Sunday, December 18, 2016

Market Days

One day, when I was 7, I was allowed to go to the market with my parents for the first time ever. Usually, my parents left for the market before dawn to set up their stand by four thirty in the morning. That meant waking up early and leaving the farm by three fifteen in the dark after midnight, hours before sunrise. Naturally, me, my two closest brothers--one a year older, the other a year younger--would be fast asleep at that hour.

Most of my elder siblings, in their teens, would be up. Some were going to the market with my parents. A few would be left behind to watch over the three of us and mind the farm. By the time the three of us youngest woke up for Saturday morning cartoons and chores, my parents and selected siblings would all ready be gone to the market. They would set up there and sell the crops and products we had harvested or made that week.

Most of the time, the selected siblings going to the market would stay and work the stall during the busy hours, which started early at opening time and ran through lunch. Then, they'd catch the bus home with bus fare and lunch money from our parents, along with their money earned for work that week. They took the bus so they could meet their friends somewhere to hang out or do whatever it is teens do on their free time.

My parents would stay til all the crops and products were sold out or it was near four in the afternoon, when they either had sold everything or most of it, and it was time to close the stall and head home. By the time they got home by five, the three of us youngsters were anxious and looked forward to their return.

We used to beg our parents to take us with them on market day, but my parents refused, saying we were too young, and the market was a very busy and chaotic place. They were afraid that we'd run around and get lost or hurt. And they were absolutely right!

We were rambunctious, energetic, too curious, and too adventuresome for our own good. The few times my parents did take us shopping in town, we always managed to sneak off and escape and played hide and seek, or tag, or explore the new places as soon as our parents were distracted. It didn't matter that we knew we'd get spanked for being rowdy and disobedient. We couldn't help ourselves. The world was just too big and exciting for us not to explore!

Still, we made false promises to behave if we went with them on market day. But our parents knew that we couldn't keep still, not at that age, and given our spotty record of misbehaving when out in public places. But we begged and pleaded anyway--you'd think that we were running for public office with all the speeches and campaign promises we made to state our case of being fit to go to market day.

Eventually, tired of hearing us beg, my father challenged that if we could be awake and useful the next market day, he'd think about taking us. Boy, were we excited to hear that! We were all ready helping with the harvest and loading up the truck the evening before market day. And while we didn't get paid like our elder siblings were, our parents always did bring us back treats from market day, which only served to increase our anticipation and excitement for them to return from market day every Saturday afternoon.

We figured that our father had given us his word, that if we were useful and awake, there was a chance that we'd go with them on market day. Well, we eagerly worked hard, harvesting and then loading up the truck Friday evening. We were full of energy and so sure we'd be ready for market day.

Unfortunately, enthusiasm was no match for biology. We had worked so hard that we were too tired to get up early, and we slept in like we usually did on Saturday mornings. We were so disappointed that we missed our wake up call and chance to go to the market. We didn't even care about cartoons that morning.

Eventually, that disappointment turned to anger at ourselves for our failure, then anger at our parents and siblings for going to the market and leaving us behind. Then we were just sad and cried that we had worked so hard but missed our chance to go experience market day.

By the time my parents returned home, our eldest sister, the nicest and most caring of all our siblings (and still our favorite to this day), was comforting us on the porch bench, where we were sobbing in her arms. When our parents saw us, my sister explained why we were crying. And our parents, probably feeling a bit guilty, tried to comfort us and took us in the truck for a consolation ride to the village store for ice cream.

It worked. We stopped feeling sad and enjoyed our ice cream and truck ride. But by the time we got back home, my parents were firm again, telling us that we were still too young to go to the market, and we should just enjoy sleeping in, Saturday morning cartoons, and brunch. Well, we did love cartoons and we loved brunch. My two brothers were pacified and accepted this. But not me. I was born stubborn, hardheaded, determined to get my way. Even at that young age, I knew what I wanted, and I was determined to go on market day!

The following week, I worked hard on the farm. I knew one of my older brothers was going to the market, so I begged him to wake me up when he got up on market day. He looked at me for a moment, silently debating whether he should be impressed with my determination or irritated that I was being a pest to him again.

Earlier in the week, he ordered me to fetch him a shovel as he was on his way to clean out the barn; it was his turn to shovel out the horse and donkey poop. Shoveling horse and donkey poop was the third worst job on the farm. And I was feeling like a brat and told my older brother, "No. You can't tell me what to do! You're not the boss of me!"

And I quickly ran away to make my escape to sanctuary, under the supervision of my eldest sister, the nice one, who was in charge of us cleaning out the goat pens, the second worst job on the farm. Why second worst? Because those damned goats were rude and rowdy! They started clambering all over the pens, trying to get at you the minute they spotted you, hoping that you were bringing food. And when you did bring food, those bastards just bumped and tried to climb up your body to get at the feed bucket. Even worse, those mofos would even try to stand on you every chance they got!

Once, I was in the pens when I noticed that my left shoelace had become loose. I put my left foot on the fence, and when I bent down to tie my shoelace, a damned goat hopped on my back and stood there, calling out to my sister who was bringing the feed! I yelped and stood up, causing that stupid goat to jump off.

My sister and brothers were laughing at what happened. Stupid goat! And when I bent down to tie my shoelace again, another stupid goat tried to climb on my back! Oh, hell no! I stood back up and yelled at the goat as he jumped and ran away, all while my siblings laughed even louder!

I hated those damned goats! I got my revenge when I observed one of my older brothers turn a hose on a rowdy goat that tried to bump him. I had a water pistol, and I learned that if I squirt it in the face of a goat trying to bump me, the squirt caused the goat to back off and go away. Those goats were a lot of work and trouble for me. I very much enjoyed eating them when the time came and they ended up on the menu. Rude bastards! And they were very tasty when grilled!

And for your information, the worst job on the farm was feeding hogs. Because of the heat and the pig's inability to sweat to cool down, the feed station for our hogs was next to their shed, under the roof. Unfortunately, hogs love to roll in mud to cool down and often dug a lot into the earth. So to feed them, we had to go through their shed, enter their pens, and try to walk through all the mud and filth those hogs churned up in the pens from the dirt path to the feed station. Your shoes or boots will get stuck, dirty, and you will want to hose off the filth when you get out. And sometimes, you have to fight the urge to vomit on those days when you had to clean out the shed when the hogs just crapped all over where they slept! Filthy pigs!

The only thing worse than feeding and cleaning hogs was slaughtering them. At our farm, a quick rifle shot to the head finished off the pig quickly, efficiently, cleanly, and painlessly. At the neighbors' farms and other places, it was quite a horrifying ordeal.

I remember a few times when slaughtering the pigs went terribly awry. One neighbor used the old stun and stick method--whereby a pig was hit over the head hard with a sledge hammer or large stick, stunning it, then had its throat slit and bled out. Usually, the experts do it quickly and it's over really fast. But at the neighbor's, something went wrong. The cut wasn't deep enough, and that pig screamed and cried like a living, dying human being!

Oh, the suffering and horror! I was only 8, but I cringed and covered my ears as that pig screamed and wailed and bled all over the floor! It took minutes but felt like hours as this bleeding, terrified pig screamed and wailed like a human being getting murdered! I tried to move but I was frozen by the agonizing cries of this creature. I was too scared and too horrified to look away, until finally, the poor beast gurgled, convulsed, and finally went silent and laid still. But I could still hear the echoes of its tortuous screams as I looked at its dead, glassed over eyes. It was a traumatic and frightening experience, and it wasn't the last time that I witnessed a botched hog slaughter.

The next one I witnessed just a short while later involved a different neighbor. Here, they just used a sledge hammer to hit the hogs hard & fell them in one stroke. And it worked well, til towards the end, when one hog was stunned by the blow, fell down like the others before it, but as the fellas reached out to bleed it, it suddenly twitched, then floundered on the floor, screaming like a wounded human in terrible pain. Oh, the wretched sound of its painful cries! It was as if a human was being being killed violently & maliciously, crying out for help, flailing about in pain!

Once again, I covered my ears to shut out the desperate screams, but I could still hear the gory wailing, and I couldn't look away from the terrible sight of this dying hog. Fortunately, my father had brought his rifle and a quick shot in the forehead immediately quieted the dying creature, ending its life and its pain.

I learned then the value of tempering might with mercy. Life was precious. And in witnessing the terrible slaughtering of these creatures and my father's action to end life quickly, I learned important lessons. If we are to raise animals in order to eat them, then they must be killed as quickly, as efficiently, as painlessly as possible. No killing is ever humane. But they can be quick and immediate, free of torture and agony when done the right way.

Speaking of might and mercy, I was anxious as I waited to hear if my brother was willing to help me wake up on time for market day. It could've gone either way. Teenagers are a moody lot. He would either remember me being a brat to him earlier in the week and refuse to help. Or he could forgive my insult and help me out this one time.

He decided to give me a chance, much to my relief, but he warned me that if I didn't make an effort to get up when he woke me, I'd be left behind. So that Friday, after loading up the truck and finishing dinner, I showered, brushed my teeth, then went straight to bed, to the surprise of my parents and my two closest brothers.

We were usually allowed to stay up late Fridays, but I forced myself to be still, and soon enough, I feel asleep. And when I was suddenly shaken awake at the ungodly hour of three in the morning, I was confused at first. I was ready to go back to sleep until my older teen brother said that if I went to sleep now, I'd miss market day, and it all came flooding back to me. I wanted this!

