Snow Songs

I kept checking, but there was nothing to see outside our classroom windows, except low, heavy clouds and gray tree tops all morning. Like the rest of the seventh graders in the room, I was thinking, “Surely, it should snow soon! It’s already the end of November!” During noon recess the wind was bitterly cold. Despite wearing mittens, my hands froze. When the bell rang for my class to troop back inside, I felt relieved.

At first, I was glad to be back inside. But then Sister Wilhelmina started the afternoon by having the class take out their arithmetic books. I hated numbers. Instead of looking out of the windows, I began to watch the classroom clock. To my dismay, the minute hand slowed to the speed of an hour hand. Time crept past as slowly as a snail climbing a bean stalk after eating a huge meal. After enough time for the snail to complete a full cycle of evolution, the class finally ended.

While putting my arithmetic book away, I noticed the class was whispering louder than usual. Glancing around, I discovered snowflakes were fluttering past the windows. Sister Wilhelmina said with resignation, “Now that the snow has started, no one will be able to concentrate on school work! That’s okay. Our Christmas play is in three weeks, so let’s begin practicing the songs in the program.” Continue reading

Thanksgiving Heat

When the sun dropped behind trees west of my home, gray shadows grew long and deep inside the house. Currents of damp, chilled air slowly drifted past where I sat alone at the dining room table. I shivered and pulled the light jacket I was wearing closer to my body. Three things evoke loneliness in my mind; sitting in a cold, dimly-lit, room at a large, empty table.

Instead of turning on the furnace, I checked the room temperature. It wasn’t cold enough to induce me to turn it on. Feeling irritated with myself, I stepped into the nearby living room, turned on a lamp and sank down onto the sofa where I pulled a fluffy blanket over my shoulders.

My husband Arnie and I had been married 37 years when he unexpectedly died. I laughed when he had occasionally told me I was stubborn. I figured he was just teasing. Now, years later as I sat under a blanket in a lamp-lit living room, I took stock of my personality. Grimly nodding, I spoke to the spirit of my husband, “You were so right about me being stubborn, Arnie!” Continue reading

Deerly Beloved

When I pulled a curtain aside and peered out of the living room window, I saw steel-gray clouds blanketing the sky above the mobile home court. Dropping the curtain back into place, I stepped to a chair-side table and turned on a lamp. The stereo I’d given Arnie last Christmas was tuned to local radio station. I heard Lee Marvin endearingly, though tunelessly, singing, “I was born…under a wand’rin star.”

The mobile home Arnie and I bought when we married earlier in the year was small. Just half a dozen steps took me from the living room window to the kitchen. I sat down and pulled two magazines from the center of the table towards me. Mom had given them to me the last time I visited her. I flipped one open, but felt distracted. The loudly ticking clock on the wall showed only noon. Arnie wouldn’t return from hunting for several hours yet.

With elbows on the table, I rested my chin on my hands. The baby inside me wiggled and kicked. I smiled and leaned back, thinking about how in only another two months little he or she would be born. Then I began to think about how only twelve months ago, Arnie and I had become engaged.

Arnie had taken me to a fancy restaurant on Halloween. Before getting out of the car, Arnie very formally asked me to be his wife. Within two weeks we scheduled our wedding. Since it was November of 1969, the hall we wanted only had two open dates for 1970: April 18th and sometime several months later. I wanted sooner rather than later. So did Arnie. For the first time, I wondered if the second date would have disrupted deer hunting! Continue reading

A Treasure Outlived

Three steps from the bottom of the staircase, I sat down to play with my doll. This vantage point gave me full view of the living room, the hallway leading to the back door and the kitchen. The phone rang. Mom picked up the receiver and said, “Hello?” After listening for a few seconds, she said, “I thought about you this morning, Katie. How are you feeling today? I hope you’re getting over your cold.” Clamping the doll upside down between my knees, I began threading the baby doll’s legs into a pair of under pants.

While jamming white plastic shoes on the baby’s pink plastic feet, I heard Mom brag to her friend, “Three blossoms opened up on my hibiscus today. You should see them! They’re each big enough to fully cover a coffee cup saucer.”

