The Thoughts of a Frumpy Professor

............................................ ............................................ A blog devoted to the ramblings of a small town, middle aged college professor as he experiences life and all its strange variances.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

A Memory Revisited (Part 5)


Please note, if you have not done so, and wish to read earlier parts of this essay, please scroll down to where the essay begins. Subsequent parts occur in reverse order.]

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The sadness that enveloped me and the frustration that gripped at my soul was enormous and I cried for a long, long time. However, after a while, the frustration dissipated and I needed to figure out what my next plan would be.

I had several options but was unsure which to select. One, I could simply forget the whole thing, knock the untouched pipe tobacco out of the bowl of the pipe and carefully sneak the pipe back into my father's den. Two, I could go sneak out a few more matches from the kitchen. Or, three, I could hide the pipe and tobacco and try again when the opportunity presented itself. Option one was quite distasteful to me and I quickly ignored that option. Likewise, however, option two... trying to immediately get matches from the kitchen, was also unlikely. I knew my mother would be spending a great deal of time in the kitchen for the remainder of the day. Because of this, I knew it would be nearly impossible to obtain matches to try the pipe. With the previous two options unworkable, option three seemed the best bet.

Luckily, as I had been building the platform that was to become the tree house, I had found a small cubby hole in one of the nearby trees that I had been using for storage of various asundery items. I had paper bags, nails, a book and a few magazines as well as other things in the cubby hole. I pulled out one of the brown paper bags... lunch bag sized and carefully placed the filled pipe into the bag. Additionally, I took the remainder of the tobacco leaf I had obtained onto a small piece of paper and folded the edges to keep the extra leaf contained. I also put this into the bag, and then proceeded to crumple the top of the bag closed. I placed the bag back into the far reaches of the cubby hole and then left and went back home.

* * * * *

The pipe sitting out in that cubby hole was just about the only thing I could think about that afternoon and evening. I was concerned that my father might notice it was missing. I was worried someone would find the pipe and steal it. I was fearful an animal might find it and chew it to bits. And finally, I was utterly anxious to be able to go back out there and try it out.

As I sat around, waiting for my chance to grab a few matches, I continued to watch my father engage in his own beautiful dance/battle with the pipe. Shortly after dinner, my father, still dressed in his work clothes from the day's teaching, would go out into the backyard and loosen and remove his tie, unbutton his collar, roll up his shirt sleeves and take off both his shoes and his socks. A rope hammock, strung between two large oak trees, was my father's destination. This was my father's favorite spot to read the paper on dry Summer evenings. He climbed in to the hammock and said back comfortably, the newspaper that was tucked under his arm, now resting on the white linen of the shirt, near his stomach. I and most of my siblings (those that were old enough to walk, anyhow), were playing in a rather raucous game of tag, and my mother was still in the house, mostly likely nursing one of my younger siblings.

My father gently unfolded the newspaper, and with his knees bent, propped the paper against him as he lay in the hammock. With unconscious precision, he reached into his shirt pocket and removed his pipe and lighter. Reaching toward his back pocket with his other hand, he removed his leather tobacco pouch and opened it with one hand and proceeded to guide the crumbles of leaf into the bowl of the pipe he held in his other hand. Again, without glancing up from his newspaper, my father filled and tamped the pipe, and brought it up to his mouth, his bushy moustache and beard enveloping the stem as he gripped it between his teeth. Using his lighter, he melded the flame into the leaf in the bowl and took large, rapid puffs from the pipe to get it going well. Finally, with the pipe well lit, he took a large draw from the stem and inhaled it deeply into his lungs. Slowly he exhaled the rich smoke, and I watched it curl slowly from his nostrils. Again, the sense of relaxation and contentment was on my father's face.

A few moments later, my mother, as was her custom, came out of the house carrying a glass filled with a beverage for my father. The drink was beautifully cold, and today it happened to be lemonade. Other times, my mother would bring my father iced tea, or sometimes a tall glass of beer. As she brought the drink to him, he grinned a broad grin, and removed the pipe from his mouth, took the proffered glass from my mother and took a drink of the lemonade, feeling refreshed. He then reached over to my mother and brought her face close to his and gave her a deep, prolonged, furry-faced kiss of thanks. My mother always appreciated my father and he appreciated her. Their love and kindness to each other and to us children, was a wonderful model for us to wittiness as we grew up. I think it helped each of us make wise decisions in the course and development of our own marriages and ensuing families.