So I forced myself up and suddenly found myself chilly. My teen brother took pity on me, grabbed my coat, put it on me, then led me by the hand to the bathroom, where he told me to hurry up, and use the bathroom, and wash my face. I took a leak, washed my hands and face, and felt more awake.

When I went out to the porch, where the truck was parked, my parents were surprised to see me, as did my other teen brother and one sister going on market day. When my mother asked what was wrong, I told her nothing was wrong. When my father asked me what was I doing up so early, I almost cried, because I thought he was going to leave me behind.

Luckily, my helpful teen brother, the third oldest and second son, took pity on me once more and said what my sluggish, still partially asleep brain couldn't communicate. "He wants to go to the market," he said.

"I do," I affirmed, suddenly finding energy to speak up and focus.

My parents looked at each other, and I was worried that they would say no. But finally my Dad said, "OK. Get in the truck."

And I felt exhilarated and broke out a huge smile as I clambered into the front seat between my parents while my siblings occupied the crew cab. I was so excited that I stayed awake all the way to the market, even though it was too dark to see what was outside the windows. I could only see the parts of the road lit up by headlights in the dark predawn hours.

And when we got to the market, it was even more amazing than I remembered. I've been to the market before a few times, when we'd pass through, catching a bus to go home after a day of shopping, or errands, or seeing the doctor/dentist for check ups. It was always packed in the day with other people selling or buying wares, catching a bus to somewhere, or eating a meal at the many food stands and restaurants. 

But this was the first time that I was seeing the market at night, and it was even more busy than the daytime! People were setting up stalls, the bright lights illuminating everything, casting shadows that gave people a ghostly quality as they hurried about the place.

My parents parked behind a stall, then my Mom rolled her window down, told me to stay in the truck, then she, my father, and my three siblings all got out and started unloading the truck and setting up the stall. I saw my mother walk to a nearby office, where she showed a document, paid a fee, then came back to the truck to get me.

She took my hand and led me to our stall where the rest of the family was working. Soon, I was tasked to help unload the truck, and when we were done unloading, we helped Mom set up the rest of the goods and display.

When we were done setting up, it was time for the market to open. Mom sent my siblings away with some money while she and my Dad started dealing with the first trickling of early bird customers. If you want the freshest and best picks of market goods, you had better be early and be among the first to buy the best goods available. And the majority of the early shoppers, I learned, were buying for restaurants and hotels.

People were laughing, haggling, boisterous--yelling out to each other greetings and prices, advertising their wares; carts and stalls creaked and groaned as they were loaded and unloaded; livestock were calling and grunting as they were moved into place or unto buyers vehicles. The air was laden with many smells of delicious food being cooked and served; the sweet fragrance of flowers wafted over from the florists and garden stalls. The market was so alive and full of noise and scenes and scents that made me stare in wonder at all the action that was going on. It was amazing.

It was a new experience seeing my parents working together to interact with strangers, customers who were buying goods that we helped grow, harvest, and make. I'd never seen Mom and Dad laugh and talk and jest with other new people before. A few of our stall neighbors came over to say hello, and I was both embarrassed and proud when my parents introduced me as one their babies who actually got up early to come to the market.

I was very shy meeting strange adults when I was a kid. I hated attention, especially from strange adults when it was focused on me. So you can imagine my embarrassment at having adult strangers ruffle my hair or touch my face. Yet standing there next to my parents, I couldn't help but be proud to be acknowledged as my parents son, one that they loved and were happy to have with them this market day.

My siblings soon returned with pancakes and hot chocolate for us kids and coffee for the folks. I was in heaven! I loved pancakes and hot chocolate! Even better, these were round ball pancakes, about the size of golf balls, made with bananas! They were sweet and delicious.

I should mention that I also like regular plain round ball pancakes, which I found out later is what people in Texas and other states call funnel cakes. It's the same batter, only, different in shapes. Funnels are used to drip the batter into spiral or cylinder shapes, while ice cream scoops or two large spoons are used to make the round ball pancake. So you can imagine my huge disappointment when at the state fair, I finally got to try a funnel cake that I had been hearing so many wonderful things about over the years, only to discover that, 'Wait a minute! I've had these before! These are weirdly shaped round ball pancakes where I come from!'

And I proceeded to argue with my friends who insisted that pancakes don't come in ball shapes! And I defended that they have a round ball version where I come from, and it's the same taste as the funnel cake! I may have been disappointed that funnel cake wasn't anything new or exotic, but it was still very tasty, and I had more.

My parents had me go with my siblings to eat our snacks in the back of the truck. My siblings were actually very nice to me and treated me well. And when we were done, we headed back to the stall, where the action was picking up, and I stayed out of the way while my family started helping customers.

By the time the sun rose up, I had picked up the rhythm of working in the stall. And I learned how to stock up and display the goods as soon as there was room from the other items being sold. More people arrived by the busloads as the sun rose over the ocean, bringing light, energy, color, and different noises.

Birds were chirping. Stray dogs came wandering, looking for easy meals, feeding on dropped food and the kindness of strangers. Loud music could be heard from vehicles going by. And a large nondenominational Christian choir had set up underneath the large tree across from the market, complete with a preacher praying and sermonizing for the salvation of our souls in between the hymns the choir belted out and danced to for the market crowds. The market was alive with sights, scents, and sounds, and I could feel the energy pulsing through the place.

By noon, the hustle and bustle of people kicked up dust and noise as more people came to shop for goods or to change buses and head to a different destination. The choir and preacher were gone, and in their place, some amateur bands and groups took turns playing music or performing skits and dances to entertain the crowds and earn a few dollars for their efforts.

For lunch, my parents sent out my siblings once more and this time, they brought back fish and chips and iced tea for lunch! I was astonished! This was a real treat. Fish and chips and iced tea! I couldn't believe how lucky I was to have this for lunch, after the awesome banana round ball pancakes and hot chocolate for breakfast. After everything that I had seen and experienced, market day was so much better and more amazing than I had ever imagined!

But as I was about to dig into my delicious fish, I suddenly thought about my two closest brothers back home, and I felt guilty. It just occurred to me that they were missing out on my great adventure. I was so caught up in my own excitement and new experiences that I totally forgot about my two closest brothers still back home, probably feeling betrayed that I had left them behind. Oh, I was a terrible brother and awful friend! How could I be so selfish?

My parents noticed my sudden mood change and asked me what was wrong. I told them nothing was wrong, I was only just thinking about my two brothers back home. My mother caught on and said we'd be sure to buy treats for them when it was time to go home. That made me feel a little better. My father added that if my two brothers could be useful and wake up early for market day, then they could come, too, next time. And that made me feel a whole lot better. I was determined to bring my two closest brothers next time. My appetite returned and I devoured that delicious plate of fish and chips.

After lunch, my three teen siblings were paid, given bus fare money, and they headed off to catch the bus to meet their friends. Before they left, my second eldest brother, the one who helped me make it to market day, asked me if I was ready to go home; he'd drop me off home or I could hang out with him and his friends. And I was so tempted to go with him to his friends!

It was the first time that he actually wanted to include me in his active teen social life. He was a pretty popular guy with lots of friends, and he was involved in a lot of clubs and activities. There were times when we rarely saw him. As soon as he was done with chores, he'd take off to see his friends or take part in some group activity or undertaking. Sometimes, he'd be gone overnight, and we wouldn't see him til the next day, returning home to do chores, then shower, change clothes, and be off again to some other venture. It all seemed mysterious and exciting at times. He was involved in a lot of things and events, and lots of people seemed to invite him over or asked him to participate in various clubs and activities.

I have to admit that we, his youngest brothers, were always impressed that he seemed to know a lot of people. Everywhere we went--be it church, or school, or in town--all sorts of people would call out to greet him and talk to him. Even if we were just hanging out in the front yard, cars and trucks passing by would honk, and people called out his name and waved hello. All sorts of walking strangers would stop by the front gate to say hello and chat with our brother--old people, adults, lots of young people, men, women, teen girls and boys all seemed to know our brother, taking the time to say hello and exchange pleasantries. He was so busy living his social life that he hardly had time to hang out with us, his youngest three brothers, brats who needed babysitting and looking after.

I was really tempted to take up his offer and hang out with his teen friends, having what I could only imagine as great teen adventures and fun. But I was not done with market day, and I wanted to experience as much as possible with my parents. My teen siblings loaded up the empty crates in the truck before they took off, and I was left in my parents care.

That day, I learned many lessons. One of those was that people could change, sometimes for the better. And that meant me and my second eldest brother. Before that market day, we weren't really close. He was a teen concerned with teenage things, and I was still a small child doing childish things. He used to boss us youngsters around, and we'd act like brats half the time, pestering him and driving him crazy. But that market day, he treated me well, helping me when he had every reason not to. And I learned to respect him, and if I wanted people to help me, then I needed to be respectful and treat people right. And after that day, my second eldest brother and I started to treat each other cordially. And to this day, we maintain a healthy respect, courtesy, and care for one another.

I felt very proud helping my parents sell the rest of the goods. Most of our goods were all ready sold by three that afternoon. I had been up for twelve hours, and I was starting to feel sleepy. I laid my head on my mother's lap and prepared to go to sleep.

But then out of the corner of my eye, I noticed my father speaking to someone that I couldn't see. I was curious, so I sat up. I was surprised to see that it was a child, a little older than me. I heard him asking my father how much a single fruit cost.

