Archive | April 2022

Jigsaw Puzzles

“Why is it so dark this morning?” I wondered, stopping at the stairway window to check out the back yard. Everything looked dismal, every color drab and uninspiring. Pine trees framing the lawn showed up as a deep green, nearly black. The lawn had various shades of brown and tan patches, depending on the weed makeup of each area. Gray, bare branches looked like lifeless claws. Overhead were low, dark, threatening storm clouds.

The air felt damp and chilly. Looking out the window over the kitchen sink while heating water for tea, I saw rain begin to fall. A low rumble of thunder growled and a short-spate of sleet tapped on the window glass as the tea leaves brewed. 

Shivering, I cupped my hands around the warm teacup and thought, “Today is a perfect day to work on a jigsaw puzzle.” Strolling into the living room where an unfinished puzzle lay on a folding table, I turned on a sunlight lamp to push back gloomy shadows and sat down. Before I knew it, hours had passed as I happily worked at finding the right place for each puzzle piece.

Completing the puzzle gave me a huge sense of satisfaction, but also regret because the scene was finished. Rummaging through my supply closet, I searched for a new jigsaw puzzle. What I found was a huge 1,500-piece picture of a very pretty lady surrounded by cherry blossoms and began to set it up on the table.

Sudden, radical weather changes are typical during spring in Wisconsin. A few days later, warm air and bright sunshine flooded my yard. Giving the unfinished cherry blossom lady’s face a wistful look, I explained, “I’ll get back to you as soon as possible. When there’s nice weather during spring, I must take advantage of it and do yard work.”

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The Mystery Grows

The sun felt warm, but the minute I stepped away from the house, a cold, wicked breeze stuck its icy fingernails down the warm nape of my neck. Playfully, it probed under my jacket to chill my midriff. It painfully clawed at my bare hands until I reached into my pocket and pulled on gloves. I refused to let the wind deter me, because I was on a mission. With the snow melted away, I was finally able to search the back yard for something I’d lost more than six months ago.  

Dismal, dead grass covered the lawn, squashed flat by the winter-long weight of snow drifts. With the snow gone the lawn suffered the additional indignity of being covered with a winter’s worth of the dust and grime.

Six months ago, I’d lost my garden plants and flowers. One day they were healthy and beautiful. But after one night of freezing temperatures, they were burnt to a crisp. I needed a sign that somehow, mysteriously, the perennial plants frozen solid in the ground the entire winter could come back to life! I missed them and longed to see a sign, no matter how small, that they were going to resurrect.

In the muddy soil of the flowerbed below the kitchen window, small green sprouts were bravely pushing up from their cold, dark underground bed into a bright but hostile Wisconsin spring day. I found what I was looking for! If these were coming up, there would be others. I recognized the brave greens as daffodils, planted there many years before. Ignoring the evil wind, I enthusiastically forged ahead to see if other plants I loved were showing a return to life.

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Easter Baskets

While we were eating our noon meal, Mom asked Daddy when she would be able to go shopping in Marshfield. I perked up because Easter was three weeks away. Mom was sure to buy candy for my Easter basket. Mom said, “I want to buy material so I can make the girls’ dresses and I want to look at spring jackets and hats.”

Daddy took a bite of buttered homemade bread and thought a moment. He said, “We can go in right after we’re done eating today. That’ll give you about four hours to shop since I have to get back in time to start the evening milking chores.”

Although our farm was only 12 miles from the city of Marshfield, Wisconsin, my family very infrequently went there on shopping trips. Most of the everyday things we needed could be bought from one of the stores in the closer but smaller town of Stratford. Excited about the rare treat of going on a shopping trip, I went to find and put on my coat.

Mom fluttered around clearing the dishes from our kitchen table. In her mind it was unthinkable that we would go anywhere and leave the house in disorder. When she glanced up and saw me standing at the entrance wearing my mud-spattered school coat, she exclaimed, “You can’t wear that to Marshfield! You’ll have to put on your Sunday coat. We’ll clean that tonight!”

Clean snow dotted the farm fields along the muddy gravel farm roads. Dirty banks of snow lined the clean, dry highway. In Marshfield, all traces of snow were gone from the paved streets. The spring sunshine even felt warmer there than at home on the farm. Mom’s first stop was a fabric store. I sighed with resignation. Trying to be patient while she spent long periods of time looking at pattern books was hard. I wanted to go to interesting stores and buy fun things.

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April Showers

I peered out of our family car’s mud-splashed backseat window. A passing milk truck had showered our car with a gritty mixture of mud, water, gravel and ice crystals shortly after we’d pulled out of our farmyard. Dirty snowbanks slumped in the roadside ditches. Brilliant sunshine and 40-degree springtime air was making them melt. I was amazed at how much the huge banks had already shrunk. Their sodden mess filled the ditches, so the melt water had nowhere to go but on the road, making it look like a mucky cow yard.

Arriving at my school, Daddy drove into the parking lot where dozens of other parents were dropping their children off. The blacktop lot, covered with a thick layer of hard ice all winter, was now covered with slush. I stomped my way to the school door, taking delight in the way my footsteps splashed. It didn’t matter to me that my brown stockings were getting drenched.

I had noticed that there were times when I arrived at school and found the building filled with the air of excitement and happy expectations. This especially was felt on snowy winter mornings. The halls buzzed with quiet murmurs of, “Do you think they’ll call off school and send us home early?” Hope, happiness and exhilaration could almost be smelled, touched, tasted.  Today, the excitement was due to the sudden arrival of spring weather during the weekend.

Sister Florence had put up a new bulletin board in my classroom over the weekend. Amid clouds of colorful flowers cut-out from construction paper, it proclaimed, “April showers bring May flowers!”  One of my classmates proudly offered Sister a bouquet of pussy willow twigs. Her wrinkled face was transformed by a big smile as she accepted the gift with genuine delight. Everyone was ready for spring.

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