I peeked into the entryway when I heard the back door open. My three younger grandsons had finished playing in the snow and were coming in to warm up. Remembering how frost-nipped their cheeks and fingers were after sledding in my backyard last month, I went to the kitchen to pour them cups of hot sweet tea. As I buttered toast for them, I could hear them stamping snow off their boots. Since they rolled around in the snow when they played, I knew there would also be snow clinging to their clothing.
Eleven-year-old Ben was the first to step into the kitchen. I said, “I’ve made tea and toast for you.” He grinned his appreciation and sat down at the table. Nine-year-old Luke came in next and eagerly accepted a cup from me. Jacob, who will be seven in May straggled in last. After placing the buttered toast on the table, I checked the entryway to see if I needed to hang wet snowsuits over the registers. What I saw was the inner house door hanging wide open. Since my wood pellet thermostat is in the entryway, I don’t like it when that room gets chilled. The rest of the house would soon be roasting!
I opened my mouth, but it was my mother’s voice that came out of it. She said, “Who was the last person into the house? Were you born in a barn? You left the door hanging open!”
As I went to shut the door and hang up coats that had been dropped on the floor, I wondered if children these days even know what it means to be asked if they were born in a barn. My brothers and sisters and I did. Of course, we grew up on a working farm. Many of the things we said and did had to do with things we knew about farms and animals.
For example, none of us ever wanted to be told we were eating like pigs. We knew from experience that pigs at the trough were pretty disgusting with the way they pushed, grunted and gobbled their slop.
On cold winter nights, my brother would say with a laugh, “Tonight is a three-dog night!” He meant it was so cold that it would take sleeping with that many dogs to keep warm. Since I often noticed that many of our cats and dogs on the farm did seem to snuggle together in haymow nests, I knew sharing body warmth was a good idea.
The most chilling description of winter cold came from Daddy. I remember him coming into the living room after checking on a cow one exceptionally frigid winter night, wrapping an afghan around his shoulders and muttering, “It’s cold enough for a calf to freeze inside of a cow.”
The way we viewed the world and ourselves was influenced by our farm life. My mother wasn’t very tall and as she aged, she developed a tummy bulge. One day, while looking at her profile in the mirror, she exclaimed with exasperation, “I’m shaped like a bumble bee!”
Mom wasn’t very happy with how her hair turned gray, either. It didn’t uniformly change. She would have been happy with the two tone look if the hair on her temples had turned white, but the patches of dark and white hair on her head were, as she put it, “random, like the spots on a Holstein cow!”
When I stepped back into my dining room, I was still smiling at my family memories. Luke turned from his place at the table to ask, “May I have more tea?”
I said, “Sure, help yourself. When the teapot is empty, I’ll make some more.”
Wanting to wash my hands before doing anything else in the kitchen, I stepped into the bathroom. As warm water ran over my soapy hands, I idly glanced into the mirror. For some odd reason, although I’m in my mid-sixties, my hair has not yet turned gray except for a small patch on the top of my head.
Turning my head this way and that to examine the small patch of white hair, I thought, “Some people have a beautician highlight their hair. I don’t have to. Mother nature did it for me naturally.” The small white spot extends back from my hairline a few inches. The more I looked, the more the thought occurred to me that it was almost like a stripe down the center of my crown, like a skunk’s stripe!
Drying my hands, I thought, “Graying like a skunk shouldn’t surprise me, because Mom grayed in spots like a Holstein. We are, after all, a farm-friendly family!”