Cake, Butterbeans, and a Gnatcatcher


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This afternoon after Mama and Daddy left to go back home, I saw a Blue-gray Gnatcatcher in the oaks in my yard, the first since spring migration. My parents had been here to spend some time with me on my birthday, which was yesterday (July 31). We had low-key but genuine fun together; Mama brought a cake she had made (coconut); we played Scrabble; I showed them the Allis-Chalmers lawn tractors I had retrieved from Wisconsin back in May. And we had lots of good conversation.

One of the ladies who had been working in the church’s garden this morning gave me a bag of butterbeans she had picked. Mama and Daddy shelled them while I was doing some work in the office, and Mama cooked them later. Mama also brought two dozen homemade cupcakes for the two other people in my church who share the birthday. All 24 made it safely to their recipients, somehow!

Birthday cake is one of the many ways Mama has always expressed her love for her children. It’s just one of her things, and it’s always appreciated.

Butterbeans are forever associated with baseball for me. When the garden was producing heavily back when I was a boy, we would dump a load of just-washed butterbeans into newspapers spread across our laps, and shell them with Daddy while watching baseball on television before going to bed later. Tonight, while driving home from another meeting, I listened to my team, the Cincinnati Reds, on WLW, AM 700.

Blue-gray Gnatcatchers, when they show up in my yard, are signs of something next coming, a bit of wilderness stretching my way to remind me August is here. Slightly larger than hummingbirds, yet with more personality, they glean and wheeze and teach the trees why they are there…for them, of course. Energetic casual confidence (if someone were applying human traits).

Migration has begun. Movement, local adjustment, exchanging of boundaries, exploring the range of one’s personal extent, reoccupying the old routes, discovering you still belong in the skin you thought you maybe outgrew, and being glad.

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Published in: on August 1, 2007 at 11:55 pm  Comments (7)  

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7 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Happy belated birthday my friend!

    Wonderful comments about life. Our parents do so much for us while we are growing up, little things like feeding us, keeping us safe. No big deal really, after all that’s what parents are supposed to do, right?

    What you demonstrate very eloquently is the legacy they leave us with. In between the moments of feeding us and keeping us safe, there is time for butterbeans and cake.

    Those of our generation can only hope and try to do the same.

  2. Well said, Jeff. I hope we do (and I know you do).

    Legacy is a great word and an important concept. Do you know the song “Legacy” by Nicole Nordeman? It’s worth hearing.

  3. Now that song’s going to be in my head all day. I can live with that. 8-]

    What a blessing to have a Momma who loves you and a Daddy who watches baseball with you! Treasure every moment. (I’m sure I don’t need to remind you of that)

    This really is an exciting time for birders! We had some Prairie Warblers in the yard yesterday and a Whimbrel in a small unit of the refuge on Monday. I’m really looking forward to a few days in the Tampa area next week.

    Have a JESUS-filled day! ^i^

  4. Keep all those moments in life close to you always, and make sure you let mom and dad know what they mean to you. Do not just assume they know how important those little moments mean to you.

    I lost my mom Sept 1 2006. I miss the conversation about all the “butterbean” moments growing up but I will always have the memories as well as the activity to pass on to my son.

  5. You’re right, Sophie and Jamie. We really need to let the special people in our lives know what treasures they are, while thanking God for the relationships, in the first place. Thank you for reading.

  6. Memories of childhood past, vivid and clear in the theater of my mind:
    Sitting on the tailgate with papa shuckin corn.
    Chopping firewood with dad on a crisp fall day.
    The soothing voice of my grandmother reading us to sleep.
    Memories of childhood present:
    Hiding under the waterfall with Kourtney.
    Everyone covered with flour on homemade pizza night.
    Little hands making little holes for the new pansies.
    Stephanie, Sept. 16, 2001, singing America the Beautiful in church, the Sunday after 9/11.

    The memories are different, but the love, the sharing, the continuity pass through the generations. The greatest gift our parents/grandparents ever gave us, was the gift of time. Without that gift, there would be no memories of shelling peas listening/watching the ball games. To pass that same gift on to our kids, is to me, the second greatest responsibility that we have as parents. (If you don’t know the first, PRAY on it a while and it will come to you!:)

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    Response from Steve:
    Great memories and commentary there, Bryan! Thanks for sharing them. And speaking of prayer, there may be no more balancing act anywhere than that. I’ll share more about that in a future posting, I’m sure.

  7. A big birdie just told me you made this cake. Is this true????

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    Response from Steve:
    Hi, Shareen! For a long time when I was a kid, for some reason I don’t fully recall now, I thought or at least pretended to think, that I had baked this cake. And so that’s what I told people when they saw the photo album. Mama corrected me, that I certainly had not, but I insisted. So, yes. Yes, that’s the cake I made.


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