Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Mud Season


It is finally raining in Vermont. Not snowing. It’s raining.
They say “March comes in like a lion and out like a lamb.” Yesterday was the last day of March and I really tracked the lion and lamb days this year by documenting the weather every day. According to the phrase about the lion and lamb, it was supposed to be wintry at the beginning of March and then mellow itself out. It didn’t quite go that way. It snowed… then rained… then it was warm and sunny… then it rained… then snowed. It was all over the place so I don’t think it was a typical lion/lamb transition. And they also say, “April showers bring May flowers.” Well, this year I am expecting a lot of flowers because on April 1st it rained so hard it felt like hail. I feel like we are really in for it. If the “April shower May flower” phrase is true, at this rate there are going to be an incredible number of flowers this year. It will be very colorful.
Let me pause a moment to explain that in Vermont we have six seasons. We have the four regular ones like the rest of the country and then we have “stick” season, and “mud” season. “Stick” season actually comes twice a year after fall and before spring when the trees look like sticks. “Mud” season comes when the snow starts to melt, the ground looks like undercooked chocolate cake and Vermonters make Maple Syrup.
It has been “quite a winter in Vermont” and we are all embracing spring. Even on days that snow still falls (which it does in Vermont in April,) people wear sweatshirts instead of coats and little children give up wearing their winter boots and wear mud boots, hoping that they can somehow control the weather. I am no exception in my Spring-like behavior because I don’t wear my hat indoors as often and I have made up my own catch phrase. Although it is not about lions or lambs or showers or flowers, it is about spring. So here goes: “Spring has sprung. The roads are mud. My sewing machine fell out of my truck with a thud.”
What do you think? You like it? Even if you don’t think my poem is catchy, my drive home on April 1st sure was ridiculous enough for me to take the time to document it. I’ll tell you all about… it is a great story. Well, at least I think so. As it happened, I even laughed out loud at myself and not just because it was April Fool’s Day.
I have a truck. We call her “Trucky”- see the “Trucky” blog if you want to know more about her… she is very special to our family. My friend Joyce was kind to “Trucky” and gave her a net to wear across her rear end. I refer to the net as “Trucky’s” fishnet stockings (see picture.) Although it is the sexiest black fishnet stockings money can buy for a pick-up, it is completely useless if you drive up hill on Fiske Road in mud season with a sewing machine in the back of your truck. Fishnets are all for show, I don’t care what anyone says. I suspected in my early twenties and I have now learned in my late thirties that fishnets may be fashionable in the bedroom, but they are not functional out on the road. If one relies on fishnets to hold back a sewing machine as a truck bounces around in ruts of mud and tries to plow itself through mud, they will be disappointed and the fishnets will be ineffective… especially uphill. Well, actually, let me rephrase that. “Trucky’s” fishnet stocking can hold back a box of sewing supplies (which it did,) but not a heavy sewing machine.
This is the same sewing machine I just got serviced at a place called Sew and Vac just a few days before! My husband brought it home to me on Friday and it fell out of my truck the following Tuesday. What can I say?
I just know that you are thinking to yourself, “What is wrong with you?” or “How could you be so stupid?” and “That could have been prevented.” and possibly even “What were you thinking putting a sewing machine in the back of a truck?” Excellent comments and questions… you are wiser than I am at the end of the day, for sure. But in my defense, I work a very long day every Tuesday because I teach a sewing class after school (thus the reason the sewing machine was out of my craft room in the first place.) By 5:00, my brain has heard “Mrs. Braun…” and “Mom” at least 795 million times and then some; children’s lovely little voices seem to become louder at that time of day. Actually I don’t know if they really become louder or I just think they do because I start to ignore them in order to survive.) By 5:00, I start to twitch and crave a cup of coffee just to have the energy to make dinner. And every Tuesday, I am just leaving school at 5:00, and all I want to do is get home so I can sit on the couch for three and a half minutes in a coma before I start to cook.
By the way, the sewing class I am teaching is called BLAGZ class. My husband is worried that I am giving away my secret about MyBLAGZ, but the girls I teach are 7 years old and very excited, so I feel it is worth it. Last week, I left class with a bunch of plastic bags of BLAGZ, and couldn’t find my son’s antibiotic. Yes, it was inside a plastic bag with someone’s BLAG inside a box. I didn’t sit on the couch in a coma or cook dinner right away because I had to tear everything apart to find a bottle of pink medicine. I am one step away from becoming a BLAG lady… all I need is a grocery cart. (But that is another blog entirely, isn’t it?)
So now it was April Fool’s Day (4-1-08) and I decided to wear a ridiculous hat to make my students laugh. I borrowed a grey top hat that belongs to my neighbor. It has things like seashells and peacock feather and buttons and fake fingernails glued to it (what every BLAG lady needs.). I wore it all day and received two different reactions from people: 1. “Nice hat.” (With the person looking uncertain if I was seriously wearing it…) and 2. “Nice hat.” (With the person’s voice dripping with sarcasm.) But I wore the hat proudly to keep in the spirit of April Fool’s Day, and I suppose it was a blessing I was in a goofy mood, because later on, I surely needed to be. I was dressed the part of a fool and in a light enough mood to handle it even a downpour and a muddy road that swallowed my sewing machine.
It began to rain just as my sons and I left school and it was raining hard. (Do you ever wonder why people describe rain like that? Hard? Can it rain hard? I have wondered that.) But anyway, it was raining hard. It made noise as the rain hit things like car hoods and puddles; it was raining enough that I felt it drenching me as if I were a wash cloth and wished that I brought an umbrella. I gathered up all the supplies and my regular entourage of kid backpacks and lunchboxes and wet socks and mittens (counting them and matching them as I walked along) and moved to “Trucky’s” rear end to load up.
Stop there.
I loaded things into “Trucky’s” rear end. That is a problem. I obviously should have put things in the front seat. But I was unable to do so because we had an extra passenger, a neighbor girl named Ember, whose mother had asked me to take her home after BLAGZ class because SHE (the mother) DIDN’T WANT TO TRUDGE BACK OUT INTO THE RAIN! I am not bitter, because Ember is a lovely girl and she lives about 400 yards away from me. I just see the humor of the situation and soon you will too.
“Trucky’s” cab was already loaded with two purple bins of recycling, two sand bags- (used to be three- another blog topic,) a pair of skis and boots, two fold up chairs, no umbrella, and little remaining room. The previously mentioned sand bags were frozen and very hard to move, so I set my box with stuff in it (duh) in front of a sand bag with about one foot of clearance to the fishnet. Have I mentioned it was raining? I could have moved everything, but I didn’t want to set the box down in the rain and take the time to rearrange everything because then my stuff could have gotten wet (ha ha.)(insert irony here-)
We buckled and moved along and had a sweet conversation about how everyone’s day was at school. We bumped along the dirt part of Churchville Road until we came to a giant pothole. I say that it is giant because it could swallow a small moose if a moose came along and tried to walk through it. I took my time passing through the pothole as Ember told me about how her mother goes slowly through this pothole too. Smart lady.
I will pause here and talk briefly about potholes in Vermont. It has become an epidemic this year. The local paper has even held a pothole poetry contest this week because the potholes are worse than they have been in awhile. I submitted a pothole limerick and a pothole Haiku. They were featured in the paper, I am proud to say.

