July-August 2019 Mary Alice Hostetter

Yearnings – Mary Alice Hostetter – Essay | Hippocampus Magazine

The farm where I grew up in Pennsylvania stood on prime of a hill overlooking the city of Gap. Who knows what the population may need been. 100? A thousand? Perhaps more. I used to be 11 years previous, and it was exhausting sufficient for me to maintain monitor of how many people lived beneath the roof of our farmhouse as older brothers and sisters moved away and on to careers and households of their own. 5 older siblings have been already gone. My older sister nonetheless slept at house, but she was gone most of the time, working, typically late into the night time, at Dutch Haven, the place she was a waitress and baked shoo fly pies. That summer time, when you counted my mother and father and older sister, nine of us nonetheless lived at residence.

Hole had three streets I keep in mind — Bellevue, Pequea, and Chestnut — however it didn’t really matter. They weren’t our streets. It was the closest town, not likely ours. The guts of the city, the enterprise district if it had one, consisted of the bank, submit office, and ironmongery shop, with the firehouse down the hill.

An important road to us was Jesse’s again lane, a farm lane operating alongside the edge of a neighbor’s fields. It was probably the most direct path to stroll to high school, to the bookmobile that got here and parked by the town clock each two weeks in summer time, and to Lawrence’s Retailer, our major connection to city. We youthful youngsters all needed the chore of strolling down Jesse’s again lane to Lawrence’s to select up one thing for Mom—root beer extract, yeast or junket tablets to make ice cream, some small factor straightforward for a kid to hold on the mile-long walk.

Our lives, especially in the summer, have been principally restricted to the farm, and, in fact, something occurring at the Mennonite Church we attended. Some summers we took a in the future trip to the Philadelphia Zoo. After morning milking was completed, we’d pack a lunch and set off for Philadelphia. We might typically cease at a churchyard on the best way to eat our picnic; typically we had it on the zoo. For a deal with in the afternoon, all of us acquired to purchase Cracker Jacks. The surprises in the box have been by no means as exciting as the anticipation of them—miniature books, plastic whistle rings that scarcely made a sound, miniature magnifying glasses. It wasn’t a lot what it was because the shock of it. We watched the monkeys play on “Monkey Island,” the lions and tigers pacing forwards and backwards on the recent filth outdoors their cages. Within the heat, every thing smelled slightly like the barnyard back on the farm, however totally different. My older brothers stayed house to start out the evening milking, and the remainder of us have been all the time residence by suppertime. It wasn’t a lot, however again then these outings appeared thrilling, and it was rare to take a break.

It was mid-afternoon. The hay was raked, and it was too early for my brothers to start out the barn work. My mom, brothers, sister, and I sat on the shaded porch shelling the peas we had picked that morning, two half bushel baskets.

From the place I sat on the porch, I might see Suzanne’s house on the other hill, beyond Jesse’s back lane, Lawrence’s Retailer and beyond the three streets of Gap. Suzanne was in my class at college, and she or he and her family lived in an almost-new gray stone ranch house on Strasburg Street. I assumed her house was a mansion. I needed to be her greatest good friend, but I wasn’t. How might I be? Greatest associates performed at each other’s homes, watched tv collectively, or went to the swimming pool. I did none of those. I seemed across at Suzanne’s home and questioned what she was doing. She may be inside watching “American Bandstand” with Linda, who lived a number of doors down. They could have gotten popsicles from the freezer, or each of them might be sipping Coca-Cola from a green bottle. Perhaps she was at Woman Scouts, sporting her pretty green uniform with all those badges she had earned, proving what number of things she might do. I wasn’t allowed to hitch Woman Scouts.

A couple years earlier I had begged to hitch Woman Scouts, and Mom stated no.

“What’s wrong with Girl Scouts?” I stated.

“It’s not so much that anything’s wrong, as what’s the use,” she stated. “Seems like a waste of time and money for all you get out of it.”

“They do lots of fun things and get badges for things they learn.”