Returning the pipe to his mouth and the half empty glass to his side, my father again began to read the newspaper as my mother went back into the house. After only a few moments, my mother came out with a tray with a pitcher of lemonade and glasses for us children and we also had the wonderful, refreshing drink. My mother went and sat in a chair that was near the garden, very near the hammock by my father.

I realized this was likely my best chance, so I put down the lemonade, and informed my parents I needed to go to the bathroom, and proceeded inside and immediately pocketed at least a half of a dozen matches. I then went into the bathroom and quickly flushed the toilet before heading back outside.

The rest of the evening was spent having fun with my family, but in the back of my mind, I was eagerly awaiting tomorrow, so that I could once again go out into the woods to try out the pipe.

I awoke at my usual time the next day, roughly 6am. I could already hear the hustling and bustling in the kitchen. Because it had been warm the previous evening, I had left my bedroom door open just a crack so there could be an exchange of air. I could see my parents through the slight opening of my door. My father had just sat down at the table, his fresh, clean work clothes... especially the vividly white, starched shirt and his richly-colored, dark brown patterned necktie, made him appear even more awe inspiring and worthy of my respect. My mother displayed her typical serene beauty in her simple white smock and beige, ladies pants. My mother had made the two of them breakfast. It was their typical toast and very strong coffee for. Additionally, my mother had opened one of her home grown and canned jars of peaches and placed a peach half in a small bowl for each of them.

My parents both enjoyed and relished each other's company, and they quietly chatted about their goals for the day as the consumed breakfast.

As for me, as it was still early, I decided to plan out my day. First and foremost, I would need to pack some essential items for the day. I brought along a book I had been reading and several jars in case I found some interesting specimens in the woods. I also dug out my insect net from the closet and placed next to my russack. I made a mental note, to ask my mother to make me a sandwich and also to ask for two or three orange and grape sodas to tak along with me for the adventure. Of course, I also had my small handful of matches with me, wrapped in paper and placed deep in my pack.

My father finished his breakfast and proceeded to gather the accoutrements he needed for the workday. As he started to check to see if he had everything, my mother stood up... and with her hand reached up to my father's face. She gently brushed off a few toast crumbs that were clinging to my father's moustache and beard. My father grinned, and thanked her by kissing her hand. He then proceeded to gather his briefcase of papers and books, his pipe, pouch, and matches and lighter, and finally the lunch my mother had packed. After another brief kiss (this time on the lips), and wishes to have a great day, my father was off to work. My mother started humming quietly to herself as she tidied up the kitchen. I finished straightening my room and then went out into the kitchen.

My mother had warming on the stove the oatmeal we older kids were going to eat for breakfast that day. As my parents were not particularly strict about timetables for us children during the summer, I was the only one awake, and hence I was the first one up and out. My other siblings were still sleeping. My mother and I chatted a bit while she prepared a bowl of oatmeal for me, putting raisins and slices of the canned peaches on top along with a large spoonful of brown sugar. Then she poured a little bit of milk onto the oatmeal and also poured me a glass of milk as well. She sat these before me with a spoon.

I heartily began to eat the oatmeal, it being one of my favorite foods. My mother came and sat beside me and we talked. I told her I had planned to spend time out in the woods today searching for things and asked if she would make me a sandwich that I could take with me. My mother, who also tended to naturally awaken very early had already made sandwiches for me and for my siblings that day and simply gathered one and wrapped it individually in waxed paper for me. I also asked if I could take one orange and one grape sodapop with me, and she smiled and said yes. She reminded me that I should drink the sodapop slowly as it often gave me hiccups if I drank it too rapidly. I promised her I would. With that I finished my breakfast and finished getting ready for the day of exploration. I waved to her as I left and she smiled and waved back at me.

The day itself was sunny, yet pleasantly cool and dry. It was perhaps 60 degrees and virtually no humidity marred the texture of the air. It was an unusually cool and dry morning for the start of July and I relished it greatly. Once out into the woods, I first ran to the edge of the stream and put my two glass bottles of sodapop into the water to get them cool, and the I immediately raced back to the platform of my developing fort. I climbed the latter and immediately sat down. I could hear many different, quite sounds from birds and insects as they too were starting their day. Forgetting for a second, I then raced down from the platform and went to the nook of the tree and reached inside and pulled out the bag with the pipe inside. Heading back up the ladder I sat down and opened my russack and pulled out the matches. I was terribly excited and nervous and anticipatory all at the same time. I gripped the stem of the pipe between my teeth and proceeded to strike the match against the rough surface of the rock. Again, just like in my initial attempt, the first match I tried broke off at the tip.