His question confused me. We were selling fruit at two for a dollar. The child customer asked how much fruit could he get with a quarter. I wasn't sure how much he could get for a quarter.

My father looked at my mother, and they exchanged a quick look before my Dad told the child customer that he was in luck, because it was the end of the day, and he could buy the last bag of fruit, which was five dollars for ten fruits, for a mere quarter.

I don't know who was more surprised, me or the child customer! My father handed over the last bag of fruit to the astonished kid who handed over his quarter. My Dad asked the child customer if he could take the last empty box crate and put it in the truck. The kid said yes. So my Dad gave him back his quarter and said that was payment for putting the crate in the truck. Both the kid and I were astounded once more.

The kid took the crate, put it in the truck, waved and thanked my Dad, then walked to the back. I was really confused and curious now. I saw the kid make his way to the inner courtyard, where the smaller craft stalls were located. He sat down next to a woman, showed her his fruit bag; he seemed very happy and excited about his find. His mother asked him a question, and he pointed in our direction.

By then, my parents were finished counting the money and were clearing the stall. My mother then took me to the food stalls, where we bought three bags of delicious jam filled rolls. Each bag held a dozen, warm, sweet smelling jam rolls, and two dozen were more than enough to feed our big family. Jam rolls are light and fluffy sweet round buns with the airy consistency of a donut but filled with rich, tasty fruit jam. They are divine eaten warm and equally scrumptious when eaten cold. It was a real treat to eat one of those. One bite into that soft, fluffy bun fills your nose with a pleasing aroma; then you taste the subtle sweetness of the roll just a few moments before the jam bursts onto you tongue and wows you with zesty, tangy, nectarous jelly making for a delightful, happy experience.

Taking our jam roll bags, Mom asked me pick out a treat for my two closest brothers back home. We only wandered the food stalls for a few minutes when I spotted the perfect treat: fruit filled half moon pies. These divine treats were made of flaky, buttery crusts filled with a decadent jam and fruit filling. One bite into this rich treat, and you'll enjoy the ambrosial combination of flaky, buttery, nutty crust and fantastic, flavorful fruit filling. It is a euphoric taste sensation! So good were they that Mom bought a few to take home.

When we went back to meet Dad, he was all done securing the crates on the truck, so he waited for us at the stall. We went to the truck, but we didn't go home immediately. Instead, Mom put most of our treats in the truck, then she locked the doors. She held on to one bag of a dozen jam rolls though as we stood next to the truck.

Dad looked at me and said, "Son, you did a good job today."

That made me beam a really big smile, and I nodded. Dad continued, "We did really well today, all our hard work paid off. When you work hard, and you do a good job, good things will come to you."

I nodded, picking up on the seriousness he was communicating. He continued, "And when you do really well and find yourself as blessed and fortunate as we have been today, it's nice to take time to appreciate what we have, and it's good to be able to share a little bit of that good fortune, especially with others who might need just a little help."

I nodded to indicate that I heard him, but I didn't really understand what he was saying. Maybe because it was too big for me to comprehend. Or maybe the smell of those delicious jam rolls were getting to me, making me salivate and hunger for them.

Mom spoke to me, "We had a good day today."

I nodded my agreement. Mom continued, "But other people might not be as lucky as we are. So, if we are able, it would be very nice of us to help those people just a little. Because everyone needs a little help every now and then. And someday, we might need it to. And if that day comes, it would be nice to have someone help us."

I nodded again to show that I understood that. My parents were always encouraging us to share, to be nicer and kinder to each other. Here, they were teaching me that lesson again. But the lesson didn't end with just a lecture.

I was surprised when my parents led me back to the market. Dad took my hand, and we headed into the inner courtyard to see the small crafts stalls. I had not had time to explore this section of the huge market, and I was amazed at the variety and number of so many different items the vendors were selling--jewelry, bags, clothes, vases, pottery, metal works, carved items, rugs, placemats, even lobster and crab catches, and fishing lures and nets. Art, so much art along with practical, useful everyday tools and utensils.

I was mesmerized by the kaleidoscope of colors and objects that surprised me with their hues and varieties everywhere that I looked. Here, there was a constant flow of sound as people chatted, buying and selling, and wares jingled, jangled, banged, and thumped as they were moved and exchanged in the flurry of market activity. Every item was out to be noticed. Every seller trying to get the customers attention. Every buyer searching for a good deal or a fantastic find. The crowds invariably grouping at several stalls before thinning out and reappearing in numbers at other places. The flow of goods and people, swirling, ebbing, rushing, crashing, rising, falling, always moving kept me captivated. I was spellbound by the magic of market day in all its wild, unfettered glory.

I was broken out of my reverie when we stopped at a stall. It was a broom stall. These homemade brooms were made of sturdy wood and straw, bound by natural rope. It was the kind of broom that was well suited to the indoors for sweeping the floors and strong enough for use outside to sweep up the porches, veranda, and driveway. No two brooms were alike, and I was drawn to the unique patterns of waves of wood grain that swirled along the broom handles, making for an interesting view up close.

We had one of these kind of versatile brooms at home, and it was much better than a few of the factory made ones that were purchased from the stores. The factory ones never seemed to last long on the farm with all the work we used them for. So I guessed we were buying one of the sturdy homemade ones to take home.

But I was surprised to hear my parents ask to buy two. I looked up to see the astonished expression on the seller's face. I was even more surprised when I recognized the little boy standing next to the seller, helping my parents pick out two brooms. It was the boy who bought our last bag of fruit for free!

My parents paid for their two new brooms and had a conversation with the seller, who seemed grateful for our purchase. The boy and I just looked at each other and exchanged a polite nod with small smiles. Then I heard my parents say that they had bought some extra treats to take home and were wondering if the seller and her son would like some to share.

Mom handed over the bag of jam rolls as the seller tried to protest, appearing slightly embarrassed and grateful at the same time. My parents insisted that we had bought too many sweets (at which point I protested in my mind that you can never have too many sweets! But my tongue was exploring the hole in my mouth from my very recent and last baby tooth loss, reminding me, well, maybe there was a thing as too many sweets). My parents added that it was a thank you to her son for helping us clear our stall. All he did was put the last empty crate in the truck bed, and he got his quarter back for his trouble. But my parents were keen to reward good behavior and good work.

I began to understand a little bit more of what was going on. My parents were practicing the lessons that they were teaching me (and our family) about sharing, kindness, and generosity. The seller and her son thanked my parents profusely. My parents said good bye and we left to go home with our new brooms secured in the back of the truck.

On the drive home, Mom asked me if I wanted a jam roll, and I was tempted to eat one. But I was more eager to get home and share them with my two brothers. I was a little nervous that they'd be mad at me for leaving them behind as I was able to go to the market. But I was also excited to share with them the tales of my market adventure and enjoy the market treats with them.

And when we got home, it was as I feared. My brothers seemed both mad and excited to see me, Mom, and Dad return home. They were mad that they'd been left behind once more; and they were mad at me especially for not sharing this adventure with them, a betrayal they didn't want to forgive. But they were also mad at themselves for not waking up early enough to make the trip. Yet they were also happy to see us return, and they were eager for the market day treats.

Mom gave one bag of the jam rolls and most of half moon pies to my eldest sister and other siblings, who greeted our return, to share amongst themselves. She told them to save some for dessert after dinner. The other bag of treats she had handed to me to hold after we got out of the truck. We stepped onto the veranda where my two brothers were waiting.

At first, my year older brother just looked mad at me, his face crossed and his eyebrows furrowed with his lips tight and arms folded. That made me feel bad. But I felt even worse when I saw my baby brother, a year younger, eyes red and wet, sniffling as if he'd been crying recently, no doubt because of my betrayal and his being left behind again.

Mom picked up my baby brother, letting Dad kiss his cheek before Mom resumed comforting him. Dad rubbed my older brother's hair before leading him to the bench where they both sat next to Mom, who was still holding my baby brother in her arms. Dad put one arm around my older brother and said, "Son, don't be mad at your brother for going to the market with us. He got up early enough to go, and he worked very hard today."

My older brother looked down at his feet, lips now pouting. Dad continued, "And I told you all before that if you work hard and get up early enough, then you can go with us to the market. That's the deal. So if you can do that, you can go to the market, okay?"

My older brother nodded, still looking at his feet. But at least it he wasn't pouting anymore. Then my Dad asked, "Are you all ready for your treat?"

That got both my brothers to look at Dad excitedly and say yes. Dad nodded at me to hand over the bag of jam rolls I was holding. And over a jam roll and shared half moon pies, all was forgiven, as my brothers asked me for details of my adventure, and I shared all that I could. The rest of the treats were savored after dinner that evening.

I had promised my brothers that we would all go together the following market day. But I warned them that it was hard work, especially trying to wake up early at three in the morning! Luckily for us, our eldest sister, the nice one, and our third elder brother, the other nice one, were taking their turn to go to the next market day. So both were nice enough to agree to wake all three of us youngest to go on market day.

That following week, we worked hard on the farm. We even avoided our afternoon nap that Friday so we'd be tired out after loading up the truck with goods. After dinner, we brushed our teeth, showered, changed clothes, then slept early. Still, it was a challenge to wake us up, especially my two brothers when we got our wake up call that morning. Reminding them of the market got them to wake up and move faster.

