Pussy willow time brings memories of growing up in the early 1930s in a little sawmill town in Western Washington.
Mama was a young widow with three little girls to raise. I was the middle child. She had grown up the oldest girl in a family of 10 children and knew how to keep kids busy.
In the nice weather there were the nearby woods to explore, wildflowers to pick and, in berry season, berries to bring home for a pie or jam. With a creek just in back of our house, we spent hours swimming and playing in the water.
During the long rainy season we were always busy with a project or two. Sometime after Valentine’s Day we would start looking for the first pussy willows to appear.
I was in the first grade at our little four-room schoolhouse. My older sister and I walked the railroad tracks to and from school, keeping our eyes open for the pussy willows that grew alongside the tracks. As soon as we spotted them we would gather an armload and excitedly take them home.
We could hardly wait to clear away the dinner dishes and start on our own fun project. Mama kept a small stash of things for just such occasions and she would bring out some colored chalk. Around the table we would gather and with the colored chalk very carefully color each individual pussy willow. Pink, blue and yellow made a very pleasing combination.
Meanwhile, Mama would find two fruit jars of the proper size and we soon had two lovely bouquets — one could set in the living room for company to admire, and one for the kitchen table.
On this particular occasion, one little girl noticed loose pussy willows left on the table and thought one of them might fit up her nose. Sure enough, it was a perfect fit! In fact it fit so well, it refused to come back out. Deeper and deeper it went, until, panic stricken, she began to holler.
Mama came running and quickly sized up the situation. She could handle most any emergency involving kids. She went for her trusty crochet hook and carefully, carefully brought out that bad pussy willow.
In case you haven’t already guessed, I myself was the smart kid with the pussy willow nose trouble. Perhaps that is the reason why, even now, 80 years later, I still have such vivid memories of pussy willow time.
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