Fortunately, this time I had several matches. However, I could tell this lighting of a match was a more difficult task than I had first anticipated. I took the pipe out of my mouth and laid it on the plank floor, and proceeded to examine the match more closely. I kept trying to figure out what it was I did incorrectly. Thinking back to how my father lit matches, I kept looking back in my my memory at what he would do. I slowly recalled through deep thought about how my father held the match differently than I had been doing. He would hold the match between his thumb and index finger... near the head of the match, and then use the rest of his fingers to steady the back of the match. He then swiftly rubbed the head against a brick or a rock.

All right. "I can do this." I thought to myself, I slowly positioned the match between my index finger and my thumb. It felt very awkward. Then because my hand was so much smaller, I basically rested the stick end of the match in my palm. To me this seemed so strange and it did not feel natural. Previously I had simply grabbed the wooden end of the match with my fingers and rubbed it around on the rock. With the match in this new position, I tried again, but lost grip on it and it fell to the ground below. By this time I was very frustrated. I was bound and determined to do this correctly. Using a third match, I held it in position and rubbed it swiftly against the rock. Suddenly, the match flared into life! But at the same time, my fingers were VERY CLOSE to that flare! The heat seemed intense, and I involuntarily shook my hand and the match dropped again through a crack between the planks and fell to the ground below. I could not tell if the match was still lit or not, and I feared that it could cause the forrest to catch fire, so I quickly ran down the platform and looked at the spot until I found the match. Even though it WAS out and not lit, to be safe, I rubbed the ground and the match with the heel of my shoe to ensure it was safe.

Back on the platform, I positioned another match in my hand, this time not holding so close to the head of the match, and tried again. This time, while the flare startled me, my fingers were not too close and I did not drop it. I quickly repositioned my hand so that I held the wooden end of the match and reached for the pipe. Quickly, I put the stem of the pipe in my mouth and brought the flame of the match to the bowl. Pretending it was a drinking straw, I sucked on the stem and the flame was pulled into the bowl. It looked just like how my dad did it! I sucked in on the stem of the pipe a few more times and soon there was a little wispy smoke that was drawn into my mouth. It was not very flavorful, and did not taste as good as it had simply smelled when my father was smoking his pipes. Do not get me wrong.... it was not horrible, but it was not nearly as exciting as I had anticipated. I puffed on the pipe a few more times, but all I could think of was that this was.... DULL. Not only did the pipe not taste as amazing as I thought it would, but also, I did not feel any sense of relaxation from the pipe like my father did. What was going on?

I was discouraged and sad at my findings. The pipe, which seemed so utterly magical and beautiful for my father, seemed to be dull and even boring for me. I was completely disappointed.

I sat there for about 15 minutes wondering about why I did not find the pipe as exciting as my father did, and feeling quite "gyped". I sat the pipe aside, and decided to go hunting for insects and amphibians for a while. I did not know what I was going to do about the pipe, but I did not feel like thinking about it anymore, it was so... DULL.

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Enough of this reminiscing for today.  Tomorrow I will post the conclusion of this series of writings.  Please remember that these are what I had written several years ago and reflect both the memory and the time (several years ago) in which I wrote them.

PipeTobacco

2 Comments:

Blogger Gorilla Bananas said...

What am idyllic portrait of family life, Professor! It's as if you spent your childhood in a Disney movie!

I expected you to start coughing rather than find the experience dull. The nicotine addiction theory is back on the drawing board.

Wednesday, 26 July, 2017  
Blogger forsythia said...

You were certainly a child who made detailed plans for the day and noticed a myriad of details as you made your way through house and woods. It was no doubt a good thing for your parents that you were a fairly obedient child who basically didn't want to let them down. Yet, there was the budding scientist in you and the typical "why not?" attitude of little boys. You just had to find out what pipe-smoking was all about. Looking forward to Part Five.

Wednesday, 26 July, 2017  

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