Mom loved plants. In the summer, every flowerbed around the house had dozens of flowers, each fighting for elbow room to blossom. Now, during the winter, she had plants near almost every window. The hibiscus was a big plant, almost as tall as me. It had a small brown trunk like a tree and big, double pink blossoms. Leaning forward, I peeked into the kitchen. The small tree stood in the far corner between two windows. Continue reading

Flying Cats

The quiet of the house lulled me into peaceful meditation as I worked a needle craft. In the background was the steady hum of the basement dehumidifier. Few cars roared past the house because most people were home by this time of the evening. Without warning, a loud crash came from the entryway. Startled, I put down the yarn and slipped to the edge of the sofa.

“What made that sound?” I wondered. I had become an expert at noticing and identifying household sounds since my husband passed away 12 years ago. This sound wasn’t the well pump over working, it wasn’t a loose fan belt on the furnace, nor a malfunctioning washing machine. Was someone trying to break in?

I had never noticed household sounds when Arnie was alive. He was with me to take care of those things. Even if an intruder were to break in, I knew he was there to protect me. That all changed the first night after he was gone. I had suddenly realized with horror that I was now responsible for everything in my home.

Quietly, I crept through the dining room and peeked into the entryway. My older cat was catloafed on the rug, his paws tucked in and tail tight alongside his body. The younger cat sat upright on the desk. He turned to look at me with large, round, crazed eyes. What was wrong with the cat? Continue reading

Fresh Blood

Drenched with sweat, Arnie came into the kitchen to pour himself a glass of water. After drinking he said, “I found the place where the rats got into our back porch.”

I shuddered with revulsion. There had been always mice in our old farmhouse, but this summer I discovered badly chewed things in the back porch. My husband had informed me, “That’s the work of rats.” Not willing to accept such a horrible possibility, I set two mouse traps loaded with peanut butter. During the night they both totally disappeared.

I pictured a rat running away from the house wearing them like earrings. The rat trap I next bought was huge. Instead of a small shingle of wood, it was a substantial plank equipped with heavy-duty metal to snap down and kill a large rodent. Before going to bed, I loaded it with a slice of bologna. The next morning, I found a dead rat the size of a two-month-old kitten.

Turning to return to working on the house’s foundation at the back door, my husband apologized, “I’m sorry, but it’s going to take me a couple days to mortar shut the hole I’ve made in the foundation.”

Picturing a swarm of rats invading our home, I yelped, “Arnie, our house will be flooded with vermin! You have to close that hole by tonight!” Continue reading

Crazy Love

My large black and white tuxedo cat didn’t look happy. Sure, he still liked to stretch out and snooze in patches of sunshine on my linoleum kitchen floor, but there was a pensiveness and hesitation in his posture when he sat on the back deck. At six-years of age, Flicker was used to spending wonderful, adventure-packed hours along the small river where we had lived up until six weeks ago. My husband Arnie and I had moved Niki and Tammie, our two children and pets to a farm, far away from a river and fallow low lands.

At first, after we’d moved, I was afraid that Flicker would roam away from our new home if we let him out of the house. When I finally relented and let him out, I discovered that he was reluctant to explore our new yard. The last place he wanted to go was to the barn, which was filled with huge, mooing, hoof-clopping cows. Mud found in the barn wasn’t at all like the clean, sweet mud on the river bank, either.

Every cow barn has a colony of cats to reduce the mouse population. Flicker wasn’t interested in making friends with the barn cats. As if just going through the motions, my big black and white cat dutifully made short trips into the oat and corn fields near the house to mouse.

My family lived on the farm for two years. Then, during the month of June, Arnie and I packed up our two children and pets and returned to our old, beloved house on the north bank of the river. A beautiful summer stretched ahead of us.

Picking up old habits as though he’d never stopped, Flicker returned to spending long, leisurely days on the river bank hunting and sunbathing on warm rocks. His eyes looked bright and happy. In the evenings he purred loudly while cuddling with Niki and Tammie. Continue reading