Pretty soon, my older brother and I were squeezed between my sister and other big brother; our baby brother was soon passed out asleep between my parents in the front seat, his head on Mom's lap. Soon even my older brother passed out, his head on our sister's shoulder. But not me, I was still excited to be going to the market, even if all I could see out the windows was darkness until the road went by the sea, and it reflected the shimmering moon on the waves washing into the shore.

When we got to the market, it was just as exciting as the last time with all the noise and sights and smells from the hustle and bustle of activity and people and livestock. My brothers were amazed just as I was. And soon, I showed them how to unload and set up the stall. My older brother picked up the rhythm and the two of us proved our worth by helping our elder brother, sister, and parents unload the truck and set up the stall. My baby brother helped a bit before Mom had him sitting on the bench, to watch our stall and stuff as we worked. He liked doing that, playing guard, pretending to protect treasure.

Surprisingly, we had another helper show up. It was the little boy from the broom stall. They were all done setting up, and he saw us arrive and wanted to help us set up. So we welcomed him, and we all set to work.

And soon enough, we were up and running, with some time to spare before the official opening at four thirty as the early bird customers started arriving. Once again, the elder siblings were sent to fetch another delicious breakfast, which we kids enjoyed eating in the truck bed while our parents started selling. Sweet banana round pancakes and hot chocolate are always a tasty treat! After sharing our breakfast, the broom seller kid left to go back to his stall to help his Mom sell their brooms. My parents told him to come back and see us for lunch.

It was another busy and productive day for us as all our goods were sold that day. My brothers and I had a blast as we watched all the fantastic things going on in the market as people bargained and traded goods, and animals and plants and products exchanged hands. The noise and spectacle of people laughing, dealing, moving, singing, dancing, and interacting made for a spectacular market day experience. The changing light; the rich, varied scents; the colors and noises created an astonishing atmosphere of energy and excitement, making the market a living, thrilling, pulsating phenomenon.

When broom seller kid came back for lunch, Mom sent all us kids to follow our big brother and big sister to buy lunch. We took the long away around so we could see more of the incredible market and all the diverse products being bought and sold in all corners. Our big sister led our mini tour, and our big brother was at the end, herding us together so we wouldn't wander off and get lost in the mad frenzy of the market action.

My big sister held my baby brother's hand, lifting him up to see the animals when we got to the far outskirts where the animals were being held and sold. Since the animals have a strong odor, they were located at the far edge of the market, downwind. You could smell them before you got close to the holding pens. It was neat to see the varieties of pigs, goats, chickens, ducks, geese, sheep, cattle, and other birds and livestock. The came in all sizes--big, medium, small. And they all had unique colorations--shades and blends and combinations of subtle and vibrant hues. It was exciting to see the wide range of differences among the creatures whose cumulative noise became a cacophonous symphony that captured the attention.

The seafood section by the wharf also had its distinct smell at its location on the other far end of the market. The waves gently brushed against the pier, and colorful fishing vessels of different sizes and builds bobbed slowly as their rich myriad of catches were unloaded and offered to the curious and hungry consumers. It was fun to see the lobsters and crabs in the holding tanks, along with octopi and squids hanging from lines, set to be sold. Shellfish like clams, oysters, and mussels were showcased on ice. Even the seaweed and urchins and eels caught our gaze as we were impressed with their shiny, fascinating, unique bodies. Most of the fish were in freezers, but the few on display were eye catching due to their large size and vibrant colors.

The floral section smelled lovely with all the many, diverse blooms of colorful, rich, stunning flowers and plants. The plants scents were pleasing, and their blossoms and shapes and features made for beautiful viewing--natural, spectacular, flourishing art. So many provocative petals were dazzlingly displayed in splendid symmetrical showings or astonishing asymmetrical arrays. Vivacious vines and bold bushes lured us with their lush leaves and luster. Here, they even sold flower necklaces and offered a bonanza of arrangements for all occasions, from the happy ones to the sad ones. Flowers bloomed and beckoned and bewitched all to approach and admire them.

But by far, the most wonderful smells in all of the market came from the lively and lovely food stall section. It was a hodgepodge collection of a few small restaurants, food trucks, open stalls, BBQ stands, even one burner stove stalls that prepared and served some of the most popular and delectable dishes. A few were actually very healthy and nutritious. A lot was actually fried. The offerings of sweet and savory and spicy and salty was almost too much for me to bear; these competing and cooperating scents enveloped us, stirring up hunger, summoning us to devour their decadent and tasty offerings. It was a feast for the eyes and ears to see all the different ways the food was prepared and to hear the sizzling, crackling, searing, steaming sounds of the food being cooked.

Our sister and elder brother discussed our options. They narrowed down our choices to two: BBQ or Fish and Chips. We loved BBQ, but we rarely had fish and chips. So fish and chips with limeade it was for lunch. So we made our purchase then headed back to the stall to drop off our parents' lunch and then eat our meal in the truck bed again.

Lunch was just delicious and a fun, leisurely experience as we ate and eagerly discussed all the things that we had seen and experienced so far. When we were done eating, broom seller kid thanked us; he helped us older kids load up and secure the empty crates unto the truck; then he headed back to his stall. And while we were loading up the crates, our baby brother was eagerly telling our parents all the amazing things he had seen at the market so far, all while our parents smiled and enjoyed hearing him tell of his adventure so far.

And when we were done loading, our sister and elder brother were paid, and they headed off to catch the bus to meet their friends and hangout. The three of us youngest boys were staying with Mom and Dad til the end of market day. We only had two crates of fruit left. But soon, those were empty, too, as our parents let us set up the displays to replace the fruits we were successfully selling. By three that afternoon, we had sold out. It was another good day for us. Mom decided to get some market day treats, so my older brother and baby brother went with her back to the food stalls while I stayed to help Dad clean up our stall and secure the crates.

We were just sitting down after finishing up when a man approached us. He was all excited and spoke relief that we hadn't left yet. I didn't know who he was, but Dad knew him, and they talked. The man asked if we had any more fruit left. Then I recognized him as one of the early bird chefs from the big hotel by the beach. He always showed up first in the dark dawn and bought a lot of fruit, two crates worth, at least.

Dad told him that we had sold out, and the man sighed and expressed disappointment. There was a last minute booking of fairly important guests at the hotel, arriving tomorrow, and the chef wanted to impress them with local food for brunch and dinner. He wanted to use our fruit, because they tasted good and were the best quality, as well as we were the only growers of certain varieties that no one else was producing.

It was true. My parents loved to experiment with plants on the farm. They'd crossbreed some plants to create new varieties or nurtured rare ones that were disappearing from the region. This led to a mishmash of different produce on the farm, and every month, we seemed to have a harvest of different fruits and vegetables to sell to wholesalers from the big supermarkets and still have enough left over to sell at the market.

Sometimes, we had so much produce that we shared the bounty with neighbors and charities, even selling the extras at a makeshift farm stand by the front gate of the farm. And we always sold out at the farm stand, probably because the prices were so low (because we had so much fruit that we couldn't possibly jam and preserve all of them, having used up all the jars). And most importantly, the fruit was very sweet and scrumptious! We had repeat customers. It was common to have people going to town for business or joyriding to stop at our stand to buy fruit. Then we'd see those same people drive back in the afternoon stop by the stand to buy more.

Dad told the chef that if he could follow us back to the farm, we'd pick more fruit for him to bring back. That got the chef excited and he agreed. He was going to the hotel to pick up an extra set of hands and bring a hotel van to follow us.

Mom and my brothers arrived soon after, and Dad told them what the plan was. Mom picked up a bag of fruit that she had set aside, and taking another bag of treats, we followed her to the broom seller stand, where we spoke to our new friend while his mother and our Mom talked a bit; then Mom handed over the treat bag and fruit bag as a reward to our friend for helping us out today. Then we said our goodbyes and went to the truck where Dad was waiting. And soon, the hotel van showed up and followed us home.

In the truck crew cab, my brothers and I compared notes on what interesting things we had seen at the market that day. We took turns letting our baby brother look out from one side window to the other in between the pauses of discussing our exciting day. And every so often, we'd look out the back window and see the van following us. We waved at them, and they waved back. We slowed down to turn onto the farm, and the van followed us.

When we got out of the truck, Mom handed the bags of treats to one of our older brothers then instructed him to summon the others, as we had guests and some work to do. We followed Dad and the chef and the assistant to the fields, where the chef lit up and excitedly took notice the various fruits and veggies and started to point out the ones he wanted.

He pointed out the items he wanted, tried some, and we picked and packed them in cardboard boxes we often used for the produce that we were selling to the supermarkets. The chef was like a kid in a candy store, impressed with the variety and bounty of crops. And soon, he started picking out more produce in addition to the three crates of fruit he was getting. All together, his van was filled with a haul of various fruits and veggies, especially the out of season ones and rare ones that we grew and rotated year round. My parents even gave him some free samples in a box consisting of new varietals and favorites and produce that were the first to ripen in the oncoming peak season for those varieties.

We made a long term customer out of him and the hotel. Even years later when the chef moved to a big city far away, the hotel still had us as suppliers, even after another big company purchased the hotel. We had a few more customers come to the farm to pick out what they wanted to buy. And it always amazed me the unique and different trends going on in the restaurant and hotel business. Sometimes, the stuff that I didn't like were the most popular for the customers. Other stuff that I did like, the buyers passed by. But I was a picky eater. Mom and Dad had taught us that if we made good products and dealt fairly and faithfully with people, people will remember and deal with us fairly and faithfully in return. And it was true.