Limerick:

I live in the Green Mountain State.
Where the potholes we grow are first rate.
But I sing a song,
As I bump along,
‘Cuz the views in Vermont are so great.

And Haiku:

That dreadful pothole,
The One on Bethel Mountain,
Is a sign of Spring.

In case you don’t understand, a pothole is formed by water freezing beneath the surface and lifting up forming a “frost heave.” Cars come along and bump over the “frost heaves.” The ground thaws during the day and occasionally collapses into itself forming holes, gorges and canyons. Sometimes it rains (like on April 1st,) and any dirt that may be filling in a pothole washes away and makes the hole deeper. We all begin to feel emotion about potholes… as shown in the two page spread in the local paper. As you can see, if you live in Vermont, you have to keep a sense of humor about these things. Potholes actually keep the road men busy in the summer. In the winter, they plow. In the summer, they fill in the holes.
I refer to this particular pothole on Churchville Road as “Vermont’s Back Road Grand Canyon.” Here’s the surprising part about this particular giant pothole on April 1st: we bumped through it, but my sewing machine did not fall out. I checked in my mirror because it occurred to me that it could be a problem. I looked back after we bumped through the pothole… but I left no trail of my belongings. Hindsight tells me perhaps the machine readjusted itself at that point; I think the sewing machine was gathering the courage to jump out of “Trucky” a ½ mile later. My windshield wipers squeaked and we all joined in with the squeaking in a silly song because it seemed like the thing to do at the time.
We prepared to depart from Churchville Road onto Fiske Road and were completely unaware of what lay in store for us…
Fiske Road is very steep. The road is dirt. It is the consistency of pudding and the surface of bread that has been pulled from the oven too soon. In other areas of the country, people have four seasons. Remember in Vermont we brag of six. We were beginning “Mud” Season (again that is when the snow melts before the grass and leaves grow- and most importantly, when the earth thaws and the mud forms).
On April 1st I experienced a first rate Mud Season ride home from work when I transitioned onto Fiske Road. “Trucky” started to climb and immediately immersed her tires into ruts of mud. I was in second gear (which is what I usually use to climb the hill), but I had to slow down to first gear and adjust my speed because of the ruts.
I should explain quickly about the mud. In the morning (when the ground is still frozen) the mud is not mud. It is frozen ground, and easy to drive on. Drive on… not in… but as the sun shines through the day, the ground thaws and becomes squishy and cars have to drive through it. The ruts become deep. But I also have to mention that the best part about this time of year is the Maple Syrup production. The main reason the Maple Syrup can be produced is because at night, the sap in the trees freezes and during the day it thaws and flows. It is a beautiful and tasty thing.
Okay. Back to the story… I downshifted from second gear to first and slowed to a crawl through the mud and “Trucky” was practically vertical. Ember said, “It must make you nervous to drive uphill like this with no back on your truck.”
Smart girl. I smiled and kept my hands on the wheel and my eyes on the road, “Yes. Especially when my sewing machine is back there.”
Famous last words.
I have a strange belief system that drives my husband crazy sometimes. I think that when I say things like that, - things like: “Especially when my sewing machine is back there.” – I am challenging the universe. Some bored soul who watches humans from a cloud says- “Tee hee hee. Let’s make the machine fall out right…. Now!”
You probably don’t believe what I do about the universe, but you don’t have to. You can totally blame me because I was a complete April Fool and put my sewing machine in the back of my truck and drove uphill in the muddy rain. I made it happen on whatever level and I can write about it and completely make fun of myself. Isn’t that what is most important?
We drove on. I drove slowly with no idea that the machine fell out. There was no noise because the mud probably cushioned the fall. The rain pounding on the truck coupled with the squeaking windshield made enough noise I suppose that no one noticed.
