After stepping into the dusty, cobwebbed kitchen I stood still and looked around. I loved snooping around in this house. Doves cooed and fluttered their wings upstairs. My brother Casper had turned the front bedroom into a dovecote. The wonderful, earthy smell of freshly stored oats filled the air. Through the doorway into the living room I saw mounds of plump, golden oat seeds. The dust floating in the sunbeams from this harvest didn’t bother me.
My family had lived in this house until eleven years ago when they built a new farmhouse the year before I was born. Daddy used the old house as his granary. Last week our neighbor Mark had combined our oat field. Before storing the grain in the living room and downstairs bedroom, Daddy had nailed planks over the door between the living room and kitchen, up to my height, to prevent the seeds from spilling into the kitchen.
I glanced around at the cluttered kitchen and leaned against the counter dejectedly, feeling tired and depressed. Making meals should be so much easier now that the kitchen remodeling was finally finished. I had double the cupboard space and countertops. This is what I had wanted and waited for. What was wrong with me that I felt so unexcited about my good fortune? Was the summer heat getting to me?
Making meals and cleaning up after them had been hard for the last several weeks. The stove was disconnected. The sink had no running water. All the things I normally kept in the kitchen were stacked higgeledy-piggledy in the dining room. Until a few weeks ago, the prospect of finding places to put everything in the new cupboards sounded like fun. Now I felt I lacked the energy to do the job.
My husband Arnie walked into the kitchen just then and saw me leaning on the counter looking miserable. He asked, “What’s wrong? I thought you’d have half the kitchen put to order by now.”
I forcefully jammed the blade of my shovel into the pine needles. Ground frozen solid under the light snow cover, stopped the metal tool from going any deeper. Spotting a pine branch that had broken off the tree during a fall storm, I sadly told my daughter Tammie, “Maybe the ground under the branch isn’t frozen.”
My guess was correct. After moving the branch aside, the shovel bit into the earth. This time large tree roots three inches under the surface stopped me from digging any deeper.
A classmate squeezed beside me into the school’s main entrance, chattering excitedly about the big fire the night before. We slowly started up the crowded steps towards our third-grade classroom on the second floor. As I listened to my friend, I looked at the beautiful black and white saddle shoes worn by the little girl ahead of us. They looked pretty and I wanted a pair, too.
The whole school was buzzing. The atmosphere reminded me of when heavy snow was falling and we might be sent home early. The excitement and buzzing today wasn’t about a big snowfall, but about our small town’s largest grocery store burning down during the night. Everyone wanted to tell how they had found out or about seeing the disaster in progress.
I had my own story. Last night my family and I had been enjoying a quiet Sunday evening together. The November night was cold and snow covered the ground outside, but my family and I were warm and cozy in the farmhouse. Unexpectedly, one of my big brothers burst into the house and breathlessly announced that Davel’s store was on fire. I felt shocked and frightened. How could that familiar store burn down? I’d been in it many times with Mom. That store was like my own home!
Mom and Dad agreed they wanted to see the fire. It would be amazing because of how big the store was. Davel’s not only sold groceries, but shoes, hardware and household items. The building housed a theater, the post office, an agricultural office, bar and bowling alley. Several families lived in the top floor apartments.
We hastily bundled up and drove the three miles into Stratford. The whole time I sat in the car’s backseat whining, “I’m scared. Don’t go too close to the fire.”