I had never seen anyone so excited and happy to see produce, especially vegetables, which weren't my favorite thing to eat as a small child. But the chef's enthusiasm was infectious, and soon we were all caught up in that excitement and developed pride in our farm. We had always loved the farm, but seeing it through someone else's eyes was a revelation that we lived in a special place, and we wouldn't complain quite as much about doing the hard, dirty jobs on the farm anymore. Sure, we still complained, especially when we became teens; but we still appreciated what we had and worked hard because this was our home, and it was special, and we did our best to take good of care of it, just as it took good care of us growing up.

Market days are wonderful days. A few more times after that fun market day, my two brothers loved going to the market with me, our parents, and older siblings. But as we made friends with other neighborhood kids and played together, my two brothers lost interest in market day, and for the most part, wouldn't participate any more til we were teens, and it was our job to go to market day and sell produce.

But while my brothers stopped going, I never lost interest in market day and went as often as I could. There is a magic to market day. And seeing all those people and plants and animals and all their interactions made for a lively, chaotic, pleasing, adventurous experience.

You meet all sorts of people at the market place. And that might seem frightening, especially for a shy kid like me who hated attention and meeting strange adults. But I loved watching people and how they acted with each other and the world around them. People fascinated me, and at the market, I could see and study all sorts of different people, without getting noticed in the chaos and hubbub of the market. It was better than watching tv. And pretty soon, I got very good at reading people and their actions and moods, and I'd be able to predict what they would do and got to see who they really were underneath the airs they put on in public. It was all so fascinating!

But most important of all, I made a friend at the market, broom seller kid. We'd take turns visiting each other's stall to help out or just hang. It was nice to have a friend at the market. It was even better to have one on the farm.

My parents had recognized broom seller mom and her son from the month before, selling brooms at a busy intersection during the week. She must've saved enough money to rent a small stall at the market, where the whole region came to shop on Saturday. This was before the mall or large superstores ever made it to our remote coast. And to this day, the market is still the best place to reach a wider audience and expand the customer base. Everybody goes to the market, even if it's just to change buses to get to the other side of the region.

In the course of the summer, my parents learned that broom seller and her son went up the mountains to gather the materials needed to make their brooms. It was a dangerous and hard way to earn a living. But they needed the money. Her husband, broom seller kid's father, was working on a construction crew in another region, a few hours away. It was where he could find a job, where the unpredictable job of construction took him. Construction workers, especially laborers, went to where the jobs were. And the jobs lasted as long as it took to finish building the project. And sometimes, there'd be no other job for a while after that. It was a very unsteady way to earn a living, made especially difficult for those with families counting on steady work.

By the end of that summer, my parents invited broom seller and her kid to live in the bunkhouse on the farm. The father joined them soon after, and they worked with us on the farm. They stayed with us til the following year, when Dad used his connections to find the father a better paying job on the fishing vessels that came to port regularly to sell their catch to the region's fish processing plants. Though it required a few weeks on the sea, the pay was worth it, and they saved enough to get their own place near the port, so the father wouldn't have far to go when he came home after weeks at sea.

That family never forgot what my parents had done for them. We took them in as extended family and enjoyed our time together. And we loved having broom kid with us; he was like a fourth brother to us three. But we were happy to see his family move to a better life, even if it meant far away to a new place. When my Dad passed away, that family came to pay their respect, stayed in the old bunkhouse, and they helped with the funeral tasks of organizing and taking care of visitors and mourners. They spoke of my family's kindness and generosity, and they were grateful to my Dad's help in finding the father a better job to enable him to earn a better life for his family.

Hearing them speak of Dad's kindness and generosity made me sad and cry, because I was reminded that Dad really was kind and generous and loving, and now, he was gone. All I had were the memories of him and the few pieces of important advice he had shared with me. And there was so much more that he could've taught me, and I wish that there was a way he could've lived longer. But life is not fair, and we aren't always so fortunate.

Having Mom around to take care of us was the only thing that kept us going. We were a broken family, but we weren't broken down. Mom helped us move forward. Her strength and love helped us heal and become stronger. We were never the same after Dad passed on, but no family ever is after the devastating loss of a loved one. But with Mom's love and wisdom, we were still a family, and we made it through the most difficult and darkest time in our lives.

Mom was our light in the darkness, the guiding star in the tumultuous sea of our journey in life. And when she, too, passed on, the light was gone from our lives once more. Yet even in the darkness and sorrow, we had hope. Because Mom had given us hope. She showed us that hope in the struggle after Dad passed on, and we looked to her strength and love to guide us and make us better and stronger. She had taught us how to survive, and we knew, though our hearts were breaking and our souls were crying, we would survive this. We would live through this. And so long as we had their memories, we'd still have Mom and Dad's love.

When the broom seller/fisherman family came for Mom's funeral, they were welcomed back into the fold. And when they spoke of Mom's kindness and generosity, it, too, made me sad once more, because it was another cataclysmic loss in our lives. But this time, those heartfelt words from the people testifying about Mom's kindness and generosity also made me hopeful.

Those lovely words reminded me that Mom was loving, kind, and generous. And looking at all these many people whose lives she and Dad had changed for the better was the evidence of their positive influence; they had helped so many people. Though they were gone, the effect of their kind actions still carried down to these days, as people remembered them and honored their memory. These people, and we, had better lives because of Mom and Dad's thoughtful actions. And I hope that someday, I would have such a great and caring influence to help others find a better life.

After Dad passed away, times were tough on the farm. But we all pulled together and kept going. Market day was an important event in our week. And it wasn't just because of the money we made selling our crops. It was an important ritual that reminded us of our father, and how he looked forward to going to the market, proud to show off and sell the amazing fruits of his labor. He took pride in what he grew and sold, and we shared that same spirit.

By the time I started high school, most of my older siblings had children. So every holiday break and summer, our farm would be full of tiny children and babies, come to see grandmother and spend time with us. Most of the time, my older siblings just dropped them off the then they'd be gone, sometimes for a week or two on their own vacation or to spend time away from the kids, doing their own thing.

My middle elder sisters, who lived nearby, were especially good at the drop and go. They'd stop by for brunch, suck up to Mom by praising the new growth in her garden, then ask if we could watch their little rugrats while they did a quick errand. I'd be oblivious, busy doing some task or reading a book, or even watching tv, when all of a sudden, I'd have a niece or nephew crawl in the room towards me, looking for attention or wanting to play. I'd turn to look for their parents, my elder siblings, but the parents were gone, and sometimes, for the whole week! If I had paid attention, I'd've spotted when my siblings were about to leave their kids with us for a while. The biggest clue would've been the large bags of clothing and diapers my sisters brought with them. There was at least a week's worth of stuff in those bags!

But I didn't mind watching my nieces and nephews. It's only fair since my elder siblings watched me and my two closest brothers when we were children. But my two brothers and I were a whole lot nicer to our nieces and nephews compared to some of our elder siblings who babysat us when we three were kids. We took very good care of our nieces and nephews, and they loved staying with us on the farm.

We played with the babies and toddlers; we fed them, burped them, changed and bathed them, and rocked them to sleep. We had the older kids help us on the farm, doing age appropriate chores, like weeding the gardens, feeding the animals, or watering the plants; then we kept an eye on them as they played in the yard or climbed trees. It was wonderful to hear them laugh as they played. And when they were old enough, they helped harvest the crops, load up the truck, and we'd bring them treats back from market day. The kids loved getting market day treats. We all did!

One of my nephews actually wanted to be woken up early so he could go to the market with us, his three uncles and grandmother. And I smiled because he was about my age back then when I first went to the market. And I recognized the same stubbornness and fire in him like I had to always try and get what I want, to do what I wanted to do, to go to the market. So I woke him up early and helped him get ready to go to the market with us. And I smiled as I recognized that same look of wonder and surprise he had on his face when he first laid eyes on the market and all its lively, chaotic, bustling activities.

I knew he was hooked, and I made sure to make his first market day experience a good one. So like my elder siblings had taught me that first time, I showed my nephew where to unload the crates and how to display the crops. I proudly introduced him to our stall neighbors as my nephew who was helping us today. He looked both proud and bashful, and that made me smile.

I explained to him who these early bird customers were; and I made sure he enjoyed his banana round ball pancakes and hot chocolate breakfast in the back of the truck. And when it came time for lunch, I made sure to take his hand and take the long scenic route, showing him all the other areas of the huge market--the livestock pens, the seafood section, the plant and flower stalls, the arts and crafts courtyard, and the delicious food stalls, where we decided on fish and chips and limeade for lunch. Everyone loves delicious, crispy, tender, crunchy, flavorful fish and chips! I did, and so did my nephew, as we ate in the back of the pick up.

One of our stall neighbors was an elderly lady who brought her toddler granddaughter. I made sure to buy a small plate of fish and chips for her, and had my nephew deliver it to the little girl who smiled a big thank you and enjoyed her first taste of fish and chips. While deciding on lunch options, I used that time as an opportunity to talk with my nephew about sharing and kindness and generosity. He'd seen Mom give the little toddler girl a fruit to eat, and I wanted to reinforce that lesson on sharing.

My nephew enjoyed eating a leisurely lunch with his two uncles on the back of the truck. Meanwhile, my baby brother was on the bench behind the stall, eating lunch with Mom and selling our crops at the same time. When we were done eating, we began securing the empty crates on the truck.