“Just because you don’t have a badge for it doesn’t mean you don’t know how to do things. You know how to do plenty.”

I ended asking about becoming a member of Woman Scouts. In fact, I might do issues, but I used to be sure none of the issues I knew find out how to do have been badge-worthy. You couldn’t get a badge for gathering eggs or choosing peas or peeling potatoes.

The porch chairs have been in a semicircle, the empty basket for pea pods within the middle. We snapped the crisp pods open, scooped the peas into the bowls each of us held in our laps, and tossed the empty pods into the basket.

“Let’s play a game,” Nancy stated. “How about ‘I’m Going to Grandma’s House?’” It was a great recreation, even for little youngsters, and made the job go quicker. I used to be good at it, hardly missed a word once I tried to recollect the whole listing.

“All right,” Mom stated. “You go first.”

“I’m going to Grandma’s house, and I’m taking an alligator,” Nancy stated. She threw a pea pod on the basket and missed.

“You can leave it,” Mother stated, “I’m sure it won’t be the only one.”

“I’m going to Grandma’s house, and I’m taking an alligator and a baseball glove,” Sanford stated.

“You don’t even have a baseball glove,” Dale stated.

“Nancy doesn’t have an alligator either. It doesn’t matter.”

“Let’s just play the game,” Mom stated, wanting up.

It was my older brother Charles’ turn. “I’m going to Grandma’s house, and I’m taking an alligator, a baseball glove, and calcium.”

“Calcium? What’s calcium?” I stated. “You can’t make stuff up.”

“I didn’t. It’s an important chemical element,” Charles stated. “You’ll understand when you take chemistry.” He threw his pea pod into the basket.

“I’m going to Grandma’s house, and I’m taking an alligator, a baseball glove, calcium, and a dishcloth,” Mom stated.

She all the time stated things like that once we performed the sport. Thimble, quilt, hoe, paring knife. If Suzanne’s mother played “I’m Going to Grandma’s House,” and who might think about it, she’d say issues like lipstick, hair rollers, pedal pushers, definitely not thimble or dishcloth.

“I’m going to Grandma’s house, and I’m taking an alligator, a baseball glove, calcium, a dishcloth, and an encyclopedia,” Dale stated.

“I bet you can’t even spell encyclopedia,” Ray stated.

“Maybe I can, and maybe I can’t. I know it starts with an E.”

We made it all the best way to Q, where Ray added quartz to the record, however forgot to say ice dice, which I had added. He stated he did it on function because the ice cube had melted on the best way to Grandma’s home, however all of us knew that was just an excuse. He had lost the sport. I was glad, because he thought he was so sensible.

The sport was over, and my brothers left to start out the barn work. They’d clean the stables and convey the cows in from the pasture to feed and milk. Nancy and I helped Mother finish shelling peas. After she blanched them, we scooped them into freezer luggage. She counted the luggage and wrote the quantity on her listing earlier than putting them in the freezer.

The week earlier than I had requested Mom if I might go to play at Suzanne’s home. I might have walked down Jesse’s again lane, throughout the Lincoln Highway, up Pequea Avenue and throughout the bridge over the railroad tracks to Strasburg Street. I was old enough to look each ways for automobiles.

“We have things to do,” Mother had stated. “We need to freeze these strawberries.” I had helped decide them all morning and felt like I had carried out enough. Why couldn’t I’ve time to go play at Suzanne’s or end my Nancy Drew guide?

“You know,” she stated, “I almost feel sorry for those girls. Nothing to do for the whole summer.”

I knew we had tons to do. From planting the primary seeds in March till we dug the potatoes and reduce the cabbage to make sauerkraut in October, it by no means ended. And all of us needed to do our share. Women have been expected to help can and freeze tons of of quarts of every fruit and vegetable you’ll be able to imagine to take us by means of the winter. The cabinets within the basement have been full by fall, and when the freezer in the storage crammed up, we rented area at Byler’s Lockers on the town for the overflow. I knew our family didn’t have a lot cash, and we frequently had to wear clothes older siblings had grown out of, however we have been never lacking for food. Mom talked about people who have been so poor they didn’t get enough to eat, which did not seem attainable. We weren’t that sort of poor. For us, it was as if meals and money had nothing to do with one another.