We dropped Ember off… got mail… drove into our parking spot and started to climb out of “Trucky.” I moved to the back to grab my sewing machine and my heart skipped a beat at the sight of the fishnet stocking holding a box of sewing supplies and no machine.
I behaved much like a person on an emergency squad. I turned to my children and barked, “Get back in ‘Trucky.’ Mommy’s sewing machine fell out!”
I managed to coerce them into getting back into the truck and we retraced our path. I cursed the whole way (under my breath because I am a mother and I am supposed to behave myself, even in times of crisis).
They asked things like “Why?” and “Where are we going?” And they said things like, “I didn’t want to get back in the car again mommy.” And also “We just got home!”
I finally decided that I would talk about my nervousness with my boys. “Mommy is a little worried about her sewing machine. It is really important to her and it could be broken. I am feeling how you would be feeling if your train fell out of the back of ‘Trucky.’”
“Oh.”
My older son is obsessed with trains and that made sense to him. He immediately became empathetic, I could tell. Well, we bumped along the road until we came to the steepest part, and right then I discovered the sewing machine on its side in a rut with water pouring over it, as well as the the gallon of milk I purchased earlier, a giant sized package of recess peanut butter cups, a few magazines and empty bottles from the recycle bin, a full (ready to explode) diet coke, and two BLAGZ (soaked with mud.) I parked uphill of the pile wishing instantly that I had my digital camera because a picture is worth 1,000 words. My boys stayed in the truck (easier) and I proceeded to gather balance and trek things in my arms. It suddenly occurred to me how funny I looked wearing the ridiculous April Fool’s hat and trudging up and down the muddy hill in the rain. The commonly used description “drowned rat” doesn’t even come close… I was worse. I was like a corn flake in the bottom of a bowl doused with milk and left to sit for an hour, (only I had a hat on with a peacock feather on the front of it so although I felt like a corn flake I didn’t much look like one). I grabbed the sewing machine first; it seemed more important than the gallon of milk and more important surprisingly than the recess peanut butter cups. When I began to gather the magazines, I noticed that Barak Obama on the wet cover of Rolling Stone laughing at me (at least it was better than George Bush, because that would have just made me mad). I took three trips back and forth huffing and puffing like the little engine that could while my children watched.
We went home (with the sewing machine in the front seat) and parked “Trucky” in her space at the bottom of the hill. I immediately went to my neighbor’s house to borrow their massive rainbow colored golf umbrella so I could bring my boys uphill dry, as it began to rain harder.
Making five trips up and down the hill, I dripped and laughed at myself. We have a hilly driveway that can park only one car, and it isn’t “Trucky.” The first trip up the hill was with the boys and they ran upstairs and started to play. The second trip was with the sewing machine and I plugged it in and checked it immediately (it still worked). The third trip was with the box of BLAGZ and snacks. The fourth trip was my laptop and work bag. The fifth trip was to return the umbrella and silly hat to my neighbors and bring home the assorted wet socks and mittens and other loose items. Everything was in a big pile on and around the wood stove and around the perimeter of that, a muddy puddle formed gradually.
Usually on a Tuesday, I am home 45 minutes before my husband and he walks through the door at 6:00, but on April 1st, he walked in just as I set everything down in a massive pile and took a deep breath.
“How was your day?” He asked.
I smiled and started to sit on the couch to type this blog before I fell into a coma. What else could I do? I couldn’t talk about it.
“It must have been bad if you have to write it down.”
I nodded, dripping, covering myself with a blanket.
“What happened?”
“The sewing machine fell out of the back of ‘Trucky.’”
He asked lovingly, “Oh, man… does it still work?”
I didn’t answer him with words. I glared at him and nodded, dripping.
“Well, at least it’s raining and not snowing” He assured me. “It’s spring!” He declared with his arms outstretched.
“No it’s not.” I corrected him with a cranky tone. “In case you haven’t looked at my pile of stuff… we live in Vermont. It’s mud season.”
“Well, is there a bright side?”
“Yes. I have a blog to put in those two muddy BLAGZ.”