Thinking today about an old tin cup.
When my kids were small, I often tried to "create" good memories for them. I thought somehow by making a huge deal of the happy moments, I could balance out or erase the bad ones. Of course it didn’t work that way. Now they are adults, and when we discuss their childhoods, I don’t remember half of the events they can describe in vivid painful detail. And they seem to remember more negative things than positive. Epic fail on my part. My efforts to pick and choose only happy memories for them failed miserably!
When I think back to my own childhood memories, I realize the difference in the generations was that my parents didn’t have some of the luxuries I did as a mother. They were too busy trying to keep us all fed and clothed to worry too much about what memories we would have. The "creating" of memories was left up to the will of God, which is as it should me. Most of the time, we can’t always successfully create happy memories. Sometimes they just happen.
And so that brings me to the tin cup.
We lived on a farm. It didn’t look like the farms I see in glossy magazines today. But it was a farm none the less. We had cows and horses, dogs and more dogs, barn cats and occasional goats. Eggs to gather and babies to birth. Prairies, ponds and pastures. Old hay barns to play in, and a mountain in the background to climb and explore. Beautiful sunrises and sunsets. It was a farm all right. And a wonderful place to grow up.
One of the advantages of a farm like we had was self-sufficiency. My parents worked hard to raise animals that provided meat for our table and vegetables that made up the side dishes.
We had a small garden plot near the house that was handy to send us kids running out to just before supper, maybe to grab a couple of last minute squash to fry, or a tomato to slice up fresh. Nothing has ever tasted better to me to this day.
But the real garden was about a half mile away. The big garden. Part way up the mountain. We called it a "truck patch." Maybe because you could easily drive away with a truck-full of fresh grown produce on any fall day. We would ride our ponies bareback to the patch, or maybe catch a ride on dad’s open tailgate, bumping through mud puddles and squealing with delight when our hot bare legs got sprayed with muddy water, bare feet dangling and brushing the ground. Those dangling legs are how we measured our growth, mine were always longer than my little brothers. Wondering now at what point they outgrew me…been a while since we’ve ridden on a tailgate side by side.
I’m sure that large truck patch was a lot of work each year for my parents. That’s not the part I remember.
What I do remember is all of our relatives coming to work in the garden on weekends. I remember racing down the perfectly straight dirt rows. I remember running wildly with my cousins and the neighborhood kids, climbing in the trees nearby. Climbing the nearby mountain. I remember on long summer days when our parents were busy, how my brother and I would "sneak away" alone to the truck patch and work together to lift a big watermelon high above our heads. Then turn it lose and watch it bust into edible pieces.
There is nothing better on a quiet sunny summer country afternoon, than to sit barefooted in the dirt and eat a watermelon without any silverware. I dare you to try it. (Don’t tell my dad we did that. We always told him it was wild animals making that mess. And I’m just sure he believed us. In spite of the tiny human footprints in the dirt.)
But I’ve gotten off track. I wanted to talk about the tin cup.
Up behind the truck patch, on the side of the heavily wooded mountain, ran a little stream of water. We called it a creek. The water was icy cold and crystal clear. The rocks scattered throughout had been washed smooth and stayed cool year around. It was a quiet place. Shaded and peaceful. Perfect for a mid-day break from working in the heat of the huge garden. That creek was one of the happiest places of my life.
There was a small tin cup that hung from an old piece of hay-baling wire, high in a tree limb above. I remember my Grandpa holding me up so I could "get it myself." I remember that cool water trickling down my hot dusty throat. I remember noon-day breaks sitting near the creek to eat our sandwiches- all the people I loved most in the world spread out resting and visiting in the shade around me, with the sounds of the creek trickling close by.
I’ve lived in nice houses since then, with air conditioning and cool showers. I’ve had fancy smoothies and cold milk shakes on hot summer days. I’ve taken naps in luxurious hotels.
But, I’ve never rested better than on those hot summer afternoons by the creek. I’ve never tasted a better drink than from that old tin cup, with my Grandpa’s calloused hand holding it steady.
And I don’t think I ever will.