Typically I questioned, however didn’t ask, why, if we had a lot work to do, my mother and father all the time had time for church. Sunday morning and Sunday evening, Prayer Meeting on Wednesday, Sewing Faculty on Saturday, and Summer time Bible Faculty every night for 2 weeks. If a special prayer assembly was referred to as as a result of someone was sick, my mother and father all the time had time for praying, no matter what evening it was or how busy we have been or how sick the individual was. If the church was open, my mother and father have been there.

After the peas have been in the freezer, I went out to collect eggs from the nests within the hen houses opposite the hayloft. I reached underneath clucking, pecking leghorns to seize still-warm eggs and place them in the wire basket. I used to be presupposed to rely the eggs, however typically considered other issues and forgot. I’d make up a quantity to offer Mom, who appreciated to keep monitor. If the basket was virtually full, I stated it was 230, or 215, or 203, all the time a special number to make it sound like I had counted exactly. Once I completed gathering the eggs, wanting in all the nests, I went down the steps and thru the barn. Out the front barn doorways, left open for summer time ventilation, across the cornfield, I might see Suzanne’s house.

There was a automotive within the driveway. It couldn’t be her mom’s new convertible, the one Suzanne’s father received for her on the Oldsmobile dealership the place he labored. She all the time stored the brand new automotive within the storage. Perhaps it was Joyce’s mother’s automotive. She might have come to select up Joyce, and went inside to talk with Suzanne’s mom and have a glass of iced tea. They’d be speaking about buying and films, hairstyles and vacations, things Mother might by no means have talked about.

I’d seen the new white convertible the day Suzanne’s mother picked it up and got here by with the highest right down to get Suzanne from faculty. It was the primary convertible I’d ever seen up shut. We never had new automobiles. My father had purchased our somber black Buick from a funeral director in Coatesville who was one in every of our common clients for eggs and recent vegetables. We piled into the Buick to go to church on Sunday. I had to sit forward on the back seat, wedged between long-legged brothers.

I took the basket of eggs into the house and wrote 211 on Mom’s listing. I carried the basket right down to the cellar where Nancy and I cleaned and weighed the eggs before we put them in crates to be bought, layer after layer separated by cardboard dividers.

The subsequent day was haymaking day. The alfalfa had been mowed, crimped, and raked into rows. We’d had a string of scorching sunny days, which was good climate for haymaking. All of us knew the danger of putting away damp hay. We had seen barn fires mild up the night time sky. If the hearth occurred during a storm, it was, little question, a lightning strike. However, if there was no storm, and we heard the hearth siren and noticed the eerie glow off within the distance somewhere, Daddy would say, “Probably hot hay.” We feared the least moisture left within the hay might lead to scorching hay. I had no concept the way it worked, however Charles stated it was like with the silage, solely hotter. I had seen the silage steaming when it got here from the silo.

That morning Daddy pulled the clanging baler forwards and backwards, scooping up the rows of well-dried hay. The bales spewed out and now lay scattered over the dry stubble of the hayfield. At lunch Daddy stated, “I need to go to the mill this afternoon. Mary Alice, we need you to drive the tractor to pick up bales. All you need to do is keep it going straight.”

I’d helped with haymaking earlier than, and my job had all the time been to roll the bales into rows. I hated it, the warmth and mud and bugs. And the dried hay scratched my arms and the part of my legs not coated by an extended skirt. The bales have been too heavy for me to raise, but I might roll them. I had never driven the tractor, which was all the time boys’ work. Up on the tractor, I wouldn’t get scratched in any respect.

I went out to the hayfield with my brothers, driving on the edge of the wagon whereas Ray drove the tractor. Once we obtained to the sector, he turned the tractor off, jumped down.