I didn't go home after lunch, like my two brothers who were given their pay and transportation money, so they could meet up with their friends. I stayed with Mom and my nephew. I was proud to see my nephew had become proficient at setting up the crops for display as soon as there was room from other crops being sold. After we had sold off everything, Mom took him to the food stalls to buy market day treats while I cleaned up the stall and finished securing the last empty crates on the truck. The look of pure joy on my nephew's face as he and his grandmother returned with bags of jam rolls and pies made me smile. It was a great day at the market. We sold out, and my nephew had enjoyed his market day adventure.

My nephew loved his experience so much that he started going to every market day with us. Even when school started back up in the fall, he would beg to come over Friday to spend the weekend with us. So after school, I would stop by my sister's house to pick up my nephew and we'd take a short walk home to the farm. He'd tell me about his week and what he'd like to do, and I indulged him. He was a good kid, and I wanted to preserve that childhood innocence and sense of wonder for as long as possible.

And when we got home, we'd have a snack of Mom's delicious fried egg sandwiches, do our homework, then load up the truck, eat dinner, brush our teeth, shower, and go to bed soon after. Then I'd wake him up early after three in the morning, help him get ready, and we'd be on our way to the market to set up and start selling before the dawn. He was a natural market vendor, selling excellent products at good prices, dealing with people fairly, just like Mom and Dad and the rest of us who had done this before him. 

I was extremely proud of him when I saw him give one of his banana round ball pancakes to a small child, who stared at him eating breakfast while the child's parent was buying our fruits. The look of surprise and wonder on that child's face was priceless.

I had a small cup of warm hot chocolate that came with our order. I was going to give it to my nephew as an extra for him. At this time in high school, I was on the track team, and I was trying to drink more water and eliminate soda and other artificial drinks from my diet. Coach said a healthier diet led to a healthier, stronger, faster body. And he was right. But inspired by my nephew's generosity, I gave that hot chocolate to the little child, whose mother was stunned at the unexpected act of kindness to her child and thanked us profusely. It felt wonderful to see that little child smile and thank us. It made me and my nephew feel good that morning.

Mom looked at us proudly and beamed with joy. For all the headaches and stress we've caused her through our stubbornness, teenage moodiness, and for acting like idiots at times, it was a relief to know that we still remember some of the important life lessons and values that she and Dad tried to instill in us. More importantly, we were passing these values down to the next generation.

Going to the market was more than a business venture. It was a right of passage. It was a learning experience. It was a milestone in the family, a sign of promise, potential, responsibility, and reliability. And my nephew showed that he was on his way to being a successful, good, and wise human being--compassionate and smart and strong.

Working on a farm is hard and difficult. There are so many challenges, from bad weather, pests, blights, droughts, floods, and so many other variables that can harm and destroy months of hard labor. You sweat under the sun, planting crops; you constantly have to remove weeds & pests that take away nutrients from the crops and even eat the crops before they've a chance to grow; the livestock need tending and care daily--feeding, watering, cleaning, protecting--rain or shine, whatever the weather, you cannot ignore the animals nor skip a day of tending to them. And there are always fences and sheds and buildings and tools and equipment to be mended and in need of maintenance from the harsh, daily grind of farm life and activities.

And should your crops grow successfully, you have to work hard and fast to pick the best crops and move the heavy loads before the harvest is over; figure out storage and the logistics of transporting and distributing your products; then you have to figure out the best price for all your hard work amidst the changing market conditions and consumer tastes. What was popular last season or even last week won't always sell well this season or even this week.

You have to balance picking out the crops at their peak and maintaining freshness vs not moving nor selling enough and they start to spoil, costing money. You store and save what you can--make jams, pickles, dried or candied fruits, canning, and whatever else you can do. It's a very difficult task to make a profit, just to cover your operating costs and give you enough funds to continue work on next season's yields.

Yes, it's hard and challenging work. And there are days when it all goes wrong and you lose everything. Those are the heartbreaking and terrible days. But then there are days when it all goes well, and you see the fruits of your labor, and you are proud to see the evidence of all your hard work paying off. You take immense pride in the crops you've grown and the products you've made. You are proud to show them off and sell them at the market. These are the creations you've long labored over, and you offer them up for all the world to see. And all the pain and toil was worth it, just to see people buy your products and recognize their quality and all the hard work you've put into their growth and creation.

I have to confess that before my nephew joined us, I wondered what would happen to market day once I was gone. My baby brother would stay home, because he didn't have our father's wanderlust that I had inherited. And my older brother was living in the bunkhouse, making plans to get a place of his own with some friends.

I worried about Mom and whether she would be able to run the farm and go to the market with just her and my baby brother. She loved the farm, and she looked forward to selling our crops and products at the market, to socialize with her market vendor friends and customers. These were relationships built over years, and going to the market gave her something to enjoy, to remember our Dad, to be among friends and be a part of the market day action.

But seeing my nephew's enthusiasm and love for the market assured me that it was going to be all right. At least one person from the next generation showed an interest in the market. And it was enough to give me hope that the market day traditions would continue, that the farm would be in good hands, that our family traditions and values would continue, so long as one person believed and practiced those family traditions and values.

Just because I didn't want to be farmer didn't mean that I didn't care about the farm or the traditions. The farm was home, and the traditions were our way of practicing the values and beliefs we held dear and in the highest regard. And market day was an important tradition. Seeing my nephew live out those values made me proud and relieved. The torch was being passed from my generation to the younger ones, and I was fine with that. Things were going to be all right even after I would be gone. The farm was going to be all right. The family was going to be fine.

And after Mom passed on, it was my baby brother and nephew who lived on the farm and kept it going. They had help from hired workers and a few of my other nieces and nephews who wanted to do the work and earn some pay, taking their turns at going to the market to sell all the harvested crops and farm products. For the younger ones, working on the farm was a fun experience and a nice change from town living. They loved the animals and seeing the crops grow and then help with the harvest, even enjoying the delicious taste of their labors when the fruits were at peak ripeness.

It was an opportunity to play with cousins and have fun exploring the farm and surrounding woods. But most importantly, the kids loved getting their market day treats as a well earned reward for their hard work on the farm. I think Mom and Dad would've been proud to see my baby brother and nephew continue the traditions they created, helping the farm survive and thrive for the newer generations.

Some days, I get nostalgic and miss the farm. It's surprising, because I wanted to leave the farm and see the world as soon as I learned that there was a world to see. I always knew that I'd leave the farm some day and live life far away in the exciting places I've read and heard so much about. And I did it. I did leave the farm and travel the world. I did find a home in a place far away from the farm where I grew up. And I've lived life the way I wanted.

But what I didn't expect was that I'd actually miss that farm on the remote coast. I didn't realize that I would some day suddenly long to see those fields and pastures. I didn't realize that some day, I'd long to smell those blossoms in the garden and see the animals roaming and grazing; that I'd actually miss feeling the sun on my back as I planted seeds and pulled up weeds, the sweat rolling off my brow as I loaded heavy crates, nor the cool, healing breeze as I sat to rest under the heavenly shade of a tree, gazing at the horizon and wondering about life far beyond these borders. And I miss my brothers, my family. I just miss all the noise and the camaraderie that comes from working together to get things done on the farm.

I think what it really means is that I miss having my brothers close by. I miss having adventures with them. And I'm shocked to realize that so much time has passed by us unaware, and it's been too long since we last saw each other and just enjoyed each other's company. Take time to let your loved ones know that you love them, because life is short and time keeps moving, no matter how much we want it to stop.

I miss the magic of the farm. Because it was a magical place to grow up and live. It made us feel safe and loved and took care of us during the hard times. Every child should have a place like that to call home. Every child needs a place where they can feel loved and makes them happy. Everyone deserves to feel loved and happy. And I hope that wherever you are, you are loved and feel happy.

Market days are wondrous. And though it's been many years since I had sold anything at the market, I am still excited everytime I go. I love wandering the local markets near home and the exotic ones in the far off places that I visit. Market day gives a true picture and a genuine feeling of a place, its people, and its culture.

There's a charm and excitement and sense of community in the market that often brings me joy and reminds me of my origins. I get really sentimental when I explore the local farmers markets or stop at farm stands selling excellent produce and products on the side on the road. It's during those times that I really feel close to my roots. These are my people. Though I've been happily a city boy and world traveler who loves adventure and wandering the world, a small part of me will always be the farm boy from the remote coast. And wherever I am, no matter the location or differences in customs, culture, or language, I still feel a kinship to farmers, to rural folks, to beach people, and to remote communities. I understand their lives and appreciate their way of living.

I understand what it means to work the land, to try to achieve a productive, positive relationship with nature; to endure and overcome the challenges and hardships of natural and manmade disasters that threaten your livelihood; to mourn the losses and suffer setbacks; to rejoice in a bountiful harvest and revel in a well earned reward for all your hard work and efforts; to worry about the future; to wonder about the world outside and think of the people you love and care for; to hope and dream of a better life for you and your loved ones.

I know what it means to work together to get things done; to learn to think for yourself and find solutions to problems that need your attention; to understand your place in the world. I cherish what it means to look around you and realize that you are not alone; to know that wherever you go and whatever you do, this land, these people, this is your home. This the place that helped create you and nurtured you til you were old enough and strong enough to stand on your own, and take your place among your people, or strike out on your own. Where you come from helps define who you are and where you're going. I'm a farm boy from the remote coast, a beach boy still at heart, who knows just how lucky he is to have grown up in a wonderful home, surrounded by a loving family.

