important things to keep. I just can't imagine why one would need to keep objects, that just lay around day after day, year after year, with the idea that some day one will find a use for them. I just wonder if he 'really' knows what it is and what it is for, or if he just wants me to think he does?

Only four hours into this, and the floor is already repaired and I'm ready now to start on the over-head shelf. Now everyone knows that the floor is for the big things and the shelf is for the special things. Stuff. Stuff as in loose change banks, and boxes of childhood photos, family photo albums, elementary school projects, (your Mother just couldn't throw away, so why should you?) middle school awards, and playday ribbons, yours and his, and then, you run across the all time box of memories. This is the box that contains items that you only plunge into, when you are up for a good cry.

I say that because not once in your adult life have you ever opened it that before it was closed again, that you weren't wiping tears and trying to swallow that large lump in your throat. We always put crying in the category with being sad, but that just isn't so. I think tears are a needed refreshment from time to time, to Spring clean the soul. They are sweet, like that iced tea, I was describing earlier. They are tart and tangy, as were the wild plums, and they excite and tingle the memories you've let gather dust for so long.

In the seconds it takes for your mind to signal your hand to reach and remove it from it's resting place, to the exact moment it makes contact, you can relate so well to the nervous Mother rabbit, you had spotted by the bushes. There is that something in you, that wants to protect, but at the same time, you know you want to fill your hunger, before moving on.

I knew that I needed that nourishment. That whole grain fiber to keep me on schedule until the next Spring cleaning. Not only was my stomach beginning to growl and moan, but it was dark-thirty and and the sun was
beginning it's routine setting, and that was something I just didn't miss if at all possible. So I retrieved that quart jar from the bed-side and refilled it, and headed out to the porch from where this day started, to enjoy another one of nature's own miracles.

No, I wasn't through with my Spring cleaning ritual, but I now had the vitamins and the energy it would take to finish the seasonal chore.


By Lisa Hilbers









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