“Get up there,” he stated, “if you’re gonna drive.”

I climbed up, and Ray stood on the hitch bar behind me.

“Okay. Push the clutch in far as you can.”

I might hardly attain it. I slid down on the graceful metallic seat, my skirt bunching up beneath me. I stretched to get to the clutch, and pushed it in. Ray pulled the starter. The tractor chugged to life. He reached previous me and pushed the accelerator knob to the second notch.

“Ease up on the clutch and steer. Keep it straight. I’ll help you turn when we get to the end.”

The tractor scarcely jerked as I eased my foot off the clutch and started shifting slowly down the row. Ray jumped off the hitch bar and onto the wagon to stack the bales. Dale and Charles, their t-shirts already moist with sweat, tossed the bales onto the wagon. Sanford was far down the sector rolling bales into rows.

On the end, Ray helped steer the tractor broad and down the subsequent row.

From the top of the sector, up on the rise, I might see across to Strasburg Street, the place I assumed I noticed a motorcycle coming down Suzanne’s driveway. Perhaps she was going to Sandy’s house, where they’d do each other’s hair or work on a tap dance routine for the fall talent show on the Hole Hearth Corridor. I hadn’t began to consider what I’d do for the expertise present. I’d in all probability bake a cake again; I’d attempt a chocolate chiffon this time. I’d made tiptop cake the yr earlier than. How might you even examine baking a cake and faucet dancing?

I stored the tractor within the second notch and steered straight. I knew how fast the tractor might go, had seen my brothers rushing down the lane. All I would wish to do was push the accelerator as much as the top notch, and bales and brothers can be strewn everywhere in the hayfield. I didn’t think about doing it. My brother trusted me to keep it within the second notch.

“You think you can do the turn at the end?” Ray referred to as from the wagon, now half full of bales stacked 4 high.

“Sure,” I stated.

I stored the flip broad, lined the tractor and wagon up within the next row. I had to pay attention to what I used to be doing and couldn’t look across to see if anything was occurring at Suzanne’s home.

I didn’t then imagine my brothers desirous about anything however haymaking and getting it carried out right as they loaded the bales. Might Charles, as he tossed bales onto the wagon for Ray to stack, have already been interested by how he may grow to be a physician? May Ray have been dreaming of being a veterinarian like Dr. Breyer? And Dale, was he imagining turning into a businessman? Even Sanford, young as he was, may need had goals. It by no means occurred to me, and we seldom talked about it, however, as it turned out, back then all of us should have had imaginings greater than the boundaries of the farm, and lots of of them might have gone far beyond Suzanne’s hill.

Somebody wanting on the scene from the surface might have seen only a gaggle of healthy, accountable, contented farm youngsters working collectively to get the job executed, and we have been that, however there might have been extra happening than I ever considered.

Within the night after supper we made ice cream, taking turns cranking the freezer and adding salt and ice as it melted down. When the ice cream was virtually completed, too stiff for me to turn the deal with, my mother added recent strawberries. We sat on the porch and ate ice cream because the fireflies twinkled beyond the morning glory vines.

From my bedroom window that night time, after I had turned off the light, I might see across the valley, beyond the cornfield and the wheat area, beyond Jesse’s again lane and the streets of town. I assumed I might see Suzanne’s bed room window. Her mild was still on.

Meet the Contributor

Mary Alice HostetterMary Alice Hostetter’s writing has appeared within the New York Occasions (Trendy Love), Gettysburg Assessment, Prime Number, Appalachian Heritage, storySouth, and The Widespread, amongst others. Considered one of her pieces was just lately nominated for a Pushcart Prize. This essay is from her yet-to-be-published memoir, Pulling Up Roots: A Mennonite Girlhood Remembered. She lives in Charlottesville, Virginia, together with her wife. Further info at www.maryalicehostetter.com.

STORY IMAGE CREDIT: Flickr Artistic Commons/Amy The Nurse

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