I love the hubbub of market activity and finding new discoveries; it's always thrilling to learn new things and experience new, amazing surprises. Yet I also enjoy picking up some familiar finds that comfort me, because they remind me of home and make me happy. And I love when markets become festive and more colorful for holidays and festivals and special occasions. Celebrations and commemorations bring enchantment and joy, and I love the camaraderie of goodwill and cheer.

I still feel that sense of wonder and smile as I walk through the market stalls. I enjoy being treated to the dazzling sights, dynamic sounds, and rich scents of the market. And I still love watching people and studying them as they meet, mix, and mingle. And I'm not so shy anymore and feel good talking to people now. I can still learn so much about people, just by watching them or talking to them as they go about their business in the market. I feel uplifted whenever I see a good market, full of fascinating people and fantastic items. I like great deals and finding great products. And there are times when I just wander about the market aimlessly, just enjoying the atmosphere and the action. And some days, I luck out and discover some new market day treats.

Sometimes, I come across some remarkable finds on the roadsides in the country, far from the markets. When I see a farm stand on the side of the road, I often stop to buy some wonderful fruits, nuts, veggies, even honey and jams and baked goods. I like supporting small businesses and family farms. And when I see the children selling their harvest and products, I can't help but smile and wish them well. I have to stop and see what they're selling, and I end up buying their goods, because they're always outstanding and great finds.

I love to see the happy smiles on the kids' faces, so proud to show off their wonderful goods, the products of their hard work. And I enjoy their looks of happiness when they make a sale. I like to support farm kids, because I was one growing up, and hard work and good products deserve to be rewarded. I look at these children's faces, and I wonder if they'll stay on and be farmers or take off to other places to see the world. Whatever they do, I hope it's something that makes them happy.

Seeing the pure joy expressed on those farm kids' faces often makes me think of my own childhood. I fondly remember me and my two brothers selling our late harvest bounty and extra goods at our farm stand by front of the farm, on the side of the road. I clearly recall all the hard work we did together and the fun we had harvesting crops and making products that we sold at our farm stand. I remember the excitement of making a sale, and we took great pride in describing our goods and showing off their quality to appreciative customers who recognized a good deal and enjoyed good products.

I smile when I think of my parents or my older siblings, sitting on the front porch to watch us at the farm stand, selling our goods and having a good time. It was a good way to earn money. And it was a good way to make the most of extra food or resources that would've gone to waste. And we sold them at such low and good prices that we always attracted many customers and sold out. Good deals are great deals; and great deals bring happy customers; and happy customers are repeat customers.

Working the farm stand with my brothers was a wonderful experience, because we worked well together and had a lot fun spending time together. Life was so much simpler then, and I miss that closeness and shared joy that comes from just being together, hanging out and having adventures.

There is magic in market days. You can find it when you take the time to really look and appreciate all the wonders of all these people coming together--to sell, to buy, to share, to exchange, to interact with one another. It is a living, breathing, changing, thriving community of many different people. And it's an astonishing confluence of so many objects and lives and energies that creates a unique and amazing experience, ever evolving with the passage of time and people.

I learned so many things from going to the market. My parents taught me so much, not just by telling me, but by showing me the important life lessons and truths. And the most important lesson that I learned is that when people are kind and generous to one another, the world becomes a better, more beautiful, more wondrous place. The magic of market day isn't in the selling and buying of goods. It comes from the thoughts and actions and intentions of the people in the market. And when those people think good thoughts and do good things, the market is made wondrous, and the world becomes a much more magical, happier, and amazing place to live.

So wherever you are, I hope it's a good place. I wish you lots of joy and good cheer. I hope you can still find some beauty and wonder in this world. I hope you have a safe place to call home, and I hope you find happiness in company of good friends and loved ones.

Life is for the living, so live it to the fullest, and embrace your loved ones and your friends. Go after your dreams, try new things; hold on to those you cherish, and let them know that you love them and care for them. Time passes too quickly, so revel in the people who bring you happiness and make you feel good. Do the things that make you happy. Live your life the way you want to live.

Be good to yourself and your loved ones, and be kind to others. Be kind to yourself. Enjoy the comforts of a good treat, and treat yourself right. Celebrate the people who (and the things that) make you laugh and smile. You matter to the people who love you, and you do have an impact on this world, so make the world better, magnificent, extraordinary, and wonderful! And may peace, joy, and love surround you and your loved ones, keeping you safe and filling your world with wonder and happiness, charm and delight. May you always find the magic and the marvels of living a full life.

Related Links:
A sailor in the fields, a treasure in the trees
The Boys of Summer
Brothers and Sisters
Tradition
A good jacket keeps you warm
Hope is a yellow dump truck
Shoes
Holiday Dismay
Are you there, Santa? It's me
It's the Most Stressful Time of the Year
Finding the way
The thing about fathers
Veterans Day Reflection
Best Laid Plans
That offal taste
The Fisherman & the Lucky Cat
The Spirit of the Day
Pie



Sunday, December 11, 2016

Reading List for November and Four Questions


I had originally planned to do these two separate posts last month--the Reading list for November and the Four Questions meme that Mago started, and then was picked up by Savannah, IDV, LX, & Scarlet. But I didn't have the time to finish editing or polishing the two posts as I got busy. So instead, I'm combining two posts into this one.

First up, the book review:


Reading List for November


Picking up from the previous reading list in September, I continue to enjoy the wonderfully creative and entertaining works of Neil Gaiman. I've managed to read three of his works and will continue to read more. And yes, there are also other books that I'm reading and enjoying for purely different reasons. But for sheer escapism and fantasy, I love Neil Gaiman's marvelous stories.

Good Omens by Neil Gaiman & Terry Pratchett

Honestly, I wasn't sure if I liked this book from the beginning to the middle. I generally stay away from books that try to build off the Bible or any of the established formal religions. Books that try to incorporate Biblical or religious texts usually end up as either poorly written conspiracy theories or terrible, ridiculous fan fiction. Either way, the results are awful and a waste of time. And as this book started to build to the climax, I still wasn't sure if I liked this book at all. It seemed different from the other works of Neil Gaiman, and I wondered if it's because of Gaiman's collaboration with Terry Pratchett in writing this story.

But my faith and patience was rewarded. Once again, Neil Gaiman (and Terry Pratchett) managed to surprise me and thrill me and thoroughly entertain me with the unexpected twists and character development in this story. And it's those surprises, creative plotlines, and memorable characters that made this story a great one in the end. This isn't just a story about angels and demons and Armageddon. It's a fantastic tale about growing up, fate, free will, time, life, death, and the impact of the choices we make and the roads we choose to take.

I liked this story. I was surprised at how much I actually liked the ending, especially as I wasn't sure how I felt about the book from beginning to the middle. But the resolution and storyline made sense and meant more once I got to the last half of the book when things started to come together. I enjoyed Good Omens. And I was thrilled to find that I could actually relate to what some of the characters were feeling and experiencing, especially in the end. I would recommend this book. Just be patient with the first half, because it'll all make sense and come together nicely in the last half. It was an excellent Neil Gaiman collaboration with Terry Pratchett!

Stardust by Neil Gaiman

Okay, confession: I saw the movie years ago before I read the book. So I had some expectations, and I had preconceived opinions about what to expect and who these characters were. So I all ready pictured the characters in the book based on the actors from the movie. It doesn't always work, trying to match up the movie with the book, because they never do match! There're always some details that change, and some of those changes are significant.

And so it was with Stardust. There were definitely differences between the book and the movie, and thank goodness for that! Honestly, if I had to pick which I liked better, the book or the movie, I can honestly say that I actually liked both, even though they are very different in some very important ways, especially the ending!

To be honest, I like the movie ending better, because it was happy and inspiring. But the book was richer with more details and character development. And yet, I still felt that there was so much more left to be told in this marvelous story about magic; love; adventure; and quest for fame, fortune, and finding one's self and the truth. I honestly found myself wanting to learn so much more about these fascinating characters, and I wanted to learn about their histories and adventures in depth!

That's how you know that a book is a great book, when it leaves you wanting more, and I want so much more from this story about magic, growing up different, finding dangers and delights on a journey of many discoveries, and learning surprising truths about love, identity, family, friends, and happiness and life. I highly recommend this story, even if you have seen the movie, because the book weaves an enchanting and endearing tale of adventure and  coming of age.

Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman

What a fantastic story this was! And I didn't know until after I had read it that it was actually a companion novel based on a television series Neil Gaiman had created. A book based on a tv series! How awesome is that?

This is a thrilling story about an ordinary young man who is thrust into an extraordinary world and finds himself having frightening and exciting adventures, and his world, his perspective, and his life change in the most unexpected and spectacular ways. I was mesmerized and impressed with the unique characters and stunning world, and I was thoroughly entertained by the fantastic storyline and engaging plot.

Once again, Neil Gaiman tells a magnificent and splendid story! And I want to read more and learn more about this wondrous world and the amazing, diverse, sensational characters who live in this astonishing world. I highly recommend this book, because it's a great story!

And there you have it. My belated reading list for November. And I'm still going to look up and read more Neil Gaiman, because so far, I've enjoyed reading all the books/comic books he's created, and I look forward to discovering what other masterpieces he has written. If you haven't read anything by Neil Gaiman, then I highly suggest that you read any of the books that I've reviewed so far. All the Gaiman books that I've read have been fantastic and entertaining. Check your local library to see if you can get your hands on these great books or find other wonderful books to enjoy.

Until next time, I wish you happy readings! And if you've discovered other great stories or authors in your reading, then please feel free to let me know so that I, too, can share your great finds and discoveries. Thank you.


Four Questions


Simple enough. Here are four questions, each requiring a list of four answers.

1. Four Favorite Foods:

I luv all sorts of food, so it's very hard trying to limit myself to just four. But right now, maybe because of the cool weather or I'm just longing for some comfort food, all I can think about is chicken:

(1). Fried chicken--my favorite meal, the standard Sunday family meal when I was growing up. And while I've had it made spicy; marinated in buttermilk; breaded and heavily seasoned with all sorts of herbs and spices; oven baked; and even air fried; the original, simple salt and pepper and flour seasoning before frying is still the best version.

(2). BBQ Chicken--and pretty much anything BBQ is delicious!

(3). Roasted chicken--I luv the crispy brown skin and drippings, especially if the drippings helped cook and flavored the roasted or fried or baked potatoes; or the drippings are used to make a delicious, rich, savory gravy.

(4). Fried egg or egg salad sandwich. I like my eggs well cooked--scrambled, fried hard, or hard boiled! No runny, no soft boiled, no over easy eggs! I don't need the messy, gross, uncooked, salmonella reminder that the egg is really the product of a hen's period! That's right! When you lick and suck raw eggs, you make yourself into a chicken tampon or maxipad! Pucker up!

2. Four Favorite Drinks:

Nonalcoholic:

(1). Water--as long as it's safe and clean, nothing quenches my thirst like good, refreshing, cool, clean, safe drinking water.

(2). Tea--iced, hot, warm, room temperature, so long as it's fresh and sweet, I'll drink it! I especially love iced tea with berry juice or fruit juice! And iced tea (and all teas!) should be sweet!

(3). Coffee--hot, iced, warm, room temperature, I'll drink it so long as it's fresh and sweetened with lots of sugar plus milk; or creamer; or even ice cream! I need sugar and some sort of creamer in my coffee!

(4). Fruit juices/drinks--Lemonade, cider, fruit juice, so long as it's sweet, fresh, and refreshing, I will drink it! I also like the artificial flavored stuff--like the purple drink mix and the Sunny Delight orange flavored drink. Growing up, I loved apple juice, citrus juice (orange, tangerine, lemon, lime, etc.), and grape juice. But lately, I've been drawn to the tropical juices--mango, pineapple, guava, and coconut. It's probably my subconscious mind wanting me to go somewhere warm, sunny, and tropical with beautiful beaches to escape the cold winter!

Alcoholic drinks:

(1). Riesling--I love the crisp, refreshing taste of this sweet, white wine. Goes with everything--including nachos!

(2). Ouzo--my fave liqueur! Yamas!

(3). Vodka--goes with everything! Including nachos!

(4). Eggnog--because it's the Holidays, and you need some extra cheer to push past the stress of pesky holiday crowds and annoying relatives at the dinner table.

3. Four Places I've Been:

(1). Inside a tomb (several of them, actually!). The biggest was the Great Pyramid of Giza (aka The Great Pyramid of Khufu), the last remaining intact wonder of the ancient world! It was very hot, very humid, and a very steep climb inside to reach the burial chamber. Unfortunately, there was no mummy, no sarcophagus, no papyrus, no carvings, no jewels left in the huge tomb! All the good stuff, like the wall coverings and riches, were in museums, especially foreign (European and American) museums!

(2). Repeatedly sliding in and out of slippery tunnels and plunging down into wet holes--I love water parks!

(3). In the back of a police car--the seats are hard, uncomfortable plastic!

(4). Inside a submarine--it's amazing how cool this engineering marvel looks and how incredible it was to build and operate. We got to tour one during Fleet Week. If you live near a port or have access to a Navy ship coming into port and offering on board tours, go and see the ship! Whether it's a submarine or a regular naval ship, they're all brilliantly engineered vessels and quite spectacular! Having seen the submarine and several naval vessels, though efficiently laid out and well planned, I'm surprised at how tight and small the spaces are--I had to duck several times to avoid hitting my head. And I'm impressed at how fast those sailors maneuver in and out comfortably in those tight spaces! I'd need to wear a hard hat daily to protect my head if I had to live and work on a navy vessel!

4. Four Names That I've Been Called:

First up and out of the way, I'll leave out any offensive and foul language that have been addressed to me over the years--and most recently as I successfully pushed and battled my way through the holiday sales mob to grab the only in demand items half off at the store.

(This message is for the mean, disrespectful bitch who was a total jackass to the staff and the rest of us waiting in line for the store to open:

In your face, you rude old lady! I'm a helluva lot faster and more nimble than your beeping scooter! And I didn't really need that second item; I just took it, because you were an awful c*nt to the staff while we all waited in line, and I knew you wanted that item, and I took the extra just so you wouldn't get it, you foul creature! And it was so wonderful to see the look of frustration on your face and to hear you curse in anger when you realized that the item you wanted was gone. I didn't even buy that second item. I just gave to another grateful customer who was farther back in line and thought the item was sold out. It certainly made his day--and mine! Ho! Ho! Ho!)

And now, four of the names of I've been called, limited to names granted to me by friends. Real friends are honest and care enough to tell you like it is, and they know who you are (flaws and all) and luv ya anyway.

(1). Good Time--is what people call me, because they enjoy the pleasure of my company. I'm easy going, friendly, and down for just about anything--a bit reckless, adventurous, hard headed, with a twisted, somewhat wicked sense of humor. I'm both on the Nice list and the Naughty list!

(2). Whore and/or Slut--and many other related terms--are the two most common names my good friends call me. Yes, there are messages and voicemails and rare letters from close friends that begin by addressing me as "Hey, whore..." or "What's up, slut..." And I can proudly say that I've earned those names! Usually in relation to the above (1). Also, in my line of work as a service professional, I'm proud of providing exceptional, professional, personal service that ensures that the client comes first and has a very wonderful, pleasurable, outstanding experience. A happy customer is a repeat customer!

(3). Nerd and/or Geek (and occasionally, Freak)--are titles that I've proudly earned and wear with pride! Where I come from, being called a nerd or geek is a badge of high honor! Because everyone wants to be smart! No one wants to be labeled as stupid! And being called a nerd means you've earned respect for being smart! And I like being called smart! I'm proud of being a Nerd and a Geek!

And there's nothing wrong with being called a freak--that just means you're unique, one of a kind! You aren't monotonous, boring, or drab; you're loud, lively stereo; you're living colors; you're a rare gemstone in a dark cave full of rocks! Be proud of being different and embrace your individuality! Be the best you that you can be! Live your life the way you want to live!

(4). Ninja Assassin--My friends originally called me a ninja, not for my martial arts or spy skills, but rather for my disappearing skills, especially when it comes to breaking up with people. Let's be honest, break ups are hard, and they are even harder when dealing with crazy people.

After surviving two different, painful break ups--where one harpy actually threw hard, heavy and sharp objects (like chef knives and a cast iron skillet!) at me, and where the other angry, psycho person that I was breaking up with clawed me, I've learned two important things. One, getting scratched from furious anger is a lot more painful, bloody, and absolutely no pleasure at all compared to getting scratched on the back during the heat of exquisite passion. Also, crazy people who like to do extreme and dangerous things to please you in bed are also likely to do extreme and dangerous things in an attempt to kill you in the the kitchen, especially when you piss them off by breaking up with them.

The second and the most important lesson that I learned is: All break ups are painful, and they are especially painful to me! So I developed and mastered the skills of the sudden, silent break up, where I completely cut myself off from the person that I am breaking up with--no contact, no going back to shared places and sentimental spaces. I completely disappear and remove myself entirely from the other person's life. I've gotten so good at disappearing that a few have actually wondered if I was real or a figment of their imagination. And some have actually questioned their sanity, wondering if maybe we weren't really dating at all and they were just reading too much into it.

As a result, my dating life is mostly booty calls and the guy the other person calls to get over a break up or to have a good time. For a good time, call me, text me, leave me a message. For a deeper, more meaningful relationship, talk to Jesus. I'm a playdate and a playmate, and I'm perfectly fine with that.

What I am not fine with and have a problem with is the recent discovery that I am now known as the love assassin! And given the evidence, it appears to be true! My friends have just brought to my attention the number of their relationships that I have inadvertently destroyed, because of an observation that I made or a comment that I said that poisoned, strangled, or killed their relationship! Good gawd, I am a love killing machine! And I didn't even realize that I was destroying relationships left and right and all around me!

Hey, I just tell it like it is! If I point out that your new lover is an idiot or a liar or a phoney, I'm just speaking the truth without thinking. Sometimes, my mouth is a lot quicker than my brain, especially when I've had a few drinks! It is NOT my intention to break you up! And whether you decided to keep dating or dump that loser, liar, or leech is entirely up to you!

Although, in retrospect, I have to admit that I might have been a little harsh and careless, but I seriously did not set out to destroy relationships! Those idiots sabotaged themselves. I didn't push them over the cliff...I just walked with them to the edge and they threw themselves off! But that's a post and thoughts worth pondering and exploring some other time.

And that's the end of the four questions meme. If you would like to tackle the meme yourself, then please let me know so that I can come over and read your answers. Until next time, I hope you find some time to relax, and enjoy a good book in a good place. And may you find the time to enjoy some good food, good drinks, and good company. Stay safe and stay warm!

Related Links
Reading List for September